The useful and wrong brain model

Here’s a tip – every model of the brain is wrong.

The lobes specialise, the hemispheres specialise, brain waves indicate certain states of mind – these ideas are obvious correct, yet all have a thousand counterexamples.

But the goal of a model isn’t to be universally true. By that point, it’s not a model.

A completely faithful representation of the human brain is a human brain.

So the goal of a model is to be accurate enough and to be useful.

File that away in the back of your mind as I talk about the triune model of the brain.

This model oversimplifies a lot… but the gist of it is true. More than that, it’s useful.

Ancient organisms evolved into the first reptiles, which were bigger and smarter than other animals at the time. That’s not saying much. These reptile brains sought to satisfy their basic, primal needs. They categorised the environment – is that food for me or am I food for it?

The reptile brain looks for shelter, food, water and mates. It needs to respond to things quickly – in a fight to the death, being a quarter of a second too slow can end you.

This brain doesn’t need to be too smart. It can rely on instinct and a few learned behaviours. Overthinking things won’t help you catch a rabbit or intimidate a rival. Action beats introspection.

Then a few reptiles evolved into something new: mammals. They were warm-blooded, and so ditched the scales in favour of fur and skin. This warm blood, providing a stable temperature, allowed their brains to grow larger and more sophisticated.

The main advantage of these new mental faculties?

Pack tactics.

It takes a lot of brainpower to hunt as a team, establish dominance, follow leaders and communicate even simple concepts.

(“Threat!” “Water!”)

But these mammals didn’t lose the needs of their reptilian cousins. They still needed to satisfy their hunger, find shelter, monitor the world for dangers and find mates.

So they kept the reptilian brain and grew the mammalian brain around it.

Sometimes these brains would come into conflict. Maybe the creature is hungry, so their reptilian brain looks for food. But they can’t eat the food in front of them because it belongs to a stronger rival, so the mammalian brain overrides it.

Sometimes they work together. The mammalian brain notices a social cue from a rival, suggesting they’re about to attack. The information is social but the threat is physical, so the reptilian brain goes into freeze, flight and fight mode.

Then, over time, some mammals evolved a third layer to their brains and became humans.

These human brains are absurdly powerful. They are capable of advanced abstract reasoning, sophisticated language, unparalleled empathy and prediction, and the ability to analyse and alter most of its own functions.

All these processes would prove useful. Humans would flourish over time, expanding into every biome on the planet. We’ve even left our planet – not permanently yet, but we’re working on it.

This human brain isn’t perfect. Its processes are slow and expensive. Plus they can interfere with the mammalian and reptilian brains in unproductive ways. It also means our children take decades to mature, whereas plenty of mammals can walk within hours of being born.

Sometimes the human brain conflicts with the other two. The mammalian brain wants you to fit in because there’s safety (and mating opportunities) in the herd, even if your human brain wants to self-actualise. Or your reptilian brain craves junk food, while your human brain knows what it’ll do to you.

They can work together, too.

And when they do, that’s when you feel such amazing things.

Like being in the zone… or following your true purpose…

But three brains, living in the one skull?

Conflicts inevitably arise.

And the reptilian and mammalian brains, by their nature, are unconscious.

Your human brain might tell the others to eat healthier and be more selective with who they date. But the others don’t understand the language. The reptilian brain thinks in primal terms, prioritising survival. The mammalian brain thinks in terms of the social world, prioritising status. They evolved long before language did, so telling them what to do rarely works.

You have to speak their language.

That’s where hypnosis comes in. It translates your conscious intentions into messages your unconscious understands and follows.

Want to learn the language(s) for yourself?

The most comprehensive guide to your unconscious, peeling back the mysteries of how your mind clicks together, is right here, as always:

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