The discipline of psychology of behavioral science elicits numerous controversies about the origin of human behavior and in particular the states of consciousness. Consciousness is one unique aspect about humans for people do not only exist, but they also know, feel, and think about their existence.
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Psychiatrists and behavioral scientists conceptualize differently the medical factors of behavior. However, many scientific researches have been analyzed to classify the concept of the state of consciousness with medical and psychological explanations of the different states associated with human behavior.
States of consciousness can be defined as the mental reactions or functioning, which can be felt by an individual as creating changes in psychological functioning of that individual’s normal state. State of consciousness is the ability by human beings to recognize changes and translate events happening within oneself and in the surrounding environment within which one operates. The state and quality of a person’s consciousness change from time to time depending on the way an individual is responding to normal body functioning.
Different people have different intensity of consciousness ranging from the normal response to behavioral abnormalities. The aim of this paper is to analyze the numerous states of consciousness, which are normally exhibited by individuals’ behaviors, as well as their feelings and thoughts. The various concepts will help in understanding the individuals’ states at normal conditions and give an insight to the state of being of an individual when the state of consciousness is altered.
Levels of consciousness
Human behavior is subject to biological functioning in the human body and external forces of the environment interacting with the body. The present biological factors, which are internally coordinated by genetic code, vary from one person to another. This description underscores the natural aspect of human behavior.
Environment, which people interact with, also alters the way the brain responds to different factors. For instance, environments causing pain and stress can lead to depression, and this induce sleep (Hewstone, Stroebe, & Jonas, 2012). Fellow individuals also influence one’s moods, reactions, and thoughts.
In most cases, the level of individuals’ consciousness depends on what matters to a given person and what one is able to notice; however, different events can influence an individual’s conscious state. The different levels include preconscious state and this level of consciousness is not within an individual’s present awareness, but it involves past feelings and thoughts that an individual can easily flashback and update to the immediate conscious state or awareness.
For instance, if asked to account activities of yesterday, it is easy to bring them to one’s current conscious and retell them. Secondly, non-consciousness is the level of consciousness involved in body functioning of activities beyond the conscious awareness. Examples include fluid flow, hormone functioning, making estimates of distance, and analyzing patterns among other psychodynamic experiences. Third is the unconscious state, which can also be referred to as subconscious.
It underscores a state of consciousness involving unfavorable feelings, memories beyond the conscious awareness, as well as wishes. It involves the processing unexpected information in a state, which one is unaware of the forces influencing the condition. It might be stimulation of the current state or even from past events.
The last state is unconsciousness, which is defined by the state of going out of normalcy like the loss of responsiveness to the dictating factors of disease, trauma, or shock. Sleep, drugs, or meditation can influence this state of consciousness. If the body is intoxicated under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the temperatures might go up, thus causing irregular brain waves as they adjust to find balance (Blackmore, 2005).
Characteristics of consciousness
Time to time awareness of individual experiences and environs are defined by personal subjectivity, where individuals are not in a position to tell what fellow individuals are experiencing. The state of consciousness is an individual feeling, which cannot be shared by individuals. Consciousness varies from time to time, which implies that it is dynamic. Everyday people experience various states of consciousness in a jointed flow of mental actions.
Consciousness is self-centered, as one’s mind is aware of its own state of being. The consciousness is connected to urgency of action. A situation that dictates what stimuli is given priority over others. Given that the mind is occupied by many mental activities, the consciousness predetermines what takes place first with the most urgent activities being illuminated first. The stability to prioritize actions can be altered by stimuli either developing from internal or external environment.
Conscious state makes human beings to adopt and adjust to new environments. The state of consciousness helps the mind to override impending dangers through automatic processing. Conscious state is present even when individuals fall asleep. For instance, individuals safely walk past objects when night walking.
Sleep and sleep patterns
Sleeping as well as dreams are states of consciousness involving rapid eye movements (REMs) in human beings. The eyes do not move uniformly as the intensity varies due to increased wave bursts in the brain activity. During deep sleep, individuals experience relatively slow eye movements, which are referred to as non-rapid eye movement. During deep sleep, electroencephalogram (EEG) indicates slow waves unlike in REMs.
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EEG is the scientific procedure of recording brain waves. The types of brain waves include “alpha, beta, theta, and delta” (Teplan, 2012, p. 2.) When an individual wakes from a deep sleep, he or she can be in a position to give a rough account of what is happening, hence indicating that there is minimal mental action.
Children can experience sleepwalking and wet the bed during a deep sleep. Daydreaming involves fantasizing or quick occurrence of thoughts, which are not influenced by the external environment. Daydreaming can happen with the eyes either open or closed due to boredom, lack of dream sleep, or wishful thoughts. During sleep, individuals’ consciousness is compromised, thus limiting one’s control of what is happening to him or her.
During REM sleep, body functioning speeds up with the brain waves being highly rapid and irregular functioning just like in active wakefulness. Heart rate increases momentum and breathing rate increases too. Even though the body is aroused, the individual exhibits deep calmness, since no movements are made. REM sleep underscores the time when individuals experience most dreams.
People have different sleep patterns with some requiring more sleep time than others do. Some individuals need less than six hours to sleep and their body responds normally, while others will need nine hours for their bodies to perform normally. Little or insufficient sleep might result in negative body responses, thus leading to health disorders.
Individuals who get little sleep time respond by taking prolonged period in REM sleep. Infants take a lot of their time sleeping, thus experiencing long REM time. As people grow, they adapt to short sleep time and the time spent in REM sleep declines with age.
Sleep deprivation often occurs among students and workers who want to dedicate extra time to accomplish their activities. Psychologists have various insights as to why people need to get sufficient sleep. When deprived sleep, individuals express mood changes coupled with poor physical performances. People restore depleted energy and body tissues during sleep and if one is deprived of sleep, s/he ends up feeling tired and lazy during the day.
The functioning of the body and the brain keep working as people sleep. During sleep, the body experiences psychological changes, which are referred to as biological rhythms. Most body activities are regulated within the 24 hours’ day and night cycle.
Body temperature, hormonal secretions, and blood pressure among other body functioning experience a rhythmic change that alters individual’s mental awareness as well as coordinating states of wakefulness and sleep. Infradian rhythms are cycles in the body system, which go for more than twenty-four hours, for instance, menstrual periods in women.
Individuals have been observed to undergo four phases of sleep each taking about a maximum of hundred minutes. Brain waves are slow and irregular at relaxed state of mind and body. Immediately an individual falls asleep, the EEG records beta waves. This stage shows a drop in body activities, for instance, the heart beat rate relatively drops together with body temperatures, while muscles relax. The mind stays alert and it might experience fantasies or wishful experiences.
At this stage, an individual can easily be aroused from sleep. Stage 3 experiences theta waves, which are usually slow and deep. Sleep is hard to be disrupted by the external environs and the individual makes minimal turnings. The fourth stage is defined by delta waves and the body drops to its lowest state of action. The individuals cannot be awakened easily, and sleepwalking happens at this deep stage. However, sleep patterns are subject to age with infants spending the most time while asleep.
Dreaming is a state of consciousness, which involves vivid imagery and at times auditory experiences that occur mostly during REM sleep. Most dreams resemble real events in life. The dream content can be influenced by both external and internal stimuli. Dreams represent unaccomplished or desired wishes, which are manifested in the dream.
In addition, dreams may be subject to the activities that people carryout during the day, and thus it might be an extension of the conscious activities of the day in an altered way. Psychoanalytic model explains dreaming as a way of gratifying people’s unconscious desires and wishes.
Through dreaming, unconscious needs can be met, but the individual dreaming does not wake up, and thus s/he sleeps calmly. Dream content to some extent reflects people’s cultural backgrounds and current practices of society. For instance, pregnant women explain dreams that relate to the myths of their society pertaining pregnancy (Blackmore, 2005).
This phase is the most common state amongst many individuals as they undertake their daily activities. This phase entails a state of losing track of events and walking around as one undergoes motions that are important for survival as well as experiencing comfort with minimal awareness.
Waking sleep involves less satisfaction and discomfort coming from the external environment. In this state, the constant state of being with expectations of inflictions including conflicts with others and physical body malfunctions does not exist. When people move their attention to personal thoughts and feelings, they might experience daydream.
In most cases when individuals are alone, they tend to shift their thoughts and imaginations to private events, thus causing daydream. Daydreaming becomes less frequent as people grow older. As the conditions around someone become favorable, the individual resumes normal waking consciousness.
Normal waking consciousness
This state defines a situation where a person is aware of his or her thoughts and feelings and s/he can articulate events happening around him/her. An individual is in a position to answer questions such as where you are, what you are doing or thinking and what you intend to do next.
This state is organized uniformly, thus giving a person a stable condition that is suitable to judge other states of consciousness. As one undertakes daily activities, s/he may be distracted and end losing concentration of the current activity. These changes are normal and they are expected during waking consciousness. At this state, the body functioning stays balanced as the brain waves are regular.
Effects of drugs to the state of consciousness
Various psychoactive drugs and alcohol alter the state of consciousness to certain levels depending on quantity used. These drugs usually affect the brain functioning and they may result in hallucinations. The ability by an individual to make conscious decisions is altered. Drug abuse and alcohol consumption depresses the nervous system to the extent of slowing down crucial life processes and it may lead to death.
When a drug is used for a long time, the body system administers tolerance and awareness improves, but the brain state adjusts. Users of alcohol have low levels of awareness and they do not detect internal and external events easily as their concentration is poor, and thus it attends at one event at a time. In most cases, the selective attention does not prioritize on what activity should come first.
People learn to advance their status of awareness of events, personal experiences, and gain skills by processing various types of information. Learning does not occur at once, but rather it is a process. Learning occurs consciously in many cases, but it can also happen without one’s awareness. Learning serves the purpose of existence by steadily developing people’s conscious alertness to identify their capability to make conscious choices.
The topic on states of consciousness is an enigmatic issue despite numerous studies by psychologists to unravel the mystery. However, the state of consciousness is conventionally the behavioral and mental awareness of an individual. The states of difficulties in which people find themselves in require continued learning to facilitate the process of self-awareness. If individuals learn to make sufficient conscious decisions, then they will stand a good chance to understand their conditions and the environment around them.
Before the light of conscious awareness is realized, individuals always go through dark periods. Most people are becoming enlightened by learning to regulate their time and get sufficient sleep coupled with experiencing reduced setbacks. When human beings emerge out of the crisis surrounding the concept state of consciousness, there will be the hope of realizing themselves.
Blackmore, S. (2005). Consciousness: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Hewstone, M., Stroebe, W., & Jonas, K. (2012). An introduction to social psychology. Chichester, UK: BPS Blackwell.
Teplan, M. (2012). Fundamentals of EEG Measurement. Measurement Science Review, 2(2), 1-11.