Four related processes of seeking

First, seeking combines the impetus and means by which the individual identifies his wants, needs, and desires. A person’s successfully seeking his desires and needs experiences a flicker of interest and a change in internal state that leads to recognition of here is who or what I want.

Second, seeking combines the impetus and means by which an individual formulates intrinsic or explicit plans to obtain what she wants and to overcome obstacles if present. Seeking to form a plan to obtain one’s desire is experienced as the person being a doer doing, sometimes alone in the presence of the other, often while interacting with someone experienced as a helper or hinderer.

Third, seeking is the impetus for a person’s reflecting to discern the meaning of who or what he wants, obtains, or fails to get. Seeking in this instance is to understand the effect of the success or failure of the doer doing on the person’s state of mind, adaptation, expectations, sense of self, and identity. Seeking to discern the meaning of one’s needs and wants involves interest, reflection, and a spirit of inquiry, often building to a lasting curiosity that touches on identity.

Fourth, seeking is the spark for each individual’s variably intense inclination to explore the edge of the known, the sanctioned, and/or the prohibited. Seeking to test limits, throwing caution to the winds, may be motivated by a desire for heightened experiences of exhilaration or detachment, defiance and/or indulgence, the chaos of a drug high, sadistic episodes of inflicting pain or sexual dominance, and masochistic states of fear, pain, or sexual submission. Seeking the edge may be manifest as behavior and/or in fantasies where no limits may curtail the enactment. Depending on the nature of the testing behavior or fantasy, the result may be moments of enhancing enlivenment with feelings of liberation. Or, in some sadomasochistic or sociopathic testing of limits, the result may be harmful to the self and others (pathological). Or, in some experimental testing of limits, the result may be innovative and creative.

In Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Alcaro and Panksepp (2011) establish seeking as a fundamental motivational dynamic of the brain.

Appetitive motivation and incentive states are essential functions sustained by a common emotional brain process, the SEEKING disposition, which drives explorative and approach behaviors, sustains goal-directed activity, promotes anticipatory cognitions, and evokes feelings of positive excitement which control reward-learning. All such functions are orchestrated by the same “archetypical” neural process, activated in ancient subcortical areas and transported to the forebrain by the mesolimbic dopamine (ML-DA) system.... These patterns may be considered basic “SEEKING” neurodynamic impulses which represent the primary-process exploratory disposition getting integrated with information relative to the external and the internal environment.


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