Metaphor about your brain – part 1 of 3

by Rod Smith

 A helpful metaphor* 

Think of your (human) brain as three living boxes, placed one inside the other, residing inside your skull. 

Mammals get the “inside” two boxes. 

Reptiles, poor things, get only one, the very inner one.

The smallest box, the stem, doesn’t think. It works. Protects. It reacts. It’s humorless. 

The Stem is not the “feeler” or “thinker.” It has no room for such nonsense, actually, it never even thinks about it. 

Every time you want to EXPLODE, when you get anxious, feel like hiding, or hitting, your stem is trying to dominate! 

The greater your anxiety, the more your inner-reptile will want to break out.

The stem, your primal, instinctual, reptilian center, serves to protect you and keep your vital organs running. It will throw you under a table if there’s an explosion and put you into attack mode if you (or someone you love) are threatened. Turtles, snakes, polar bears, and dogs have stems. Their stems serve them similarly. Your stem is not creative; it doesn’t have the brains to be. It’s not “reasonable” – it is not supposed to be. 

You might have had to invite a friend, on occasion, to step out of his or her stem. 

But be careful, stem-bound men and women are humorless! 

They bite.

If you want to punch someone who disagrees with you, or run away from all “stupid” people, you are probably, in that moment, stem-bound. You’ve allowed your stem (your Reacting) to dominate. I’d suggest you shift gears (shift boxes) before you hurt someone or lose your job. 

When you find you are overly reactive you have to tell your stem “to get back in your box! Do your job. Stop trying to think.”

I’ll continue this metaphor tomorrow.

*I am deeply influenced by Rabbi Friedman, Peter Steinke, and Murray Bowen. All have written profoundly on these matters. Peter’s book “How Your Church Family Works” was my primary influence in revolutionizing how I see and understand my own thinking. I give Peter full credit for any resemblance you may see to his work. While it is neither copied nor “lifted”, one cannot read something and love something so much without it reverberating in one’s work.

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