The Voice that Stills the Fear
Recently I wrote a blog post that mentioned that some people posit that humans have, in effect, two brains. We have a primitive “lizard brain” that reacts instantly to immediate danger. And we have a nice big rational brain, evolved later, that we use to make sense of the world. The lizard brain reacts more quickly than the rational brain in part because compared to the rational brain, the lizard brain is not very bright. The lizard brain is an animal brain that is designed to look at the world directly in front of one’s face and decide either “danger-yes” or “danger-no”. If the lizard brains sees “danger-yes” it responds with the overwhelming but purely automatic physical responses that we associate with the stress produced by an immediate and dire emergency.
It seems that in modern society we tend to have more lizard brain type stress reactions than are warranted by actual episodes where we immediately need to fight something to the death. So it may be that our rational brain takes real but distant negative possibilities and reframes these as immediate threats. It then feeds these to the lizard brain over and over again and this is why we find ourselves operating under so much adrenaline pumping stress all of the time. If follows that we may be able to train our rational brains, which we may be said to experience as our “inner voice” to learn how to “calm the lizard” by in effect reassuring our lizard brain that our problems are not in fact lizard brain type threats serious problems though they may be.
The question of what this rational internal voice itself is would seem to me to be the subject of 3,000 years of fascinating philosophical, psychological, sociological and artistic discussion. The mere existence of such a discussion tells me that there may be relatively good or bad rationalities; positive or negative sources for ordering the world; and potentially more or less successful ways with which to approach life with this inner voice.
But what fascinates me are all of the mystical discussions that, while very respectful of the development of moral reasoning, claim that regardless of what this inner voice is or where it comes from, there is another even more real world that cannot be accessed via the inner rational voice, but only by shutting this voice off and plunging into the Great Silence.