Imagine you are a reptile for a moment, could you love? Well, you have a reptile alive inside you now, so it is important to understand if it can and what it means for your life if it cannot. Yuck! I’ve got a lizard inside me? I’m afraid so. Our dinosaur ancestors had one and it’s called the limbic system today (don’t know what dinosaurs called it).
Be that reptile for a moment, would you admire poetry and music or would you main concerns be being eaten, eating or making baby reptiles? I think of this as the four F’s: Fear, Food, F***, Flight. A bit graphic, I admit, but it is memorable and its important that it be so. We live from these beliefs all the time and rationalize them away after the event.
Let’s get back to you now. How is this affecting you today? Well, when we see something, it is first processed by the limbic system, then because the signals are a bit slower it gets to the rational higher brain functions. So very often, our first reactions are reptilian which we later rationalize. Just take some time and look at how you react to things, people and events, be ruthlessly honest with yourself, which, if any of the four Fs was really the underlying motivation?
Let’s go forward in our evolution to when we were recognizably “human” about 60,000 years ago. Our being the sons and daughters of Eve is absolutely right. Go back only 6,000 generations and our DNA shows we all originated in Africa, from one single migration, some studies even claim finding the original “Eve” some time before that. That is just the blink of any eye, so really, we are all African. No matter how different we look on the outside, inside the differences between any human and another is tiny. The chimpanzee, our nearest relative, is only 2-3% different from us genetically. frogs for sale
So what’s with the evolutionary tour? In the brain, our friend the limbic system on really cares about survival and not much else. In fact it is hardly aware of the other parts of the brain. It does not care or even understand being rich, happy or fulfilled. Survival. Nothing else, just survival.
Think about that for a moment, if the limbic system is only barely aware of the other parts of the brain, doesn’t that mean it has its own agenda? That agenda cannot understand happiness, wealth and health. It absolutely understands alive or dead. You can still live a life of pure misery but for the reptile brain that’s OK, you’re still alive and that’s good enough. But is that good enough for you?
Then we have the subconscious mind. This is a non-rational part of ourselves where we store our memories and above all our beliefs and opinions. This is where our underlying “world view” comes from. I’m sure you can think of people who are eternal optimists and others who are eternal pessimists. Let me ask you this, is the outer world any different? It is their opinions that make the world one way or the other.
The mid-brain has a richer emotional life and is aware far more than the limbic system, but it views life through an emotional lens. There goes the idea of the brain as a super computer. The cartoon of the logical brain is just not true, next time you buy something for example, really look at what is driving you, chances are it is an emotion (you liked this product more than that one) but each product sells perfectly well to lots of people, one “suits” you better than the other. But what happens when we think about things too much? We get stuck in not doing anything, we end up in what I call “ping pong” thought where you bounce between one idea and another or more even and cannot make up your mind as to what to do.