The black box of communication

More on the triune brain and our black box of communication.

  1. The concept of the Triune Brain (MacLean) suggests that the functions of the brain are three major parts: Primitive, Limbic and the Neo-Cortical. All of our sensory input come up through the Brain Stem, the home of the Primitive Brain, then through the Limbic System, the home of the Mammalian or Emotional Brain and finally arrives in the Gray Matter, the Neo-Cortex, the home of the Thinking Brain.
  2. A stimulus or communication that signals physical danger triggers the cold-blooded, unfeeling, instinctive reactions of the Primitive Brain and empowers us to save ourselves from danger. Thus, Primitive Brain asks, “Is it safe?” In acting for safety, we neglect sensitivities of emotion and conclusions of logic. We act.
  3. Next the stimulus or communication passes through the Mammalian Brain and is analyzed by the limbic system, which asks “Friend or foe?” and questions, “Can I anticipate pleasure (of getting needs met) or pain (of further deprivation) from this source.” The response of this emotional brain is jointly based on past emotional experience (emotional memories) and the reading (via sympathetic emotional responses) of the many non-verbal cues such as postures, tones, and facial expressions of the sender. If we anticipate pain we will start to avoid, distance, close ourselves off from influence, and mistrust. If we anticipate pleasure we will start to open, approach, and positively engage the other.
  4. Next the stimulus or communication (along with the sensations arising from the responses of the primitive and emotional brains) is analyzed by the Thinking Brain, and tested for, “Does this make sense?” and “Is this reasonable?” Here our Neo-Cortical Brain interprets and judges the entire experience and decides the meaning of the incoming message. The Limbic Brain and Primitive Brain then re-react emotionally and physically to this interpreted meaning in preparation for action (the response).
  5. Thus, the individual has interpretations, feelings, and preparatory response sets in reaction to a stimulus or communication. Additionally (because we have learned rules about having feelings), we make judgements of ourselves about our feelings and about our feelings about having the feeling – e.g. How do I feel about myself for having this feeling? Next we have preparatory response sets and urges, but we also have learned rules about how to behave. These rules check and modify our action preparations.

~ Michele Baldwin

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