State practice, consciousness can be manipulated or used

                                   State of Consciousness

 

 

Name: Raghav Raval

College: Seneca College

Professor: Deborah Doherty

Subject: Introduction to Psychology(PSY100SYA)

Date:12/20/2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

The field of psychiatry
has in the past presented its viewpoints on the topic of human behavior and its
correlation to thinking styles. These have in turn affected humans’
consciousness. This paper explores these states of consciousness, with the aid
of a minimum of eight reference materials that include journals, books, and
reliable web content. The research done on states of consciousness in the past
has been comprehensive and inclusive enough, and this paper will try to harmonize
the findings on the topic as per the research materials. With the addition of
personal insight and opinion on the topic, the aim at the end will be to
discuss the collective ideology behind the states of consciousness and how
different researchers have in the past treated the topic. Though the journals,
books and research findings on the topic were published in different timelines,
and with people from different professions, they show a harmonized conclusion
that consciousness is something that every human being withholds. With mastery
and practice, consciousness can be manipulated or used to achieve desired
outcomes, as seen with hypnosis. This is because these states of consciousness
vary from person to person, and depend on prevailing circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

            Consciousness is defined as an awareness of one’s self,
thoughts, bodily sensations, and environment. Consciousness is dependable on a
person’s brain wave patterns which determine the kind of electric activity
happening in our brains. These brain waves can be grouped into alpha, beta,
theta and delta waves. Together, they affect a person’s level of consciousness.
When talking about consciousness, the meaning jumps beyond the confines of
English definition. In psychology, consciousness goes beyond active awareness
and also encompasses unconsciousness and subconsciousness (Freud, 2001).  As such, consciousness is not merely a
situation of the mind being on or off, but rather everything happening to our
mind. This includes memories, happenings, and altercations that are not out
rightly accessible to a person’s conscious mind (Freud, 2001). The inclusion of
the scopes of subconsciousness and unconsciousness explain the reasons why one
might indulge in certain behaviors against his or her own knowledge. For
example, when one is traveling alone in an automobile, he may engage in awkward
behaviors such as picking his nose, singing excessively or making funny faces.
These are activities that could otherwise have not been done in public or in
the presence of a second person.  These
lapses of attention seem funny for an outsider, but they help shed light into
the realm of consciousness. 
Consciousness remains a broad subject and may attract complex
definitions when engaging the opinion of various experts (Moss, 2012). Through
acknowledging this fact, scholars should maintain an open perspective on the
topic and critically analyze the confines of the subject of unconsciousness.
Having understood what consciousness entails, the paper will proceed to
demonstrate the levels of awareness and consequently, the different states of
consciousness.

 

Levels
of Awareness

Low
awareness

            Low awareness can be defined as the perception of
significantly small but vital information into a person’s brain (Biswas-Diener
& Teeny, 2017). During the waking time, one constantly receives and
evaluates sensory information. The sensory information occurs in the form of
hundreds of sight, smell and sound signals that people perceive through their
sensory organs. Low awareness plays a major important role in eliciting reflex reactions
and obtaining information even under extreme circumstances. For example, in a
crowded place, one might hear his name being called out while missing the other
important contents from the communicating party. This shows that even though
one might be unaware of different aspects of the environment, the brain still
captures more details than humans can decipher. Low awareness can also manifest
itself in the event of picking up important cues or sensory information. Upon
such internalization of information, the body responds even before the person
perceives it. For example, the suspicion of a snake leads people into bouts of
sweating and panic, even when the actual snake is non-existent (Williams &
Bargh, 2008).  In the research done by
Williams and Bargh, it was concluded that even though a person’s brain is
capable of taking in stimuli without an active consciousness, it affects the
person’s resulting thoughts and behaviors (2008).  The phenomenon, described as priming,
certifies that one’s brain prepares a certain concept and associations
depending on the memory gotten from participating in an activity (Williams
& Bargh, 2008). Low awareness is therefore characterized by invisible or
minute factors that do not actively occupy a person’s day to day living; taking
place in the background.

 

High
awareness

            High awareness exhibits opposite dynamics to that of low
awareness. In this realm, things happen within one’s knowledge and
deliberation. A process of careful planning and decision-making prompts this
kind of awareness (Biswas-Diener & Teeny, 2017). Activities of high
awareness take place in everyone’s daily life and in different capacities. For
example, a student solving an algebra problem, analyzing a timetable, or an
adult listening to a story with the intent of understanding the content; all
engage in high awareness. In engaging in all these activities, one is required
to be at an elevated state of consciousness, awareness and focus, vis-à-vis the
immediate environment. A lack of high awareness in cases where needed shows
that an individual is poor at concentration, responsiveness, and coordination
of senses. People are often encouraged to master their mind’s functionality at
all times in order to take control of their thoughts and actions. This kind of
awareness is referred to as mindfulness. Within mindfulness, the consequences
of one’s thoughts and actions must be considered beforehand to help mitigate
negative feedback. Through mindfulness, there is an expansion of one’s
consciousness, and one desists from engaging in activities of stereotyping,
irrelevant decisions and influences (Raichle, 2015).  According to Raichle, people vary their
thinking states between low and high states. As such, the human brain
alternates from periods of deliberate, willful attention to involuntary and
unanticipated periods of inattentiveness (2015). These two states are aided by
the presence of millions of neural networks in the human anatomy. To show that
human activities are influenced by conscious, unconscious and subconscious
states, Raichle’s research claims that when one is in a reduced state of
awareness, he or she is still under the active influence by non-conscious
stimuli with regards to the environment.

            Even while acknowledging the impact of subconscious or
non-conscious stimuli, higher awareness can be used to protect or mitigate
against their effects, especially if they result in unwanted outcomes. People
constantly aware of their environments are less susceptible to outside
influence since they hold an element of control. Approaching situations in a
non-biased way can further help reduce an unconscious reaction towards a
specific thing or condition (Biswas-Diener & Teeny, 2017). The brain
naturally withholds both higher and lower levels of awareness. The lower level
may be difficult to control or influence and one can use the higher level to
attain a certain degree of control of the brain.

States
of Consciousness

            States of consciousness vary from alertness to sleep, and
all that occurs in between (Tart, 2000). The levels of awareness dictate the
state of consciousness in which a person is in at a particular time. There are
approximately four states of consciousness. They include; alertness,
daydreaming, drowsiness, and sleep. These states of consciousness are
determined by Circadian rhythm, which is the bodily cycle that occurs almost
every 24 hours. This cycle is dependent on internal and external factors (Tart.
2000). The former factors include mental efforts and conditioning while the
latter factors include things such as drugs and weather conditions. The circadian
rhythm varies from person to person and may change in length, depending on
prevailing circumstances and bodily changes. While shifting from one state of
consciousness to the next, an individual might not be aware of the occurrence.
However, the human brain recognizes these shifts, with the use of the neurons
in the nervous system. These neurons influence the brain wave patterns and
oscillations which help in recognition and distinction of the different states
of consciousness. Of the four levels of consciousness, sleep is the most
complex and wide state. It consists of several sub-levels that even border
sleep disorders. Of special mentioning in the states of consciousness is
hypnosis, which is used to alter consciousness.

Alertness

            Alertness entails being awake. Most people only perceive
consciousness as being alert. Being alert, a person is aware of who he or she
is, and of the immediate environment. One can focus his attention, encode
information in memory and engage in conversations. As such, being alert
involves all the activities one does every day when awake. Being alert majorly
falls under high awareness. This is because the person involved is constantly
in control of the situation and can correctly discern the course of action to
take.

Daydreaming

            Daydreaming is about being awake but not fully aware of
the surroundings. In this state, one is in a relaxed mode but fails to record
normal focus experienced when he or she is normally alert. It is characterized
by fantasies, wishes, and hopes, which an individual hope to achieve. During
daydreaming, a person’s focuses shifts from the outer world and concentrates on
memories, desires, and expectations. Daydreaming occurs naturally and involuntarily.
However, some people can induce this state by invoking light meditation. Such
meditation is just enough to distract a person’s mainstream awareness. People
tend to daydream when idle or alone, or engaging in boring or light tasks that
do not require total mental devotion.

Drowsiness

            Drowsiness occurs when one is almost falling asleep or
just before waking up. It is a lesser conscious state of consciousness. It
directly borders sleep and one is minutely aware of the environment. Drowsiness
can be self-induced through deep meditation. Th role of both light and deep
meditation in consciousness has been found to be crucial, as attested by
Stevens (2017). Meditation has been in use for centuries on religious grounds,
and it is gaining popularity in the secular world through recommendations gotten
on the account of good health, positive emotions and decreased stress levels
(Stevens, 2017).

Sleep

            Sleep is an important ingredient in a human being’s life.
The body can only function properly when given time to rest and recuperate from
the day’s activities (Biswas-Diener & Teeny, 2017). Being part of a
circadian rhythm, sleep is the most elaborate state of consciousness. Research
done on sleep reveals that several activities occur in the brain and body
during sleep. With the use of Electroencephalographs, commonly known as EEGs,
numerous studies have shown that sleep has different stages (Tart, 2000). The
EEG is an instrument that monitors brain waves and the electrical activity
ensuing from the brain. This is done by pacing a set of electrodes on the
subject’s scalp. Sleep is not merely an act of shutting one’s eyes. It is a
shift of consciousness as indicated by the brain’s electrical activity. In the
transition to sleep, the active Beta waves cease to function and are replaced
by alpha waves which are more consistent and intense (Manoach et al., 2010).
Also, these alpha waves record lower frequencies that Beta waves. While the
stages of sleep might differ as per different studies, they all agree that
sleep includes stages of rapid eye movement, known as REM, or non-rapid eye
movement (NREM) (Manoach et al., 2010).

Stages of sleep

            In the first stage of sleep, the brain displays both slow
and fast activities, attributed to theta and beta waves. This stage is called
the N1 symbolizing NREM (Manoach 2010). Stage two, called the N2 stage happens
when the person falls into light sleep. During this stage, brain waves are
recorded in short bursts of electrical activities. However, at this time, the
brain activity is normally slow. Manoach claims that this stage takes up
slightly more than half the total sleeping period (2010). Stage three, or the
N3 takes up a quarter of the total sleep. During this phase, delta waves are
most active, and brain muscles are seen to relax. The last stage of sleep is
the REM sleep. This is a stage of relaxed and deep sleep. It is deemed similar
to wakefulness, as the brain activity at this time is similar to when one is
awake; lesser brain intensity. During REM sleep, dreaming takes place. In
addition, activities such as sleepwalking and talking take place during this
last stage of sleep. On completion, the sleep stages recur in reverse order, up
to the N1 stage (Manoach et al., 2010). Sleep patterns may vary, depending on
one’s age. While older people sleep less, babies sleep more. This ration also
applies to the amount of REM sleep experienced.

Hypnosis

            Hypnosis presents an intriguing perspective on
consciousness. Defined as the induced mental state of relaxation and
concentration, hypnosis presents a case of an altered state of consciousness.
During hypnosis, mental, chemical or behavioral means are used to disrupt the
normal existence of consciousness, making one highly susceptible to
instructions and suggestions (Kihlstrom, 2003). Studies suggest that hypnosis
needs to be induced by a 3rd party, though there are cases of
auto-hypnosis. The procedure of hypnosis consists of a set of instructions
given by a professional to induce a state of relaxation and sleepiness.
However, hypnosis does not involve sleeping. Dating back from over 200 years
ago, hypnosis has often been a subject of debate and controversies (Kihlstrom,
2003). Hypnosis is nonetheless viewed as a state of consciousness in which the
participant loses control of his world and conforms to those of the hypnotist.
The phenomenon of hypnotism is common in the field of medicine and even
religion, where those hypnotized are mandated to undergo confessions or
experiences that help in rectifying situations they find themselves in (Posner
& Rothbart, 2011). In this subject, however, different people have
different levels of susceptibility to hypnotism. It may be difficult to induce
hypnotism in some people because they are not readily hypnotizable or
suggestible.

Variants
that Affect Consciousness

In
discussing states of unconsciousness, there are additional variants that induce
consciousness or lack thereof. There are psychoactive drugs that help transit
the brain into levels of inactivity or unconsciousness (“Psychlopedia –
States of Consciousness”, 2017). They include hallucinogens, stimulants,
and depressants. Doctors have classified drugs into these three subcategories,
in accordance with the effect they bring on the human body. Hallucinogens such
as marijuana, though widely misused as a leisure drug, can also be used for
medicinal purposes. Marijuana is used to manage nausea and even the treatment
of glaucoma, an eye condition that impairs the optic nerve. Depressants such as
alcohol and opium slow the body’s mental or physiological processes. Inversely,
stimulants speed the body’s mental and physiological processes. They include
caffeine and nicotine. Collectively, psychoactive drugs influence one’s
processes and the brain’s behavior. They can, therefore, impact on the level of
consciousness, depending on the frequency and intensity of their use
(“Psychlopedia – States of Consciousness”, 2017).

All
these states of consciousness may vary in accordance with the various research
put forth, but the framework on the topic remains definite, allowing little
deviation from the already established facts. The various materials used for
the study vary in date of publication, and this may in return influence the
account of each of them. However, such a fact does not limit or discredit the
arguments they put forth. Being a psychological topic, only a little
information may be utterly new or contradictory. In addition, the report is
based on well-established research materials that have stood the test of time
to find an audience in the world of psychology.

Conclusion

The
study on states of consciousness previously done has done enough to convince on
the human psychology. However, it is necessary that future studies be conducted
while drawing references form present materials available on the topic. A
standardized report on the stages of sleep also need be formulated to avert
debates on the correct number, as well as on the states of consciousness. As it
stands though, previous research done on the topic is persuasive enough and
should form a rubric for future studies. Human beings certainly have different
states of consciousness, and each person should work hard to master his set of emotions
and brain activities. Though some states are well beyond our control, a
deliberate effort should be aimed at conglomerating whatever humans have total
control over, such as when awake and alert. Daydreaming, sleepwalking and sleep
talking may be beyond our control, but a manipulation of the environment and
our thoughts will at the end ensure a suppressed display of these behaviors,
especially if they deter personal growth and development. All properties
entailing human consciousness ought to be consolidated, even as scholars
continue to research and wonder on the subjects of dreaming, hypnosis and how
the human brain functions.            

 

References

Biswas-Diener,
R., & Teeny, J. (2017). States of Consciousness. Noba.
Retrieved 19 December 2017, from http://nobaproject.com/modules/states-of-consciousness

Kihlstrom,
J. (2003). Hypnosis and memory. In J.F. Byrne (Ed.), Learning and memory
(2nd ed., pp. 240-242). Farmington Hills: Mi.: Macmillan Reference.

Manoach,
D., Thakkar, K., Stroynowski, E., Ely, A., McKinley, S., & Wamsley, E. et
al. (2010). Reduced overnight consolidation of procedural learning in chronic
medicated schizophrenia is related to specific sleep stages. Journal Of
Psychiatric Research, 44(2), 112-120.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2009.06.011

Moss,
D. (2012). Revisiting states of consciousness. Psyccritiques, 57(18).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0027575

Posner,
M., & Rothbart, M. (2011). Brain states and hypnosis research. Consciousness
And Cognition, 20(2), 325-327. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2009.11.008

Psychlopedia – States of Consciousness. (2017). Psychlopedia.wikispaces.com.
Retrieved 19 December 2017, from
http://psychlopedia.wikispaces.com/States+of+Consciousness

Stevens,
R. (2017). Meditation. S.l.: Routledge.

Tart,
C. (2000). States of consciousness. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.com.