Our personal relationship histories and how we make meaning is fundamental. Daniel J. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA school of medicine and says that “…in these ways, history and present context shape whichever “self” is organized in the moment. As relationship experiences are repeated, these “self-states” become repeatedly engrained and develop their own histories and patterns of activity across time.”[i] It is our contention that all of our “self-states” (parts) plus a Self (the internal spark of the Divine) are what ultimately constitutes a human being.
To understand the complexity of how the emotional base and resultant physical states come to fill the neural brain suitcase with which we travel we need to explore the mechanisms of the triune brain[ii] (three part brain) and specifically the limbic brain which is our lifelong center and source of emotions which contribute to what we call the self.
The First or Reptilian brain is relegated to the physiology of survival and houses the vital control neural centers that prompt breathing, swallowing and visual tracking. This archaic conglomerate of cells holds no emotional life.
The Second brain is called the limbic brain and is the center of emotion, feelings, senses, and compassion and has some influence on the neocortex monitoring of the external world and internal bodily environment.
Research in anthropology, sociology and the study of primates indicate that emotions are an evolutionally process. Emotions arise stimulatingly with early brain development as the neural pathways forge one’s individualized brain map. Facial expressions of basic human emotions are identical all over the world. Emotions are sometimes referred to as the universal language of humanity. They “are at the root of everything that we do, the unquenchable origin of every act more complicated than a reflex”.[iii]
The Third brain is the neocortex and is responsible for speaking, writing, planning, reasoning, senses, awareness and will.
“Because people are most aware of the verbal, rational part of their brains, they assume that every part of their mind should be amenable to the pressure of argument and will, not so. Words, good ideas, and logic mean nothing to at least two brains out of three. Much of one’s mind does not take orders” [iv]
The implicit memory of the limbic brain is more mystifying and interesting. Here is the seat of intuition and conscious self-awareness is absent. It possesses acquired knowledge that defies explanation and understanding. Here lie memories of feelings and emotions that develop early in life and are retained and come to life throughout adulthood without choice or will.
To be continued….
[i] Daniel Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships And the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. (1999 The Gilford Press. New York London ((p. 230)
[ii] Dr. Paul MacLean The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Funtions. (1990) New York: Plenum Press.
[iii] Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M. D. Richard Lannon, M.D. The General Theory of Love. (2001) Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc. New York (p. 36) [iv] Lewis (p. 33)