Why you should read this. About 4 minutes
There are only two really important differences between our brain and our primate cousin’s brains. We still have, and use, both. The human part of our brain is truly unique and amazing.
The primate part of our brain, our subconscious, functions differently. It learns much more rapidly and matures much earlier. It also controls how our modern brain processes, and values, what we learn.
Understanding the relationships, and the differences, between the two, shows that radically transforming our life is possible, and where to begin.
The First Human
Around 200,000 years ago, the first of our species, Homo Sapiens, was born in the Omo River valley in Ethiopia. In my story, her name was Sophy. Her brain was a lot larger than her parents, and wired to handle huge amounts of information. Sophy’s brain actually was ready for a world like ours, based on language. All humans since then have the same brain.
The modern part of our brain can hold more information than exists on the internet. We are great tool makers, but our humanity has not changed. But, in spite of all the information we have, we still treat each other like savages. We are no more peaceful today than we were 5,000 years ago. Why is that?
Her modern brain came with both a curse, and a promise. The curse is that the marvelous features of our modern brain, as incredible as they are, are only add-ons. They did not replace, or significantly change, the old brain she inherited from her parents. That old part of our brain still works just the same way it has for millions of years.
I am going to call her parent’s brain our old brain, and Sophy’s brain, our modern brain. We have both, and they process information very differently. Our old brain learns by associating experiences with how we feel during them, just like all advanced primates.
If you think of our old brain as our subconscious, you can see just how amazingly powerful and active it still is. It also explains why we still can, and too frequently do, behave like savage primates, just like we have for millions of years.
The entire purpose of our old brain is to learn behaviors needed to survive in the particular environment into which it is born. The skills learned in that environment take precedence over everything else. To the old brain, those skills represent everything that is really important to know.
It does not matter what we call them, old brain processes, core beliefs, executive functions, noncognitive skills, or even soft skills, they are all the same skills. These are all the old brain learns. These are the limits that exist to learning in the old brain.
The real miracle of being human is that the ability to learn on a massive scale does not end when the old brain survival skills mature around five years of age. Our modern brain is just beginning to get started by that time. The absence of those limits in our modern brain is what makes transformation possible.
Our modern brain has the capacity to learn, create, and thrive, in the nearly unlimited variety of environments this world has to offer. The modern part of our brain can contain more information than exists on the internet.
That miracle did come with some restrictions. Yes, we can amass any number of new skills, and even more information, but the survival skills our old brain learned will continue to control how it will be used because, to our old brain, survival is more important than everything else.
The second most important difference is that our modern brain is driven by language. We think in words. Everything we think is a story about something. Language is what has enabled our species to learn and communicate unlike any other species. Being able to communicate ideas and concepts has allowed us to grow, change, and create the amazing things we take for granted in our modern world.
On the other hand, language is what we use to tell ourselves, and others, the negative stories that cause 99% of our problems.
Sophy’s promise is that we have nearly an unlimited capacity to imagine, learn, and create. The only thing standing between us now and that promise is the basic survival programming in our old brain. To transform our lives we must update, or replace, that early programming.
Thankfully, the ability to change our mind instantly is built in, and our modern brain holds the key to making the updating a lot easier than most of us ever believed possible.
We have been human for 200,000 years but have not evolved socially. How the old part of our brain learns, and functions, is the reason.
Next, Our Environmental Genome, (why we have not evolved)
© 2017 Douglas McKee