Separate, but Connected.
Our Minds, Brains, and Bodies have been with us since before we were even born… Crazy concept, isn’t it?
We intuitively understand we have these 3 parts of ourselves, but how often do you think about how they really work with one another?
You can probably “feel” the difference between these things, or maybe you’ve taken some classes/courses on the basics of Neuroscience and have a basic understanding of these 3 parts of yourself.
Today, my goal is to help you understand how these 3 parts of us, are separate, but inseparable at the same time, and how you can use this knowledge to your advantage every day!
Let’s Start with the Basics
The concept, “separate, but inseparable” may seem weird at first, but if you take a look around you, this concept is at play all the time.
The ocean is a great example of this. The ocean is made of water, water is made up of 2 Hydrogen molecules and 1 Oxygen molecule (H2O). H2O is separate from water, and water is separate from the ocean.
However, when you put lots of H2O molecules around each other, you get water as an emergent property, and when you put lots of water around more water, you get the ocean as an emergent property.
In this way, these things are all separate, but inseparable.
This is similar to how the Mind, Brain, and Body interconnect within us. The slight difference is that our Mind gives us conscious awareness of the separate parts that make us up.
Let’s break down each individual part.
The mind is one of my favorite parts of these 3 areas, this is the “I” that you feel inside of yourself. It is the voice inside your head that’s narrating things, although, not everyone even has a “voice”.
The Mind interconnects with the Brain that sits between our ears and tells it what to do.
It does this in two ways, consciously, and subconsciously.
Conscious thought is easier to understand. If you want to jump, your Mind tells your Brain to make the Body jump, and the Brain goes to work using chemicals, hormones, and electricity to communicate down to the correct Body parts to jump.
This is conscious thought, you wanted to do it, so you did, Mind through Brain, to Body.
Subconscious thought is a little more difficult to think about, literally.
This part of our Mind is below our awareness, and it runs on subconscious programs that we’ve built over time.
For example, I would bet as you walk you don’t think to yourself, “left heel up, flex quad, shorten hamstring, right foot down, etc” you just walk.
This is a very basic example of a subconscious program that our Mind has taught our Brain to execute upon underneath our conscious awareness.
This is a pretty innocuous example, but what about when your Mind has been running a program that tells your Brian that you’re “Not Good Enough” or that you’re “Not Worthy.”
These are much more detrimental subconscious messages for your Mind to be telling your Brain, and they can have a massive effect on your life, but we aren’t going to dive into where these come from or how to attack them today, that deserves a whole post to itself!
The next piece of this system is the Brain. We already talked about this in relation to the Mind, but it also breaks down into its own parts just like the Mind did.
By now, most people have heard tons of different ways, different people break down the Brain.
The Reptilian, Monkey and Mammalian Brain’s, or the Limbic System vs. the Cortex, etc.
These can get confusing if you ask me, so I break them down into the Old Brain, and the New Brain to simplify things a bit!
The Old Brain is genetically driven and is connected directly to our Bodies. The New Brain is knowledge-driven and sits on top of the Old Brain in our heads.
When you think of “Intelligence” you are mostly referring to the New Brain, the Old Brain is more automatic things like breathing, and cares mostly about our survival.
The New Brain is where we store the past, present, and future, where book knowledge is retained and used, where our senses come in and get processed, and much more.
The New Brain & Old Brain sit in our heads like roommates and govern our actions/behaviors.
The New Brain isn’t directly connected to our Body, so when the New Brain gets a command from our Mind, it has to “ask” the Old Brain to go accomplish the task through the Body.
The Old Brain then sends our electro-chemical and hormonal signals to the Bodies muscles to cause the action or non-action.
The Old Brain doesn’t always listen or want to listen though, some times the Body senses something so evolutionarily potent, like sugar or sex, and the Old Brain has a hard time not ignoring the impulse to act.
You may have felt this “tug-o-war” mentally if you’ve ever tried to resist eating a piece of candy or a brownie you know you shouldn’t have.
This back and forth between the Old and New Brain is the basic mechanism happening in your Brain at all times.
The final piece of this equation is the Body, which gives us much more control than we think.
The Body is everything outside of your Brain, or Central Nervous System (CNS).
The Body is innervated by an offshoot of the CNS, called the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).
This is how the Brain communicates with the Body. Our Bodies are full of sensors that help us perceive the world around us. Without our Body, our Brain would be sitting in a dark cave with no way to perceive the world around it.
The Body also holds the muscles that help us move, organs that help us make energy for the brain, bones that keep those organs safe, and much more!
Most importantly for the work I do, our Bodies are also where our Actions reside.
When the Mind, consciously or subconsciously tells the Brain to do something and the Brain executes the order, the Body is where it happens!
Top-Down AND Bottom-Up
The Body is the “Bottom” of this chain of events, but where the real power of understanding this system comes from is understanding that it works Top-Down or Mind to Brain to Body and Bottom-Up or Body to Brain to Mind.
The Top-Down mechanism is what we’ve been discussing so far, but there are tons of examples of the opposite.
Injury is one of the most obvious when you burn your finger, your Body uses the PNS to tell the Brain that it’s been injured, this happens nearly instantly, then your Brain updates the Mind and you say, “Ouch!” This again is nearly instant.
Hearing is another great example of “Bottom-Up” because your Bodies ears take in sound waves, then use the PNS to communicate those waves to the Brain, and finally, the Mind uses the New Brains library of information & knowledge to name the sound your Body is hearing.
This Top-Down to Bottom-Up and Bottom-Up to Top-Down process is happening every single second, consciously, and subconsciously.
So what? Why is understanding this so vital?
Thought Brain Surgery
By understanding how these 3 systems interconnect, you can become a thought brain surgeon and take much more agency over your outcomes.
For example, now, instead of subconsciously, mindlessly grabbing those few pieces of candy (Old Brain goal), even though you’re trying to limit the amount of sugar you take in to be healthier (New Brain goal), you can consciously pause using your Mind, Top-Down.
Now that your conscious Mind is involved you can see that your Old Brain was trying to seek one over on your New Brain because it’s genetically driven to love sugar, so it went behind your New Brains back to the Body to get you to pick up the candy, and eat it!
With this awareness, your Mind is able to update the New Brain with what’s going on, which can then command the Old Brain to stop, which will then cause the Body to put the candy down.
This is overly simplistic on purpose obviously, but these are the basic mechanics of how these 3 parts of us interact on a day-to-day basis.
When I work with people, these are some of the basic tools and tactics I pull on to help them with their Mental Health, Behavior Changes (Starts/Stops), Goal Setting, Finding Purpose, and tons more.
In these blogs/newsletters, my goal is to condense some of the tools and tactics I use with people, break them down, and help you apply them to your life so you can live more Heroically.
I will also share tips, tricks, research, and stories that I believe would help you apply the things I talk about better.
I’m looking forward to writing more of these, and my goal is to start releasing them weekly/bi-weekly.
Please forward and share these with your friend and family if you believe anything in them would be useful for them!
Until next time… Be Heroic!