In Getting to Know Your 3 Brains Part 2, WU World Changer Hilary Jacobs Hendel shares what you need to know in order to enhance your wellbeing! Late joining this series? Catch up on Part 1!
Getting to Know Your 3 Brains Part 2: Conducting
In Part 1 of this brain mini-series, I hoped to excite your desire to learn more about the brain. In this post, you will learn what you need to know to enhance your well-being.
To begin, think of yourself as having not just one brain but three brains:
- your thinking-brain
- your emotional-brain
- your body-brain
Although they are all connected, they act and are very different. The thinking brain conjures your thoughts. The emotional brain is where emotions and impulses arise. The body-brain causes changes in the body when emotions trigger. The body-brain, therefore, controls changes in breathing, heart rate, muscular tension, stomach and gastrointestinal tension and so on. The job of the body-brain is to ready our bodies for survival actions.
You can see in the picture above how the body-brain extends downward. It connects the brain to the whole body through the spinal cord.
What is The Self?
Along with the three brains, we also have a Self. The Self is the core “you.” The Self is how you were born before the challenges of life shaped you for better and for worse. It is the part of you that when fully accessed says, “I feel like me!” People who have had a lot of hardship may feel very disconnected from their Self. That is because the Self can hide if it feels threatened or too vulnerable. We know we are connected to our Self when we feel calm, confident, connected, compassionate, and curious in the world.
The Self has this amazing ability to notice what’s going on inside our mind and body, and can help our mind and body communicate better. For example, the Self could say about the thinking brain, emotional brain, and body-brain respectively, “I am aware that I am thinking about what the weather will be tomorrow,” “I am aware that I am angry at my boss and I feel an impulse to call him names,” and “I am aware that I have butterflies in my stomach as I think about public speaking.”
I strongly encourage you to practice using your Self to notice your thoughts, feelings, impulses and body sensations. The Self assimilates all the information to use for the greater good of you.
Why am I encouraging you to spend the emotional effort to notice what your three brains are doing? Because when the Self takes the time to notice what’s happening in the three brains, positive change occurs. The mere act of focusing attention on what you want to change, causes brain cells to fire. Brain cells that fire, in turn, cause brain cells to rewire, leading to changes from small to transformational.
The Self can learn to question the three brains.
Questioning leads to understanding, and understanding tells us what to do next to help ourselves. When the Self questions an emotion, it would ask, “What happened that just made me feel_________?” When it questions a thought, it would ask, “What made that worry-thought about ________________ (fill in the blank with a worry-thought) come up right now?” When it questions a physical sensation, it would ask, “What made my stomach tighten up now?” When we listen to the three brains, we have a better sense of what to do next to help our Self.
Here is a simple metaphor to help illustrate how your three brains and your Self work together:
Picture an orchestra with three sections: horns, strings, and percussion. The sections correspond to the thinking brain, emotional brain, and body-brain. Now add the conductor, who represents the Self.
The orchestra sounds much better when the conductor leads. Of course, the instruments can still play if the conductor is absent. The problem is that without the conductor, the instruments don’t play so well together because they are not coordinated. But when a maestro steps in, he or she creates the most beautiful and harmonious music. I want to help you all become maestros of your mind. As a maestro, you will have more power and control to help yourself and others during hard times.
To be a maestro, we need to be very familiar with the three brains. To start, our Self needs to learn to recognize the difference between a thought, a feeling, and a physical sensation. We work with each one differently. Then we must practice efficiently communicating with the three brains: questioning worried thoughts, working to transform hurtful emotions like toxic shame, and paying more focused attention to good feelings, for example. People who work with their three brains feel more organized, in control, and experience greater peace, calm and confidence.
In summary, awareness of the three brains allows us to work with them purposefully. When we are in touch simultaneously with thoughts, feelings and body sensations, it is easier to meet life’s challenges. When we know what we are feeling and can use our emotions and sensations the way nature intended, we function better and feel more vital, energized, and alive. It’s neuroscience!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series next week where I will give you an actual experience of your three brains and your Self, making everything I have shared more obvious.
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