Last week, I began a discussion on your personal Operational System. The exact part of the post I am referring to goes like this: "Being able to consistently produce a specific behavior at a high level of effectiveness is made possible through information, muscle memory, and most importantly a functional transfer of chemicals and electricity within our brains." Since it is the most important part of the Operational System, this week I wanted to dive into the subject of brain chemistry; specifically how it functions and effects your behavior. This may seem a bit boring to some readers, but if you get through it, you can begin to understand how you can produce the ideal brain environment.
The greatest weapon on Earth
Yes, your brain is the greatest weapon on the face of the planet. It is the reason we have adapted. It is the reason we have evolved. It is also my contention that we have adopted the military doctrine we use in today's conflicts. As most of us think of our brain, we think or visualize a single organ. I subscribe to a theory that was presented to me in my readings as a student of medicine and later as a corporate training specialist in the biotech industry.
This theory is referred to as the Triune Brain; a theory made possible by Dr. Paul D. MacLean.
First, let me state that the triune brain model is not widely accepted by some researchers in the fields of evolutionary neuroanatomy. Clearly, I am not here to argue with those specialized professionals or to threaten their new or personal theories. What Triune Brain Theory does unquestionably give us, is a simple model that can be understood at all levels of a population. Having said that, then allow me to use the model that Dr. MacLean gave us as a metaphor to understand how we can embrace this reality to optimize our effectiveness.
Dr. MacLean theorized that we have not one, but three brains as humans and that each of these three brains has its own special intelligence, subjectivity, sense of time and space, and memory. The triune brain consists of the R-complex, the limbic system, and the neocortex.
The R-complex, often referred to as the reptilian brain, is named for the most advanced part of the brain that higher mammals share with reptiles. It is the most advanced, as it has been around for the longest period of time. It has one main function; survival. It is responsible for rage and basic survival fight or flight responses.
Areas of the reptilian brain include the brain stem and the cerebellum, which have been shown to control instinctual survival behaviors and thinking. The reptilian brain knows how to find food and keep from becoming food. It is suspicious, untrusting, and hyper-vigilant to a fault. It prefers routine and repetition over variety and change. In Warrior Life Coaching, I refer to this as your Tactical brain.
What separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, is the level of the brain that MacLean referred to as the neocortex. The neocortex is found in the brain of higher mammals and is responsible for higher-order thinking skills, imagination, speech, and spatial relationships. In my practice, I commonly refer to this as your Strategic brain.
It is the middle layer, between the Strategic and Tactical brain, where the Operational System is housed. According to MacLean, this layer of the brain that emerge from evolution is sometimes called the limbic system. It is also called the mammalian brain, as it is not found in reptiles and other lower life forms. The limbic system is the source of emotions and behaviors. Scientists have demonstrated when the limbic system is stimulated with a mild electrical current, emotions are produced. MacLean's observations concluded that everything in the limbic system is either agreeable or disagreeable. Human behavior is based upon the avoidance of perceived pain or the the acceptance of perceived pleasure. The limbic system comprises the amygdala, the hypothalmus, and the hippocampus. In my coaching, I refer to this as your Operational System. It is here we can find the root of results (both positive and negative) in every behavior the human experience can produce. But to understand it, we must go deeper into the brain, down to the cellular level.
The Chemicals Between Us
Specialized nerve cells called neurons are the fundamental structure of the brain. There are over 100 billion neurons, and each one has as many as 100,000 links to other neurons. What is fascinating about neurons is the fact that they are not connected to each other on the ends. A gap or synapse exists between them and other neurons. In order for information to move across the gaps in the form of electrical impulses, that information must rely on specialized chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurons store neurotransmitters and release them in response to electrical signals. The neurotransmitter then jumps across the gap and attaches to a specialized receptor on neighboring neurons. The result triggers another electrical signal. This is the way that moods, thoughts, emotions, and impulses move throughout the brain. Receptors on neurons are specific to certain neurotransmitters, much like a lock and key. Only the correct neurotransmitter can make a match at a given receptor, and the correct pairing is required for the message to get through. As you can see there is only one way for the electrical message to make its complete movement through the brain-via neurons and neurotransmitters-there are a host of ways for the message to NOT get through. Some examples are:
-Insufficient supplies of the neurotransmitter
-Neurons are over-stimulated and release too much neurotransmitter
-The receptor is blocked by another molecule
This imbalance of neurotransmitters can be linked to many mental health issues and the continuous disregard for proper maintenance of this delicate system can cause many disruptive behaviors in our lives.
The Missing Link
If we all agree that the only to things we can control in our lives are what we think (Strategic Brain) and what we do (Tactical Brain) doesn't it make sense to ensure that we properly maintain the link between these realities (Operational Brain)?
Through assessment, I can help to identify your specific Operational System and help develop a personalize plan to ensure your diet, exercise, and nutritional supplementation are optimized to produce the right environment for your Operational System to flourish. Additionally, Warrior Life Coaching focus on the behaviors that are disruptive to your life and your loved ones. Through specialized techniques, I can help you rid your life of these behaviors and develop more positive actions that will keep you moving toward the Objectives you set for yourself. If you are inconsistent in any undertakings in your life or your don't like the results you are producing from what seems like hard work in your life, might I suggest it might be your Operational System and you could use a check up from the neck up!
I look forward to working with you. Every initial contact with me includes a complimentary 30 minute consultation.