THE REPTILIAN BRAIN
Archive file# r101999b
THE REPTILIAN BRAIN
by James M. Ridgway, Jr
Added to the StarNet Community Editorial Page on January 22, 1997
All social issues, good or bad, are in the end dependent upon man's reptilian brain. The so called reptilian brain is the oldest, most primative region of our gray matter. It is the aggression-survival center of our existance. The basic ruling emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment emanate from this first stage of the brain. Over millions of years of evolution, layers of more sophisticated reasoning have been added upon this foundation-- our intellectual capacity for complex rational thought which has made us theoretically smarter than the rest of the animal kingdom. When we are out of control with rage, it is our reptilian brain overriding our rational brain components. If someone says that they reacted with their heart instead of their head. What they really mean is that they conceded to their primative emotions (the reptilian brain based) as opposed to the calculations of the rational part of the brain.
While the more modern, sophisticated parts of the brain get to do all the really complex day-to-day thinking, it is still the antiquated reptilian part that rules the roost. Politicians, preachers, and ad men know this, and always aim their words at our emotions, not at our intellect to get their message across. The scary thing about the reptilian brain is that it has no concept of good or evil. It simply demands action of some kind. It will not tolerate a void of inactivity. If it can not find an outlet for creative action, it will push relentlessly for destructive action, and if neither is possible it then begins pressuring for self-destruction. Thus mankind as a whole, and individuals as well, oscillate between war and other murderous impulses and peaceful building and harmony. At times when there is no perceived outlet for constructive activity, especially among the young and the old, and a strong conscience is blocking a destructive outlet, severe depression will take hold of a being in this suspened state of activity, pushing the victim insufferably toward suicide. Thus conscience can keep one pure and honest, yet under the wrong conditions it can also push one over the edge.
The classic example of the reptilian brain in action can be seen at work in that evilest of all evil men of the twentieth century, Adolph Hitler. At first Hitler had strong creative impulses to be an artist. However, when he applied to the established schools of art he was judged (perhaps more because he did not have the right social connections) to lack the basic talent for acceptance. Hitler's dreams were crushed. During the next several years he wondered the streets of Austria and Germany, at time a wholly destitute person whom some historians claim made at least nineteen attempts at suicide. On one nearly successful attempt, ironically, he was prevented from self-destruction by members of a jewish family. Eventually, as we all know, blocked from positive pursuits and having failed at suicide, Hitler discovered the Nazi party and his reptilian brain got its way in a destructive orgy that took out himself and over 60,000,000 others of his species, and left much of Europe in ashes. From the glories of our poets and healers to the criminals and killers who terrorize our streets and homes, all are powered by the reptilian brain.
If the reptilian brain is the furnace of our actions, then the male hormone, testosterone, is like gasoline upon that fire. This is why over the millenniums men have been far more creative and destructive than women. (Sorry politically correct group.) Of course, as we know, men are physically most active when their testosterone level peaks in their early twenties. Thus with their reptilian brain fired up by testosterone at its maximum craving for action in their late teens and early twenties, warriors, athletes and gang bangers reach their leatal zenith at this stage of life.
Now the point of this exercise is that the reptilian brain is not about to give up its hold on mankind in the next few million years or so, even if we could survive without it, which is most likely an impossibility. In any event, it is important that in all our political and social endeavors, legislators, aministrators, business and religious leaders, and the public at large, be fully aware of how what they intend might impact the reptilian brain. Will it create unintended pockets where positive action is blocked, leading to a whole array of destructive forces being unleashed, or will it allow for activities that, while perhaps not ideally suited to every interest, will at least minimize the destructive potential? To know the solution, one must first understand the problem. The reptilian brain has forever been the curse and the salvation of mankind. It is ignored at great peril.
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