of Three Minds,
described how three brain systems, the brain stem, the limbic system
and the cerebral cortex, operate with three different types of logic.
The brain stem’s logic is about approach and
avoidance—going toward pleasure and away from pain. The
system works by association. It relates one experience with another and
generates emotion. The cerebral cortex is the source of conceptual and
analytical thought, judgment, and imagination, among other thinking
Ideally, these three systems would
seamlessly, our thoughts would be harmonious, and we would be happy. It
doesn’t always work that way. Often these systems will be at
with each other. A desire will arise in our brainstem, be amplified by
the emotional limbic system and processed by the cerebral cortex. The
cortex says whether satisfying the desire is a good idea or not. Then
it goes about planning either to satisfy it or to put on the brakes. It
has to come up with a plan to avoid behavior that would satisfy a
desire that is a bad idea, or make a plan to go along with the desire.
of us get a little confused about which part of the brain should be
calling the shots. Some listen mostly to the limbic system and confuse
feelings with facts. If they have a feeling, they make up reasons to
act upon it. Others of us get too invested in our logical processes and
ignore emotions. The wise mind combines reason and emotion. Both are
valued. Both are applied to solve problems.
have an urge or desire that is really a no brainer. For instance, it is
a work day, but you would really rather be doing something else. But
you have appointments, people are expecting you there, and for various
other good reasons there is no way you are not going to work.
is a little trick you can try to bypass the argument and get out of
that unpleasant state of mind where you are dissatisfied with what will
inevitably come to pass. Try to sidestep the emotional
using visualization. Instead of entertaining an argument between your
rational mind and your emotional mind that leaves you with a bad
feeling, let the emotional mind have its way while your logical mind
continues to direct your body on its way to work.
have the thought, I’d really rather go hiking than go to
Rationally, you know that you are going to work. Instead of feeling bad
about it, let your imagination go on that hike. Split off that fragment
of consciousness and visualize yourself hiking in that favorite place
of yours. Imagine what it would feel like. What would you see there?
Your limbic system likes pictures and sensations, so when it gets the
images and imagined sensations of your virtual hike, it feels
satisfied. Meanwhile, you keep doing what it takes to get you to work,
because your cerebral cortex is running this show.
technique is like throwing a piece of meat to a barking dog that is
blocking your way. You are saying to your limbic system,
would be nice to go hiking on a workday, but that’s not
happening, but you go ahead and have the thoughts and memories that go
with hiking, while the rest of me gets ready for work.”
visualization might only last few a few seconds, but you get out of a
mental argument with yourself and you give yourself a pleasant emotion
while doing the right thing.
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