“An interest in the brain requires no justification other than a curiosity to know why we are here, what we are doing here, and where we are going.”
– Dr. Paul D. MacLean
Are you particularly curious about the human brain and often find yourself seeking a better understanding of how it works?
But if you’re not familiar with it, in summary, it states that we have 3 brains: A reptilian brain, a limbic (emotional) brain, and a neocortex (logical or thinking) brain.
The reptilian brain is sometimes referred to as the lizard or croc brain. This is part of the brain concerned with the physical aspects of your life.
It handles your basic needs like being safe, having food and a place to sleep … etc. You can say it is responsible for your survival.
Internally, it can also relate to your health. It controls your heartbeat, breathing, how you digest food, etc, and externally to your physical environment.
Whereas the emotional brain is responsible for your emotions. How you feel and externally how you relate to other people.
Lastly, the logical brain is where you think internally and share ideas with other people externally.
We tend to believe that the logical or thinking brain is in control of our life.
The truth is that the lower brains are the ones that control our lives if we don’t have the knowledge of the three brain functions and how they affect us.
When you work on yourself to advance yourself or with someone else it is useful to use this model as it enables you or whoever you are working with to look at an issue from the physical, emotional and logical levels both internally and externally.
The triune brain model maps closely to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you’d like to find out more, you can read more about how this model is used in my post “Communication for success and how you can learn it?”
This is a deep subject. And we can definitely go on about it forever.
That said, here, we’ll have a brief dive into your primitive brain and break down the different ways that it controls your life.
This part of the brain is controlled by the amygdala.
The amygdala is an almond-shaped part of the brain and we actually have two of them. The name comes from the Latin word amygdalē which means almond.
It is responsible for your safety and well-being. It is the part of the brain that causes emotional responses like a fight, flight, or freeze.
In the past, these responses kept you alive and even saved your life. For example, if you were about to be attacked by a Sabertooth tiger, you could run or defend yourself. Fear was a good thing.
However, in this modern age, the risk of being attacked by a tiger or a similar creature is minimised. It can still happen just not likely as it used to when we roamed the earth in the caveman ages.
This primitive brain does not serve us in the modern age in a lot of situations, as fear can paralyse us and stop us from progressing.
We need to understand it more to see how it affects our day-to-day life. This way, we can use the responses of fight, flight, and freeze to our advantage instead of them holding us back.
In modern times most fears are irrational fears. In essence, they are not real.
Read More: 5 Actionable & Potent Ways to Overcome Fear
Now back to the amygdala. How does this primitive part of our brain affect our everyday life?
As mentioned previously fight, flight and freeze are the responses of our primitive brain. This is what causes us to get stressed.
Below are some examples of the different responses and how they often manifest in modern times:
Instead of fighting people can experience anger and aggression or have rigid fixed ideas and opinions.
And instead of running away, people become anxious or depressed or scared for no good reason as their life in this case is not in danger however it feels like it is.
There are situations when the fear is real, you are in danger, and if that is the case by all means act on that fear. However, in most cases, the fear is an irrational fear like in the case of the fear of failure or the fear of rejection.
You can read more about fear and irrational fear in another article I previously penned “How can you overcome fear?”
Instead of ‘freezing’, people end up procrastinating. They don’t do what they need to do, or do what they know is not good for them and unintentionally sabotage themselves.
You can see from these examples how the lack of understanding of the primitive brain can stop us from progressing in life and reaching our goals.
With this awareness, now you can question every time you experience one of these responses.
Once you question the feeling you can identify if it is real or just irrational. This will enable you to progress in your life as it will give you clarity and clarity is power.
So next time you find yourself experiencing anger, you can ask yourself:
- Is this issue worth getting angry over?
- Is the anger going to serve me?
- Am I hurting the other person or myself with my anger?
- Is there a better way for us to sort out the issue?
Whenever you feel anxious, you can assess if you are in real danger or if this fear is an irrational fear.
If you have an exam and you are worried, you can understand that if you fail it is not the end of the world.
You are not going to die because you failed. And the earth is not going to explode.
You will know that you just need to prepare for the exam and if you happen to fail you can take the exam again.
When you start to procrastinate, you can analyse the cause of that procrastination.
Say you need to exercise but you want to watch your favourite show. Perhaps you can watch your show while you are on the treadmill.
How can you get yourself to do what you need to do and at the same time satisfy not feeling like doing it?
The amygdala is the part of the brain that is affected when people have PTSD. The event that caused the issue has not been fully processed which causes it to resurface until the brain processes it.
With this understanding, how are you going to move forward? Feel free to share what you think by commenting below!
Read More: What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?
This post was contributed by Joseph Hass, a Self-Help Guide/Web Architect who can help you upgrade communication with yourself and others to create win-win situations. Learn more about Joseph & what he does at AskJosephHass.com