William Calvin in his Brief History of the Mind demonstrated that the brain attained its current size and anatomy long before humans started to use it for higher functions. Only later came the ability to throw with accuracy, to communicate using language, to think in logical terms, create societies, make technology what it is today.
Below is a list of archeological events that justified a new physiologically observable part of the brain, some new gray matter, new nerve connections or simply a novel use of already existing neural pathways.
Please remember this is only an oversimplification of the organization of the brain and is technically inaccurate as an explanation for actual brain activity as understood in neuroscience. Our purpose here is to explain human behavior as a whole, not to cast diagnosis or cure brain tumors.
Please refer to the Triune Brain and the Divisions of the Mind Articles for clearer definitions.
As you can see, the last two versions of the brain are extremely recent. The timeline has been matched against a 24 hour day, starting at midnight for better comparison. Brain 1 had plenty of time to the perfect its tune, 2 had nonetheless a decent chunk of time to improve. But 3 is like being released in the last minutes of the day.
Our ancestors were chicken…
- Brain 1 is making very few mistakes. Safe for a birth defect, it will run smoothly for your entire life.
- Brain 2 is still subject to misinterpretations and will generate Fear as soon as information suggests harm. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry. In fact, our lineage includes only humans who overestimated danger and sought safety or fought back. The other ones were naturally eliminated. This is why fear is still a predominant emotion.
- Brain 3 is the great tool that made all we have possible. Yet, as you will see through this blog, it is also at the origin of most our trouble.
- For starter, Brain 2, which is managing our emotions and making decisions, cannot distinguish between information from the Brain 1 such as the taste of spoiled food or sound of incoming danger and information from the Brain 3 such as a gore picture or offending language. Both will make us throw up or willing to fight back the same way.
- Another problem with Brain 3 is that it never shuts up. It is constantly seeking something to solve, resolve or think about solving. Brains were not supposed to be turned off ever. You cannot stop your heart from beating (a Brain 1 function) or turn off Fear (a Brain 2 function) because doing so would get you killed in no time. So they never shut down.
Brain 3 never shuts up
Nature did not anticipate that the Neocortex would run out of real problems to solve anytime soon.
After all, it took millions of years for humans to throw a spear accurately. Apes are still unable to do any form of accurate activity, let alone train to improve a skill.
Many animals can be trained but none of them would come up with such skill without us asking it of them. Animals do not train or practice dry runs. Their skill improvement comes exclusively from real practice and experience. At best they play, which is the closest thing to practice, yet the intent to improve is missing.
But our Neocortex did in fact run out of real problems to think about and its constant chatter is now the source of stress and confusion.
It is to believe that in a few million years our brains will be able to regulate that chatter with maybe a Brain 4 that will police Brain 3 or maybe Brain 2 will be able to trigger Brain 3 on demand and filter its output. Who knows?
Consciousness tends to override Awareness
Meanwhile, because our Neocortex, that Brain 3, is the center of Consciousness and Consciousness tends to override Awareness, humans came up with Meditation.
Meditation exists in many forms but they all have for goal to reduce that chatter or at least to reduce the impact it has on our lives.
Sleep should not be confused with Meditation, by the way.
Sleep has been invented so the other brains can filter and sort out the information to be given to the Neocortex who cannot handle it all. It is still the new kids on the block and needs to be debriefed every day. So it is shut down so it stops talking and can listen.
Meditation is part of the Connection Practice
Actually, Meditation is only one of the components of the Connection Practice, which has for goal to be better tuned to the part of the brain that makes us alive, Brain 2 or Limbic system.
There are many activities (and non-activities) that are actually making direct use of this Brain 2.
When we do, we feel at peace.