Did you know you have 3 brains? Think of the human brain as an evolved organ with 3 distinct parts – a primal portion, an emotional portion, and a logical portion. Now this is an extremely simplistic way of looking at the brain. But it is very helpful and makes total sense when you hear how the parts evolved and interact together.
The brain stem is the oldest region, and referred to as the primal brain. It is located just above the spinal cord, toward the back of the head. It’s vital for basic biological mechanisms that promote survival, such as heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and balance. It runs automatically, so we don’t have to consciously think about breathing or remind our hearts to beat.
Just above this region is the limbic system, or the emotional brain. It plays an integral role in the way we behave, react, and remember things. It is where we feel love and hate, anger and fear, joy and sorrow.
An important part of the limbic system is the amygdala. This region helps encode powerful memories. It is extremely active during stressful situations. We remember some experiences as vividly as we do because of it. In order to survive, our ancestors had to remember their moments of fear and danger. And we have the same brain today as back then.
The cortex is the outer layer and last to develop, and referred to as the logical brain. The other two older regions tend to work unconsciously. But the cortex is the seat of our conscious thinking and awareness. It is involved in impulse control, emotional management, rationality, and planning. While it works more slowly than the other regions, it oversees them and helps them work together.
Logical vs. Emotional Brain
Do you ever notice that little voice in your head telling you not to do something you know is wrong? But would feel so good! That is your logical brain trying to override your emotional brain. Ever think about someone you love and get aroused? That is your logical brain activating your emotional brain.
We can use our logical brain to control our emotions and our biological functions. Various breathing techniques, meditative practices and cognitive behavioral therapies have significant impacts over things like heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. These practices also strengthen our logical brains and our ability to manage our emotional brains.
Remember – we are not just animals running on instinct, or emotions. Well, some of us are whether we realize it or not. But we have another component to our brains. When properly used can prevent us from falling down slippery emotional slopes.
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