The Physiology of Mindfulness

15 February 2014

In the context of the Triangles Model, there are two deprivation Archetypes, Bravo and Charlie and the low-deprivation, ‘gold standard’ Archetype, Alpha. The first of the deprivation Archetypes, Bravo, is driven by the fear that own needs will not be met. As a result of this fear, this Archetype attempts to control all aspects of the environment to appease the intrinsic insecurity and lack of trust that prevails regarding elements in the present. This Archetype is consequently almost totally pre-occupied with and distracted by, objectives in the future. Physiologically there are raised levels of adrenalin/noradrenalin and cortisol, the hormones produced by an overactive amygdala which is the seat of fight or flight. Unfortunately the amygdala is stimulated by both noradrenalin/adrenalin as well as by cortisol with the result that this Archetype becomes locked in and victim to, the over-active amygdala.

The second of the deprivation Archetypes, Charlie, is pre-occupied with the losses, regrets and guilts of the past. While conscious of their needs, they are also very aware of the minimal response that was experienced to these needs in the nurture environment. Consequent upon this deprivation, they have a low self-esteem, a distrust of the environment with a low personal gratification experience. They are driven to exaggerating their losses and apportion accountability for this to others and to the environment in general. This Archetype lives predominantly in the past. They have raised levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines which aggravates already lowered levels of dopamine and serotonin. They also have raised cortisol levels. There is a tendency therefore to the mind state of hopeless-helpless with decreased motivation and the development of inflammation, compromised immunity and increased tumour formation. The raised cortisol levels contribute to the immuno-suppression and also stimulate the amygdala.

The Archetype with minimal deprivation, Alpha, has experienced a comprehensive appeasement of needs in the nurture environment. They are consequently self-assured with trust in the environment, which serves to neutralize any fear of the future. They also experience minimal losses or regrets of the past. Consequently they live in the present where they are value contributors, deriving maximal gratification. There is no distraction from the virtual realities of past or future. They have a broad integration of understanding of the elements in the environment and are consequently non-judgmental, sensitive/empathic and engaging across a broad front. Physiologically they have raised levels of oxytocin which is associated with the mind states of empathy, trust and belief. Oxytocin suppresses the activity of the amygdala, decreases levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and cortisol and increases the levels of dopamine, which is associated with purposeful motivation, gratification and a sense of achievement. I propose that the physiology of this Archetype together with the associated mind states and behaviour, comprehensively underpins the concept of mindfulness.


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