Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Reptilian Overlord - Part 2 of 2

Many parts of the brain evolved after the "reptilian". And to keep it simple, I will just say that the "mind" is the result of the functioning of the brain. I believe that we are spiritual beings, therefore I am of the "Dualist" school of thought, i.e., the mind is the interaction of brain and spirit. 

I think of the mind as the "drama queen" of friends. You know the one. She often overreacts to information, dramatizes, and disses. She never lets go of a topic, even if it is hurtful. She talks, talks, talks, long after you wish she would just be quiet. (Especially when you are trying to go to sleep.) She can be repetitive and scary. She has some really terrifying stories to tell of what could happen to you. On the other hand, when she is feeling good about herself, she is a best friend. If you can let her know when she is out of line, she calms down, and does what you need her to do. But she's not easy to control.

So how does that relate to the "reptilian overlord"? 

When our senses detect something as dangerous, such as the loss of our retirement, or a desirable woman your husband notices, or that scary man in the alley, it sends signals to your brain that interacts with your friend, getting her all worked up. As she goes into full-on drama mode your body responds with appropriate hormonal activity. Now here is the catch, the brain doesn't know the difference between something made up, (imagined), and something that is actually happening. But that's another story. Suffice to say, when the more basic part of our brain is activated, we can respond in ways that our more reasonable parts are quite shocked at, mainly because our "dramatic" friend is egging us on. The trick is to know when she is right and you better listen, when she needs to calm down and be quiet, and when to run. 


Butternut Squash said...

What I hate is when you realize after the fact, that it was really the hormones after all. I always remind my children to wait until the storm has passed to point this out.

Rose said...

"the brain doesn't know the difference between something made up, (imagined), and something that is actually happening." Yep. I get it.....
I have a vivid imagination and it seems that the older I get the more trouble I have separating fact from fantasy. LOL. This is a secret I keep only to myself.
It can be fun at times to escape mundane reality by fantasizing about some pleasurable thing but I fear it might get me in a little trouble someday.

Jeninacide said...

Ugh I have a HARD time getting my dramatic girlfriend to shut up. She can be such a pain in my ass.

Hilary said...

Oh so true. That drama queen is a trouble-maker. And she gets a lot worse as she gets older. That's "she" mind you - not to be confused with me. ;)

susan said...

The drama queen has another name and that's ego. Your description of the process is good and I know you've described a kind of suffering most of us are prone to especially when the shadow consciousness is in ascendance. I've spent many years trying to tame the fear of things I can't change and although I wouldn't dare describe myself as a real Buddhist I've come to have a deep respect for the philosophy.

Buddhism stresses that much of our lives are lived unawares, and that by bringing attention into the present, we can learn to release ourselves from selfish preoccupations. Like psychoanalysis, Buddhism believes that it is essential to bring the attention to everything there is to observe, without judging the material. This would include feelings of anger, rage, shame, etc., that are traditionally considered to be the stuff of depth psychology.

The trick, from a Buddhist perspective, is to learn how to accept things just as they are. It is the fundamental belief in an inherently existing self that is the cause, in the Buddha's view, of so much attachment and suffering.

I've practiced meditation daily for a long time but I'm still hoping I can grow up enough to do it properly.

Lover of Life said...

Butternut - wise lady!

Rose - Actually fantasying about something pleasurable is very good for you. Your brain doesn't know the difference between something that is actually happening, and something you are thinking, so it sends out endorphins, etc. Replacing a bad thought with a good thought is used in
cognitive behavioral therapy.

Jeninacide - Yes, she can be a pain!

Hillary - You are so right, if not watched our friend can get us in big trouble because we can actually become "hard wired" to a certain way of thinking!

Susan - Yes, ego could be another name. Certainly Freud would agree. But, I wonder if ego is the mind, or is it a part of the mind? It is a fascinating, evolving subject. I, too, believe in the Buddhist philosophy, but am no where near knowledgeable enough to claim to be one. Our country is certainly getting a lesson in attachment, isn't it? I'm just starting back with meditation, and feel better already.

Minka said...

""the brain doesn't know the difference..." Yep! And then you realize it was (for instance) PMS! And you had a major row with someone you shouldn't... OUCH!

susan said...

I guess I was thinking of ego as our inherent self-awareness of body and mind. Meditation helps because it calms the body thus helping the physical aspect of mind (the brain) relax enough that we'll be better able to discern real from unreal. It takes time but so do all worthwhile pursuits.

Best wishes.