Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Emotion as a sensory need

When I step back and look at emotions from a cognitive rather than anatomical viewpoint, it appears to me that emotions act like a sense, and that we can discuss them in the same way we discuss other senses. That is, emotions can be well-regulated or poorly regulated and that a person can have emotional sensory seeking, emotional sensory aversion, low or high emotional registration and emotional modulation-driven behaviors -- just the same as they can for the anatomical senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, seeing, movement and body sense (proprioception).

I see a boy who has pretty typical sensory processing skills with one exception. He is a seeker of sensory input. Not any special kind of input, just all sensory input. He is easily excited and has emotional outbursts. He is eight and mostly non-verbal, but he can say, "I want" and put a name top all of the things that he wants. And he wants a lot, and wants it now.

On the Sensory Profile, he scores as "definitely different" from peers in modualtion: social/emotional and sensory seeking. Were you to meet him, you would think of him as emotionally intense. We all know people that we consider to be drama queens and drama kings. In his own way, he is probably one.

I wonder what his need is. Is his emotion-seeking due to to low emotional registration? (I am suggesting a brain-level sensory need similar to tactile seeking.) Or does his brain for some other reason (perhaps chemical), have a greater need than most -- here I am thinking of our pleasure-seeking drives? (Or does chemical need and brain-level sensory need mean the same thing in the emotional arena?) Is he not seeking emotion but just demonstrating what appears to be emotional seeking behaviors as a by-product of poor modulation of emotion?

No comments: