“Why” (we are not all that good at ‘self-control’ sometimes)

( Response to comment on Mandy’s blog)

Our speech centre is located in the outermost (and largest) part of the human brain the Cerebrum. This has to operate in conjunction with other areas of the cerebrum to ‘control’ our thought patterns and regulate our ideas and feelings to see if we are behaving acceptably – ‘Self-Control’.

In terms of distance from other parts of our central nervous system (CNS) that transmit commands from the brain to the various other parts of our bodies this is the MOST distant part and takes the longest for nerve impulses to reach from our five senses through which we perceive our world and those in it.

Less distant from the CNS are the glands in the brain that control the flow of hormones that determine our emotional reactions These are most closely connected to the cerebellum or ‘little brain’

And then closest of all to the CNS is the part of the brain associated with our most basic functions, heartbeat, blod pressure, breathing etc.

What this means is – there is a ‘heirarchy’ of response times in our brains.

Fastest and most immediately responding to our senses of hearing, sight etc are those most basic functions (that of old we needed to ensure our very survival from enemies or things like animals that could kill us) … our ‘fear’ centre.

Next fastest to respond are our emotional centres (governing our responses to things like happiness, anger, sadness, etc), and

Slowest and requiring the most time to react are our ‘control’ centres for such things as socially desirable or undesirable responses to things other people say or do that are not life-threatening to us but which may require more ‘refined’ responses from our mind and body. More careful thought than either our fear response or our autonomic (and automatic unless we develop our control of them) emotional responses.

In other words – we get emotional and respond to things BEFORE we have time to think them through – emotions get ‘hold’ of our brains BEFORE we can put on the brakes in many instances.

Need a practical example to make sense of the above ‘theory’??

Okie Dokie…

You are driving your car… and without warning a kid walks right out from betwen two parked cars and is 20 feet in front of you before he sees you.

First thing you actually do is determined through fear – a horrible feeling surges through you as the potential for disaster makes it’s presence felt and you may scream something out loud unintentionally.

Next thing you do is either jam your foot on the brake or steer away from the kid – or both (emotional, inbuilt, automatic, instinctive reaction to act).

The last thing you do is to try and decide carefully and logically what you should be doing to keep yourself safe, the kid safe and any other road users safe.

This usually only has time to come into your brain after the first two things have already happened.

Like… we most often think of the right thing to respond to someone or something AFTER we have already reacted emotionally (and frequently after the person we just offended or insulted (or who insulted us) has left).



  1. You so smart Love! 😉

    I am one of those people that doesn’t think about the best way to handle a situation until the next day. Seriously, it’s like a light bulb comes on instantly….only the next day.

    I know this about myself, I am a very emotionally charged person, so I have to be careful. 😦 Very careful. 😉


  2. Love, great post. That is one of the clearest explanation of our thought process I have read. I can now check off learning at least one thing a day from my “to do” list.

    The process you have explain is exactly the process I had to develop to learn how to live in the world. I went from being a manic depressive to being a functioning human by removing, as much as possible, emotion from my decision making.

    I still think the emotional part of the brain is better for making decisions about things like love and the arts. It’s in making decision about finance, jobs and how to live with our neighbors that we need to “listen” to the cerebrum part of our brain.


  3. Brandy, Thank you for your comment and your honesty. As long as you remain as cute as you are you might at times need to be ‘careful’ but you will always be ‘forgiven’ if you sometimes ‘slip’ 😉 (and i can assure you – all of us have the same need to be careful of the things our emotions can cause us to do – even those like Ed who make every effort to limit emotional reaction and don’t seem to have the same ‘need’ to others.

    To me this is the ‘root’ cause of our Sin – our free-will, some claim to be given them of God, gets ‘hi-jacked’ by the ‘lower’ regions of our human brain – those concerned with basic primal FEAR (Love’s Enemy) and our emotional (versus ‘controlled’ ) self by reason of it’s more basic and ‘faster’ response times.

    Ed, thank you too. We cannot alter our brain structure (in terms of the three ‘regions’ i described) but science (and perhaps you directly?) have proven that we CAN ‘modify’ pre-existing connections in our brain – we can to a degree ‘re-wire’ it and this gives us ALL ‘Hope’.

    WE can learn NEW behaviour patterns that hopefully help us eliminate those previous ways we behaved that give us undesirable responses.
    This can only be possible, however (barring physical damage to our brains) if we First perceive the behaviours we wish to eliminate and their basic causes within us. (As Brandy has detected within her own behaviour 🙂 ) If we are not Aware of the things we do and the reasons for them we will find it very difficult if not impossible to learn how to overcome them within us.

    Otherwise, whatever changes we try to make will be hijacked again by the ‘lower’ brain functions.

    I say ‘lower’ not to imply they are not important to us in the proper times and places, but to indicate that they lie underneath our ‘Higher’ brain functions that require longer times to fully ‘work through’ the brains (outermost) control centres.

    I would liken it to a television set that shows only a faulty picture. We can tune it any way we like with the controls the tv set offers and yet we still don’t get a ‘clear’ perfect picture.

    We can even swap the set believing it to be at fault and yet find a similar problem. Unless we reealise that the problem could be with the wire transmitting the ‘picture’ from the signals recevied by the antenna – or the antenna itself being out of alignment with the transmitter we can never get a perfect picture.

    This is not a perfect analogy for many reasons but it does i hope give us a better idea of why us trying to ‘correct’ our self-control (picture dusplayed) is not a ‘simple’ matter of trying to stop ourselves just by thinking in a different way (swapping the tv set or changing channels, control settings).


  4. Bran scan technology has advanced to the point where a technicolor image can be taken of which neurons(?) in the brain are firing(?) when someone is thinking or performing a task.

    I have no doubt that in the future using this kind of technology we will be able to re-connect broken, or defective, neuron connections for people with strokes and perhaps autism.

    We also need to make sure, as much as possible, that we find a way to prevent mis-using this technology. I suspect the pace of technology is advancing far more rapidly than our ability to fully understand it’s applications.


  5. You and i are in TOTAL agreement on that last comment, Ed 🙂

    We (and science) ignore the study of our own spiritual nature at our continuing peril.

    Materialism without counter-balancing Spiritualism is as bad as Spiritualism without counter-balancing (scientific) materialism – we need BOTH for an understanding of our place in the scheme of things.

    Fixing the neuron connections of those of us who do not have ‘normal’ connections is one thing.. using the correct connections to do the RIGHT thing instead of just what each of us THINKS is the right thing is another thing entirely and one science will never solve whereas Christ can – if we but do as he did. 😉


  6. In the simplest terms I can think of I want to live in a world where people help each other and not hurt each other. What will it take to achieve this? What is the best mechanism for making this happen? Why is Spiritualism a good answer?

    I think the starting point is to break down the barriers that people have thrown up between themselves and their neighbors. I think using logic and reason is the best mechanism. It simply makes more sense to cooperate with my neighbor than to fight with him. In a fight I might lose. We both could be too injured for anyone to win. This isn’t following any “moral” code about what is right or wrong, it’s doing what makes sense.

    Trying to create moral codes for people to follow doesn’t seem to work. I don’t see where something like praying has helped. Muslim pray, Jews pray, Hindus pray. They all still fight with each other. They all believe in God. They all have their holy books, their moral codes.

    Of course I will admit my experiences in life have given me an anti-religious bias. What mechanism do you think would be best?


  7. Ed, In simple terms – you have a Noble Goal – it is one we share albeit we might see slightly differing ‘priciples’ because of our own biases from our individual pasts.

    Logic and reason are two invaluable tools for us to make sense of our own lives and the world around us – humans in general have a very poor history of overcoming their differences by applying them however (and to be fair, religion has not fared any better! 😉 )

    I believe the ‘reason’ for this lies within us – at our most basic level.

    we are in conflict between what we want as individuals and what we want for ourselves as a whole (and this latter is compounded because there are very many segregations of the Human society around the world – what one group wants/believes does not always correspond with those of another or all other groups. We are loath to give up our own way for those of another)

    And therein lies the ‘secret’ i believe.

    Christ calls for us to give up our own ‘life’ – to put at the ‘head’ of our lives His Father – the God of All (not All Jews or All Christians Or All Muslims, but of ALL.)

    To do that and Love our neighbour as ourself.

    If there are things we hate about ourself then there will be things we hate about our neighbours.

    If we hate our God we will hate ourselves because at our core we are spiritual beings – surrounded by a material body, and living in a largely material world (the Spiritual IS there also – it is merely extemely ‘subtle’ and easily overlooked).

    To live peacefully in harmony requires us to acknowledge (praise?) our inner and outer natures.

    One without the other can never truly bring peace.

    If both are equal hovever then there will be the capability for a never-ending ‘struggle’ for leadership.

    I think it is important to place the Spiritual Above the Material – that we follow our Spiritual Nature First and subjugate our more materialistic desires to it.

    You give the appearance to me of being quite a spiritual man by nature – despite your ‘faith’ in science and ‘human reason’. 🙂 ( i would not suggest you abandon those things – merely use them in subjugation to a higher spiritual ‘guidance’ (one i believe lies at your core as it does at mine and Tam And Brent and all of us here – in our blogfriends – and in all humans))

    One i believe you become closest to being at one with as you watch the sunrise or listen to Kass’ singing, etc, etc. while ‘forgetting’ those things you have been the ’cause’ of since you were born.

    Best mechanism? Admit that our own understanding can never be as great as that of a Universal unifying ‘Spirit’ that connects all living and non-living things.

    Accept that it is possible for us, as basically spiritual beings, to ‘tune in’ to this Universal Spirit so as to draw information of use to us in our daily life from it.

    Believe that we can do so 24/7 – if we let ourselves overcome that within us that causes us to be out of harmony with it. (Our Ego which has primarily come into being as a result of the material world surrounding us from Day One)

    Learn how to overcome our own ego in such fashion that it diminishes from us daily while at the same time we make a better ‘contact’ with our spiritual inner being.

    Never cast off reason and logic totally but accept that most of us do not follow a True form of logic and have little actual ‘reason’ behind our understanding of ‘reason’. 🙂

    Similiarly, i believe few today actually follow Religion in the way it was intended, if that is of any comfort?

    Our human ego lies as the root cause of both ‘failures’ in my humbled opinion. 🙂


  8. I did forget that the title of your blog is “Love” will bring us together. Prayer is an act of love. If people of religious faith can focus on the love part of their God’s messege then there is hope for the future.


  9. Agreed, Unconditional Love Is a Great Unifying Force – unlike the usual Human love which frequently leads to feelings of jealousy and fear of loss – or greed and excessive desire.

    Love is a kind of ‘glue’ that binds all things – not just things that are like us or things we like.

    If we can place the source of this Love outside of us and have it radiating out to us we can ‘re-radiate’ it out to others without fear of loss, since we know that it will be constantly ‘renewed’ to us.

    The enemy of Love (opposite) is Fear.

    Fear denies Unconditional Love because it imposes ‘conditions’.

    That is one reason i do not agree with the politics of Fear that many politicians use to ‘divide and conquer’ the world today.

    It is interesting to me to note that much of the Old Testament is concerned with the ‘Fear’ of The Lord (and some try to equate the word with ‘reverance’) whereas much of the New Testament including almost all the words of Christ deal with Love for God and all things of God. (Creation)

    Kind of a pushing away and drawing back together.


  10. Hi Love, I was looking through my spam….and there you were! Thank you for your thoughts and letter…I will respond, but not til tomorrow…just wanted you to know, I found you! 🙂


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