In 1988, the Ontario Supreme Court acquitted Kenneth Parks of charges regarding the murder of his mother-in-law and later proceeded to acquit him of attempted murder on his father-in-law (Weiss, 2011). This decision was reached despite the actuality that he had indeed killed his in-law mother as well as attacking his in-law father. The grounding chronology of events is that he sleepwalked and drove to their residence. Parks could not recall any of his acts and asserted that he only remembered going to bed and waking in a police station with blood on his hands. Accordingly, examinations determined that Parks experienced abnormal patterns of brainwaves, which were also advanced by distress, were the primary motivator for sleepwalking and subsequent gruesome acts. As the case continues to be a significant footnote in the history of psychology and justice system, it also spotlights the issue of consciousness.
Koch (2004) describes consciousness as one’s “subjective awareness” of themselves as well as their environment, and it is central to human nature. In my case, I am inclined to the ideology that consciousness experiences are functional and are central guiding or controlling factors to my behavior or logical analysis of problems. However, one cannot ignore the reality that consciousness can be characterized by five traits: one, it is continuous. Secondly, it is ever shifting, it is a personal experience, it is predominantly selective, and lastly, it is an active experience that allows one to function. In line with these actualities, this paper provides an elucidation of my states of consciousness in a time span of 24 hours as a way of spotlighting the ordinary waking consciousness and altered consciousness states.
My personal experiences of consciousness are divisible into two categories: waking and altered consciousness states. Normal waking consciousness refers to a consciousness state that one experiences when they are aware of their internal events and immediate environments. Against this concept, Revonsuo et al. (2009) describe altered states of consciousness as distorted general patterns of conscious experiences. They also highlight it as a “subjective feeling and explicit recognition that one’s own subjective experience has changed” (p. 1). In the same vein, it is imperative to evaluate these two forms of consciousness in my individual experiences, and accordingly, the paper will first focus on waking consciousness.
Normal Waking Consciousness
Notably, in the morning I am lively and concentrate on tasks, for instance, my first duties entailed brushing of teeth, taking a shower, preparing for school and making breakfast. In my case, these activities were chronological, and there was a significant focus towards their completion. Again, this was also the case in morning lectures, whereby I was actively engaged in in-class tasks as well as contributing to discussions. Accordingly, this could be argued as a case of controlled selective attention within ordinary waking consciousness. This form of consciousness entails a person’s conscious state when he or she is aware of their thoughts, emotions, and environment and can thereby have control of internal cognitive processes.
It is worth noting that such focused attention has its roots in the circadian rhythms that are influential in one’s conscious state. The rhythms are also known as the body’s clocks, and the grounding logic is that neurons within the hypothalamus control them. It is also associated with the suprachiasmatic nucleus. However, these biological elements are equally affected by environmental factors. For instance, in my case, it would be arguably accurate to conclude that sunlight is a significant motivator of the controlled selective conscious state. When there is a progressive increase in sunlight, a proportional decrease in the melatonin hormone occurs. Melatonin hormone production starts with the one’s visual system signaling the suprachiasmatic nucleus, particularly when there is reduced light. The hormone leads to low activity levels and a feeling of being sleepy. However, the increase in sunlight counters the process, thereby influencing one to be more conscious, alert and focused.
Another, consciousness-related observation in the past 24 hours is that when attending to my afternoon class, I was not focused on the lecture and at times, I started conversing with my colleague. Such loss of focus is contrary. Thus, this is a clear case of how energy rundowns relating to the circadian rhythms can result in divided attention in ordinary waking consciousness. Divided attention in consciousness denotes one’s ability to engage in two or multiple activities at the same while. Such situations also emerge when I am talking over the phone, but another person attempts to speak to me face-to-face. Notably, there is reduced control in the case of divided attention.
The altered Consciousness States
It is quite intriguing to establish that the daydreaming concept is subject to extensive evaluation by most literary critics as well as psychologists who attempt to comprehend the inspiration roots of creative individuals. Freud’s philosophies of psychoanalysis are also rooted in this issue, as evidenced in his work titled “Creative writers and day-dreaming” (Freud, 1959). Subsequently, this accentuates the prevalence as well as the significance of daydreaming as an altered consciousness state. Thus, this is an element that is also evident in my day-to-day life.
Notwithstanding the daytime instances of normal waking consciousness, it is also evident that I experienced many altered consciousness states in the last 24 hours. Most of such cases occurred in the afternoon, evening and night excluding the morning hours, which were characterized by controlled selective attention in tasks. In the afternoon, I would snap from daydreams, even in in-class contexts. This event falls under the continuum of dissociation in consciousness, thus making it an altered state. Separation concerning consciousness entails a broad range of experiences, ranging from mild detachments from current environments to extreme non-connection from physical or sensory-based experiences. My case involves daydreaming as the type of dissociation. It includes a short spell of non-connection from my immediate environment, which was the class, during which my connection with the reality became blurry and was partly replaced by imagination fantasies or imagined experiences. The unique aspect of this consciousness state is that it can also entail sensory information in the sense that one can even make up the smell of foods or even their tastes in the daydreams.
In the evening, I engaged in a meditation spell for about 30 min, and the scenario spotlights another altered consciousness state. I often use meditation when my consciousness becomes aversive, for example, when I cognize that I am not achieving specific goals or when I receive destructive criticism from other people. In such scenarios, I prefer a traditional approach to relaxation, and that is the meditation breath. In this approach, one moves to a comfortable position and focuses on his or her breath sequence as the primary way of clearing the mind and entering a relaxation state. This scenario could be a case of controlled, but altered consciousness. As opposed to other consciousness states such as hypnosis or daydreaming, meditation entails a specific concentration to a single stimulus with the primary intent of clearing the mind. Hypnosis involves a similar process, and the intention is to direct focus to selective imageries or emotions.
Another notable personal experience relating to different consciousness is that of my sleep process. At night, there is reduced light, and this often results in my dozing off. There is a progressive periodic suspension of my conscious state. Biological factors are central to this factor. Again, the suprachiasmatic nucleus is influential as it evaluates the intensity and period of light stimulus, and on noting there is low concentration, the pineal gland is signaled to secrete melatonin hormone that enhances onset of sleep. Subsequent sleep can be categorized into the rapid eye movement as well as the non-rapid eye movement. The first level entails three stages, in the first stage of NREM, there is the production of the high amplitude of brain waves, and there is a partial suspension of consciousness. At this stage, if someone wakes me up, I would probably argue that I was not asleep. However, the later level entails deep or active sleep. In the second stage, there is a detachment from one’s environment, and breathing rate becomes regular. The third stage of NREM is characterized by muscle relaxation, lower blood pressure, lower breathing rates and commencement of deep sleep. Increased brain activities, comparatively greater body relaxation, physical immobility, and occurrence of dreams and rapid movement of eyes characterize REM. In line with the psychoanalytic stance of Sigmund Freud’s philosophy, the dreams in REM are representative of unconscious motivations and emotions.
It is notable that consciousness is ever changing. The paper highlights the various consciousness experiences grounded in normal waking consciousness and altered states of consciousness. In line with these experiences, it is evident that the different states are linked to differing brain wave patterns. Regarding dissociated states of consciousness, the paper highlight on the meditative as well as daydreaming events. Controlled selective attention and sleep are presented as natural consciousness states.
Freud, S. (1959). Creative writers and daydreaming Standard Edition 9 141-153 London.
Koch, C., & Greenfield, S. (2007). How Does Consciousness Happen? Scientific American, 297(4), 76-83.
Revonsuo, A., Kallio, S., & Sikka, P. (2009). What is an altered state of consciousness? Philosophical Psychology, 22(2), 187-204.
Weiss, K. J., Watson, C., Markov, D., Del Busto, E., Foubister, N., & Doghramji, K. (2011). Parasomnias, violence and the law. The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 39(2), 249-286.