Do you ever feel a profound inner disquiet—like two potent ogres trapped in dispute deep within you? Neuroscience can help you to escape this chronic ache.
There is a strange quirk in the blueprint of our magnificent human brain. I can’t explain Mother Nature’s intent in this paradoxical design. We may even consider it a design flaw, because it causes modern humans a great deal of anguish.
Although I can’t explain why, I can explain how we ended up in this predicament. It is the consequence of Mother Nature’s iterative design process … otherwise known as evolution.
Her first priority was to protect the beautiful animals she had built. Her own hands and mind were busy imagining future biological enhancements, and so she gifted each slithering, sliding, and crawling creature with the ability to defend itself.
Natural Brain 1.0 (the “reptilian brain”) was designed to coordinate three defensive actions (actually 1 of them is an inaction): to run away from danger, to fight off an attacker, or to evade detection.
Early cold-blooded reptiles escaped danger well enough to dominate planet earth.
Unsatisfied with this primitive design, Mother Nature added an emotional layer when she launched Natural Brain 2.0. This enabled early egg-laying mammals to collaborate with each other and to nurture their young. It took tens of millions of years before version 3.0 emerged, with the addition of the magnificent cerebral cortex which gifted our warm-blooded predecessors with thought and reason.
The arrival of our “cognitive brain” catapulted Homo sapiens to world dominance. But in this beautiful design, we find the source of much of the psychic pain experienced by modern humans.
You see, your reptilian brain works incessantly to keep you safe both physically and emotionally. The cognitive brain listens to its strident pleas, and responds with well-thought-out, and strongly-defended reasons to build dense, protective walls. Although the reptilian brain has primary responsibility for security, it harnesses our full mental capacity behind this important work.
But here is the problem … At the same time as your reptilian brain builds walls that enclose you to keep you safe, your cognitive brain strives for expansion. So, you end up feeling trapped within your own safe prison.
“The walls of self-preservation are also the walls of self-imprisonment.”
Fortunately, you can take several steps to manage this inherent conflict.
Insight: When you understand your natural design, you appreciate the source of the tension. You no longer assume that there is something uniquely and powerfully wrong with you.
Control: The knowledge that this is self-imprisonment is itself liberating. It means that you hold the keys to the prison. Your future is in your own hands!
Natural Brain 4.0: Mother Nature went on to equip human beings with our supremely powerful Prefrontal Cortex. This region of your brain, which replaces the backward-sloping forehead of the great apes, gives you awareness of your awareness. When you exploit this gift (through meditation, mindfulness and other advanced neuro-practices), you experience your thoughts and emotions without being controlled by them.
Personal Mastery: It’s very difficult to fully appreciate your own inner workings. Get an outside-in perspective with the help of a coach trained in neuroscience. With an expert guide, you will appreciate the opposing desires of safety and expansion, and will find the road to peace and fulfillment!