Before Jaak Panksepp, there was little agreement on the number of core emotions with theories ranging from 2 to12, but note a recent theory proposing 27. As an undergraduate student, still in the era of behaviorism, Jaak concluded that emotions were the basis of psychopathology. In graduate school he gave up clinical work and determined that in order to understand emotions he would need to study animal brains. He found supportive faculty and shifted into the neuroscience arena and basic brain research. Using electrical brain stimulation, his dissertation demonstrated that ANGER/Rage was distinct from Predatory behavior or SEEKING: The 2 brain systems utilized 2 different brain circuits. From this beginning he soon added FEAR and GRIEF/Sadness. LUST and CARE came next, and with the demonstration of innate brain PLAY systems, he established brain evidence for 7 “primary” emotions: with no additional candidates from other laboratories in over 30 years. Note that Social Dominance is likely an acquired behavior.
But you have heard about these 7 primary emotional action systems and their associated affects previously. My goal today is to move past the academic discussion of these emotions to the topic that originally motivated Jaak’s interest in the first place, namely, how do we use this information to help people including ourselves. How do we take advantage of Jaak Panksepp’s 50 years of research to benefit our mental health?
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