Wednesday, March 30, 2011

314: The Brain and Grief

What I try to achieve with my project "The Mystery of the Brain" is to demonstrate where nature ends and philosophical wonder begins.

For now, we aren't yet close to that dividing line. I try to show you how emotions are not special ingredients of an abstract mind, but clear biological processes.

Being biological it means, that our emotions are the result of a long evolutionary process. And last lecture it was Joy and Happiness, today it is Grief and Sadness.

Like with joy and happiness, sadness is not so much an emotion as happiness, but more a mood, mainly colored by the emotion of grief.

If there already was little scientific research on the emotion of joy, grief is far more unpopular as subject of scientific research.

It is a bit odd, because we would love to know how to escape from grief, which even may develop into depression. Fortunately the latter gets more scientific attention.

But let's focus on grief. Grief arises after a loss or a disappointment, but only when one is not itself culpable.

If you think you are culpable for causing the grief, an other emotion kicks in: guilt. We'll discuss that emotion later.

If somebody else is responsible for your grief, then it also isn't really grief you will experience, but rather anger or indignation.

Guilt and aggression can easily mix with the emotion of grief, but there is a difference. There even is a functional difference. I'll get to that later.

From a biological point of view our main question is: What is the evolutionary advantage of experiencing grief??

Wouldn't it have been better if evolution had discarded of the emotion of grief? How can grief have contributed to the evolution of the homo sapiens?

Let us take as an example a clear case of real grief: the loss of a dear friend or a close relative. What is the effect of grief on us? Threefold: cognitive, physical and social.

In the first place cognitively we can observe that grief drains our energy. The body even reduces its energy level. We retreat into ourself, look inward. We seem to have lost interest in the outer world.

But this has a positive side: we re-examine our goals (in life). Think about how life can make sense by confronting you with death. Looking inward protects us for more grief. For instance the confrontation with personal things of the deceased.

An other example: 40.000 years ago one of our ancestors, a male is rejected for the third time by a female he feels strongly attracted to. He is in deep grief….

Sits apart from the group, but in his mind the grief brings him to re-evaluate his situation. Should he choose other company for the hunt? Should he concentrate on his personal skills and perfect these? His grief leads to a new perspective.

So much about the cognitive effect. Physically the grieving person feels inactive, weak and washed-out. Even the metabolism slows down. The body is saving energy.

On the other hand, it is a known fact now that physical activity is a good antidote against grief. It is called "Running Therapy", physical action prescribed to depressive people. It works.

But nature has its own therapy in normal cases of grief…. often grief alternates with anger, which creates an energy boost in the body again. You feel angry because it is so unjust, that he died so young. Well you know the examples…..

Finally the social meaning of grief: it brings people together. It strengthens the social bonds. The death of a member of the tribe is always embedded in a ritual and ceremony for the group.

So, from an evolutionary point of view grief is a real positive emotion: it brings people to reconsider the goals in their life, the meaning of life, think of new perspectives and it works as a socially binding force in the group.

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: Thank you...:)
[13:25] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): so you are saying grief is biological only??
[13:26] herman Bergson: If you have any questionor remarks...
[13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): what did i miss
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes is a part of our system...we cant get rid of is in our genes...
[13:26] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ok
[13:26] herman Bergson: all over the world ..all people experience grief
[13:26] Henk Honi: sometimes you have no time to grieve
[13:27] Alarice von Doobie (alarice.beaumont): but what you say sounds so positive.. cannot be
[13:27] Kyra Neutron: you have time to sleep..dont you ?
[13:27] herman Bergson: that is just a matter of circumstances Henk..
[13:27] Henk Honi: yes
[13:27] Henk Honi: can therefore influence
[13:28] Merel Heron: it is good to hear professor that grief or depression can have a good reaction on running actions
[13:28] Mick Nerido: Grief bring us back to harsh reality it make us more circumspect
[13:28] herman Bergson: main point here is that grief is a basic emotion,,general to the homo sapiens…to all humans on earth so to speak
[13:28] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): true
[13:28] herman Bergson: Oh Merel....
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: that must be true
[13:29] herman Bergson: Physical excercise is good for the body but also good for the brain....
[13:29] Henk Honi: therefore a kind of protection?
[13:29] Henk Honi: that can help us
[13:29] Kyra Neutron: grief may lead you to commit suicide too...
[13:30] herman Bergson: People with depression..which is a deep form of grief are really helped by getting into physical action…
[13:30] Merel Heron: mmmmm
[13:30] Mick Nerido: If it leads to suicide its evolution dead end
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: idk Henk..but i wouldnt feel the helping hand of angels..when i loose my kid...and run into grief...
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: lovely antichrist..
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes weird end of an delete itself...
[13:31] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: what universe wins from grief herman?
[13:32] Mick Nerido: If you can't handle grief you don't survive
[13:32] herman Bergson: The only help for grief is in yourself and in the support of the group around you
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: dont have to survive...
[13:32] Kyra Neutron: it is your wish to survive..
[13:32] herman Bergson: no...Kyra..survival isn't an obligation....
[13:33] Kyra Neutron: you sure herman ?
[13:33] herman Bergson: oh yes...
[13:33] herman Bergson: To be alive is just a coincidence
[13:33] herman Bergson: was because your parents once made love
[13:33] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:33] Kyra Neutron: lovely biology..
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes..there you are!!!!!..
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: hahahah
[13:34] Doodus Moose: it's good to know my parents got along _once_
[13:34] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): :-)
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: sticks out tongue to Mick...
[13:34] herman Bergson: lol...ok Doodus..
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: see..the prof says survival is not needed..
[13:34] Kyra Neutron: silly boy...
[13:34] herman Bergson: no no..that is NOT what I said...
[13:34] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: hahah
[13:35] herman Bergson: Survival is the basic drive of the organism..any organism...
[13:35] Kyra Neutron: trying to keep laugh in a low decibel
[13:35] herman Bergson: that there are some members of the group that want to end their lives deliberately...well...
[13:35] Mick Nerido: Suicide is nature's way of saying you don't count
[13:35] Kyra Neutron: no mick
[13:36] herman Bergson: No mick…..
[13:36] Henk Honi: Can you influence yourself well, sadness?
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: suicide is the result...
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: that at the cant bare more pain
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: and loss of one of them
[13:36] Henk Honi: yes it are
[13:36] Merel Heron: i really think that depression is a illness
[13:36] Kyra Neutron: it does?
[13:37] Henk Honi: yes i think to
[13:37] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): loss of anyone close is grief most of the time
[13:37] Merel Heron: i have read the book of Dick Swaab
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes depression is even a brain illness Merel
[13:37] Kyra Neutron: and guilt..
[13:37] Kyra Neutron: that will trigger it
[13:37] Henk Honi: yes
[13:37] Kyra Neutron: which herman politely avoided to tell us
[13:37] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:37] Merel Heron: and i know now that it isn't easy to cure this feeling of total sadness
[13:37] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): we should know taht by now
[13:37] herman Bergson smiles at Kyra
[13:37] Mick Nerido: If grief is too much it is the answer for the individual, but it is a taboo because it is bad for the race
[13:38] herman Bergson: general....
[13:38] Kyra Neutron: wigs her invisible taily be approved at final
[13:39] herman Bergson: a common saying is that you learn and grow by the suffering you experience....the pains and troubles
[13:39] herman Bergson: the grief you have to endure...
[13:39] Doodus Moose: YES - because this is the only time you deal with such things
[13:39] Merel Heron: pppffff that is something to say !
[13:39] Mick Nerido: We are all here because our ancesters could get over grief and move on
[13:39] Henk Honi: so maybe that will help you, some
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i would agree with that!
[13:40] Kyra Neutron: are here coz they had at least one clever do things right..
[13:40] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): there has always been grief if it is part of genetic makeup
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Mick....the behavioral system of grief, the emotion, was favorable for survival, it seems...
[13:41] Mick Nerido: Religion deals with grief, some people only turn to religion in grief
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes Joy , grief is a basic emioton of the organism....
[13:42] herman Bergson: religion is the cultural sauce on grief...:-)
[13:42] Merel Heron: but grief makes you also very lonely
[13:42] Mick Nerido: All clutures have rituals for dealing with grief
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes Merel....griefs turns your mind close up for others
[13:42] Kyra Neutron: looks surprised..and wanders..wasnt religion part of the reason to grief?
[13:42] Henk Honi: grief can be so empowering?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Henk....
[13:43] Henk Honi: make you stonger
[13:43] Henk Honi: yes maby
[13:43] herman Bergson: The rituals are for instance ways to turn grief into an empowering feeling...
[13:43] Henk Honi: maby hard to?
[13:43] herman Bergson: for instance to celebrate that the deceased has passed over to a better life
[13:44] Henk Honi: yes i think it can
[13:44] Kyra Neutron: yes..and we do believe it? so it loweres our pain ?
[13:44] herman Bergson: so let's support him on his way to the better world....
[13:44] Henk Honi: we trry
[13:44] herman Bergson: put a coin in his mouth to pay Charon for instance
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Knowing that others have felt as you do strenthens bonds good for the group
[13:44] herman Bergson: or like the Pharaos in Egypte...give him all he needs on his journey to the afterlife
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes that was what I mentioned Mick....the social effect of sharing with the grieving people
[13:45] Kyra Neutron: and put some beauty housemaids into the bag too..
[13:45] Mick Nerido: Right
[13:46] herman Bergson: 72 virgins even Kyra...!
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:46] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh brother
[13:46] Mick Nerido: Him too
[13:46] herman Bergson: I wonder what a muslim woman gets when she dies???
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: oh man...
[13:46] Kyra Neutron: many many nuri's
[13:46] herman Bergson: 72 stuts?
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: virgin males..
[13:47] Mick Nerido: She gets to take off her berka
[13:47] Doodus Moose: males....
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: just for that it worths to kick the ass of greek gods
[13:47] herman Bergson: Hmmm..let's not go into detail here ^_^
[13:47] Merel Heron whispers: do they exist virgin males ?
[13:47] Kyra Neutron: hahahha oks
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: hahah
[13:47] Henk Honi: :))
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: *Ggg*
[13:48] Kyra Neutron: thats why it is called heaven Merel..
[13:48] Henk Honi: yes i think,
[13:48] Kyra Neutron: you believe anything given..
[13:48] herman Bergson: I think. that the idea is clear....
[13:48] Merel Heron: ahaaaa
[13:48] herman Bergson: grief is a basic emotion....a drive to set a series of behaviors in action...
[13:49] Henk Honi: it's so different for everyone
[13:49] Henk Honi: i think
[13:49] Mick Nerido: I thing the mind remember good things easier than sad things, why?
[13:49] herman Bergson: In fact to solve the problem.....which is the feeling of sadness...
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: because u dont wanna feel sad but happy and thus rather remember happy things
[13:50] herman Bergson: Maybe that is even a physiological matter Mick...
[13:50] Kyra Neutron: it is subjective i believe..
[13:50] herman Bergson: good things...feeling good is related to the production of dopamine in the brain....
[13:50] Merel Heron: we all want to be happy
[13:50] herman Bergson: we are addicted to that
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: i dont wanna feel sad but happy
[13:50] herman Bergson: so remembering good things produces the dopamine again
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: as happy I can
[13:51] Merel Heron: but sadness make you wonder what is life about
[13:51] herman Bergson: Yes Merel....very true....
[13:51] herman Bergson: and the answer can lead to a good feeling….
[13:51] herman Bergson: or the bad feeling that life makes no sense at all...
[13:51] Henk Honi: makes life intense, grief?
[13:52] Henk Honi: ups and downs
[13:52] herman Bergson: which in fact is a good feeling too...saves you a lot of pondering about life
[13:52] Doodus Moose: yes Henk - gives life dimension
[13:52] Henk Honi: yes i think to
[13:52] herman Bergson: is a point..that especially christianity sees grief as a positive feeling..
[13:52] Kyra Neutron:'ll make us believe..that everything that is done for good...
[13:53] Doodus Moose:
[13:53] herman Bergson: what do you mean Kyra
[13:53] Kyra Neutron: grief is a good aim..
[13:53] Henk Honi: they collide with eachother sadness and happiness?
[13:53] Kyra Neutron: a good aim..
[13:54] Kyra Neutron: even …we'll trigger the despair for good...
[13:54] Kyra Neutron: hey..isnt there any badness ?
[13:54] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): crash
[13:54] herman Bergson: well....through the many centuries of evolution the central nervous system has developed the emotion of grief...
[13:54] Henk Honi: Yes welcom back
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: wb
[13:54] Merel Heron: songs are often about sad feelings
[13:55] herman Bergson: that is..a behavioral system to deal with for instance the loss of a relative...a member of the tribe...
[13:55] Kyra Neutron: mr. evolution has its motive for itself..and we know we are griefing for good ?
[13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): herman the donation book is not working
[13:55] Merel Heron: may be the sad feeling is stronger then the happy feelings ?
[13:55] Mick Nerido: Thanks I must go
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: theoretically it is so logical: -) however practically, it looks often differently ;-) see you all @ Thursday - ty herman & Class!!!
[13:55] herman Bergson: sorry...
[13:55] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): will try to be here thursday
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye :-)
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: bye Mick
[[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: bye bergfrau - bye mick
[13:56] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye ㋡
[13:56] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): time to go now
[13:56] Kyra Neutron: good night all..and forgive an ass demon..
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: ok cu gemma
[13:56] Ciska Riverstone: bye gemma
[13:56] Kyra Neutron: it was a nice class
[13:56] herman Bergson: Ok....time to dismiss class....:-)
[13:56] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye ㋡
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: aaa interesting again
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:56] herman Bergson: dont feel sad about it....we'll be back on Thusrday ^_^
[13:57] Doodus Moose: :-)
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: yes ㋡
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: cu all tehn
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: then
[13:57] Kyra Neutron: salutes
[13:57] Kyra Neutron: :)
[13:57] Henk Honi: bye all
[13:57] Ciska Riverstone: bye all
[13:57] Merel Heron: thank you again prof Bergson .
[13:57] Merel Heron: bye bye

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