The consciousness can find itself immersed in deep sleep, in semisleep or in vigil, and also in intermediate or transitional moments. There are gradations between the levels of consciousness, not sharp divisions. To speak of levels is to speak of different operations and of the register of these operations. It is thanks to the register that a distinction can be made between different levels of consciousness, and one cannot have a register of the levels as though they were empty ambits.
Characteristics of the Levels
It can be affirmed that the different levels of consciousness fulfill the function of structurally compensating the world (understanding by “world,” the mass of perceptions, representations, etc., that originate in the stimuli from the external and internal environments). This is not simply about giving responses, but about giving structural, compensatory responses. These responses are compensations in order to re-establish equilibrium in the unstable relationship between consciousness-world or psychism-environment. As free energy is left over from the work done in the vegetative function, the levels rise because they receive the energy that feeds them.
In this level, the work of the external senses is minimal; there is no other information from the external environment except for whatever breaks through the threshold imposed by sleep itself. The task of the cenesthetic sense is predominant, contributing impulses that are translated and transformed by the work of the associative mechanisms and resulting in the emergence of oneiric images. The substantive characteristics of the images at this level are their strong suggestive power. Psychological time and space are modified with respect to vigil, and the act-object structure frequently appears without any correlation between its elements. Likewise, emotion al “climates” and images tend to become independent of one another. The disappearance of critical and self-critical mechanisms is typical, which, starting from this level, will gradually increase their work as the level of consciousness rises. The inertia of the levels and the formal ambit that they establish cause the mobility and the passage from one level to the other to occur gradually (thus, the exit from and entrance into sleep will take place after passing through semisleep). The tone of this level is the same as that of the others: it can go from an active to a passive state, and there can also be of alteration. There are no images in passive sleep, whereas active sleep does have images.
At this level, which precedes vigil, the external senses start sending information to the consciousness—information that is not entirely structured, because there is also interference from reveries and the presence of internal sensations. The contents of sleep lose their suggestive power when they continue to appear, due to the semi-vigilic perception that provides new parameters. Suggestibility continues acting, especially in the case of some very vivid images (called “hypnagogic”) of great power. On the other hand, the system of frequent reveries—which can wane in vigil and disappear in sleep—reappears. It is in this level where the reverie nucleus and the secondary reveries are more easily registered, at least in their basic climates and tensions. The reverie mode that is proper to this level tends to be transferred through inertia to vigil, supplying the raw material for divagation; though in the divagation, elements from vigilic perception also appear. In this ambit the coordinator can already carry out a few operations. Let us also mention that this level is extremely unstable and therefore is easily disequilibrated and altered.
We also find the states of passive and active semisleep. The first offers an easy passage to sleep; the second, to vigil. At this point we can also make another distinction: there is an active semisleep due to alteration, and another that is more calm and attentive. Altered semisleep is the base of the tensions and climates that can arrive to vigil with force and persistence, giving rise to “noise” and modifying behavior, making it inadequate for the surrounding situation. The tracking of vigilic tensions and climates can be done in altered active semisleep. The different states, both active and passive, are defined by the energetic tone and intensity proper to each level. The degree of intensity that emotion al climates and tensions can have is expressed in tones.
In this level the external senses contribute a greater volume of information as they regulate the internal senses through inhibition, enabling the coordinator to orient itself toward the world in the psychism’s work of compensating the environment. Here the mechanisms of abstraction and of criticism and self-criticism function and attain high degrees of manifestation and intervention in the tasks of coordination and register. The mechanisms of reversibility, whose manifestation in the previous levels was minimal, can amply operate here, allowing the coordinator to balance the internal and external environments. Suggestibility in the vigilic contents diminishes with the increase in reference points. There is a tone of active vigil that can be attentive, with maximum control over apperception, or there may be a tone of altered vigil. In this last case, silent divagation and the more-or-less fixed reveries appear.
Relationship Between Levels
In general, the relationship between the levels produces reciprocal alterations. Four factors can be mentioned that affect this relationship: inertia, noise, the “rebound” effect, and “dragging.”
Each level of consciousness tends to maintain its own level of work, and to continue to maintain its activity after its cycle is finalized. As a result, the passage from one level to another is carried out slowly, with the first diminishing when the new level manifests itself (as in the case of contents from semisleep that impose themselves in vigil). The cases we will now mention result from this inertia that each level has, causing it to maintain and extend the type of articulation that characterizes it.
The inertia of the previous level appears as background noise in the work of the subsequent level: contents from infra-vigil erupt, interfering in the work of vigil, and vice versa. We can also distinguish the following as ‘noise’: emotion al climates, tensions and contents not proper to the coordinator’s work at a given moment. For example, if an intellectual task is being performed, a certain emotion should accompany this work (liking for doing it); there will be tension produced by the work itself, and thoughts appropriate for the operations underway. But if there are other types of climates, if the tensions do not come from the work and the contents tend toward allegorization, they will obviously interfere in the activity and introduce noise, which will necessarily alter the coordination and consume the available energy.
The Rebound Effect
This phenomenon occurs as a response from a level in which contents from a different level have been introduced that had broken through the defenses of inertia. Contents proper to the level that was invaded will later on appear, this time in the level from where the other contents were introduced.
Contents, climates and tones that are proper to one level are transferred and remain in another level as draggings. This will be more relevant in the case of climates, tensions or contents that are fixed in the psychism, that are dragged for a long time, and that are represented in the different levels. Due to the psychological importance that these factors can have for growing adaptation and the psychism’s evolution, we can give them special consideration.
Tones, Climates, Tensions and Contents
Tones are considered in terms of energetic intensity. The operations in each level can be carried out with greater or lesser intensity (with greater or lesser tone). There are experiences that are manifested at a greater or lesser intensity depending on the predominant tone, and at times they can be altered by it, becoming converted into a factor of noise.