Learn how culture uses our primitive instincts to control our lives and what you can do to minimize its influence.
The monkey brain, the reptilian, and lizard brain are all terms that describe the most primitive aspects of our minds. This function of the brain is something we have in common with many living things. We can locate these three functions.
What Does the Reptilian Brain Do?
The reptilian or lizard brain is at the base of the brain stem. It is the primitive autonomic brain that we share with many living creatures. This area regulates and coordinates many body functions.
We don’t usually have conscious control over these activities, but we can learn to turn them on or off with proper training. Many believe this is the home of our basic survival instinct we know as the “fight, flight or freeze mode the sympathetic nervous system. We trigger this system when we “perceive a threat.” This mode triggers the adrenal gland, an endocrine gland located on top of your kidneys. It pumps adrenaline or epinephrine through the bloodstream to all cells of your body.
What Does Our Monkey Brain Do?
The monkey aspect of our brain also houses the default mechanisms of Ego, personality, and instinct. Many creatures besides humans exhibit these traits. Most animals have distinct personality traits. Even creatures like insects exhibit instinctual behaviors for migration, procreation, and building community. Birds have ingrained migratory behaviors that enable them to navigate thousands of miles, generation after generation.
The monkey brain is the control center for our survival, self-preservation, and social instincts. This aspect of our brain is like the RAM of a computer. It holds processes that trigger automatic thinking and expedited value judgments. One of these is our fight, flight, or freeze reaction. It enables us to act or react without thinking about it. In life-threatening situations, this comes in handy.
It’s also the place where our basic nurturing instinct lives. Many living things have specific programming around procreation, protection, and nurturing. Some have the innate ability to migrate and navigate impressive distances annually.
We can never do away with the monkey or reptilian brain. It’s imperative to our existence. Our “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction mode is vital to our survival. Here we store the blueprint of things that may be potentially harmful. When something fits the harmful blueprint, we react immediately.
For example, we freeze when we come upon a bear while hiking. Instinctively, we know to run would cause the bear to charge. But if we come upon a fallen beehive, we instinctively run. But, the incorrect reaction could mean serious injury.
Taking control of the primitive mind is something man is interested in for various reasons. We need the ability to acclimate to unfamiliar environments more quickly. Clinicians want to help people with trauma, which can trigger the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Unfortunately, institutions like organized religion are way ahead. They have learned to use it to drive emotional responses and thus control thinking values and behaviors. Religion and politics are experts at manipulating the primitive mind and using it to control people.
Environmental and Cultural Influences
The lizard or reptilian brain is that part of the subconscious that regulates unconscious activities. It includes heart rate, breathing, and hundreds of glands. It also controls, to a great degree, our specific personality and instinct components.
Our environment has a profound effect on this programming. This effect is most profound when we are young and our brains are still developing. So, our dominant cultural narrative also programs our monkey brain. We are born into environments with specific types of harmful elements.
Our parents guide and teach us what is harmful. They help program our cultural narrative. Trusted authority figures also engage in this programming. So, our cultural folklore provides the boundaries of our beliefs and values. It tells us what is safe and what is potentially harmful. It sets the limits for what is acceptable and what is not. This programming becomes our worldview or paradigm, which is the lens through which we see the world. Our paradigm is a set of programmed boundaries, values, and prejudices.
When you travel to an unfamiliar environment, your cultural programming may not align. It causes several problems. For instance, if you grow up outside a big city where loud noises aren’t familiar, you likely have difficulty adjusting to a big city’s routine of loud noises. In this situation, you would trigger your fight-flight or freeze button continually. Thus, leaving you in a state of distress when no danger is present. You’d have a hard time sleeping causing fatigue. It would carry over into your day, leaving you tired and stressed.
Conversely, if you grow up in a city environment and then try to live in the wilderness, you’d have a hard time. There are no city noises in the background. And you would fail likely to recognize the dangers in the natural environment because they are often subtle and not a part of your cultural programming.
The culture profoundly affects how the reptilian brain responds to stimuli. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how to identify and repair harmful or ineffective programming.
Misuse of Our Monkey Brain
As mentioned above, our cultural narrative can be essential for practical survival knowledge. For example, our parents and elders taught us to identify various things vital to our safety. In the past, our ancient ancestors taught us that when all the birds stopped chirping, there might be a harmful predator present. Similarly, we learned to recognize a deadly snake’s rattle as a warning. Some things we fear are instinctual. When we lose our balance, we know that we are about to fall and react correctly.
Unfortunately, religions use our monkey brain to insert less than healthy programming. Organized religion treats people as assets. People are their cash flow. Religion, and in particular, Western organized religion. These are the Abrahamic religions (1) of Semitic origin, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
These systems are a rebranding of earlier Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Assyrian mystery religions. They don’t want you to question the cultural narrative they provide. You are their customer. They add programming to the primitive mind that is unhealthy.
Organized religion is the single most influential social institution. It is what gives people their bias and prejudice. However, not all religions are harmful, only those that create boundaries and restrictions dictating values and thought. As a result, these are harmful because they adversely affect our ability to reason. Some religions have more limitations than others. For example, Taoism and Paganism have the fewest constraints over freethinking. With these systems, you are free to explore and develop your path.
How Group hypnosis Affects the Monkey Brain
We need to learn to bypass the monkey brain to unlock the keys to intellectual and spiritual development. Our cultural programming is likely the obstacle to spiritual exploration because the basis of this programming is not survival. Instead, it contains religious beliefs and prejudices.
Religions teach us to categorize people and determine if they are “safe” based on their beliefs, including our afterlife ideas. Besides, these “beliefs” teach us to value people by gender, ethnicity, and race. The mythology justifies discrimination and persecution. So, it is easy to see how all of this gets in the way of spiritual exploration.
Identifying the Negative Programming
Your personal growth depends on your ability to consider new information. You can tell to what extent bias and prejudice affect the primitive mind. Ask yourself these three questions:
1) Safety Based on Religious Standards
Do you need to know someone’s religious beliefs to determine if they are safe? If this is the case, you need to explore why. Fear drives the need to find out what someone believes. As we discussed earlier, it triggers our fight, flight, or freeze instinct. We react to the threat of different beliefs as if it were life-threatening. It comes from programmed bias and prejudice.
If you only feel safe around those with similar beliefs, that is a problem. It shows you have set up boundaries of thinking. Instead, explore why this need governs your values. It’s the reason you need to ask yourself some critical questions. If what I believe is wrong, would I want to know? If what I think is wrong, am I willing to change my beliefs?
2) Lack of Diversity
If your inner circle of friends is limited to a group of people who believe exactly like you, then you won’t grow. You are more likely to assimilate to extremist points of view. So, ask yourself, do you have people in your circle of friends from different backgrounds and spiritual beliefs? The more diverse your inner circle, the more likely you will encounter ideas and opinions that will help you grow. The more segregated and closed your social circle, the less likely you will accept new ideas. And the greater the tendency you will reject any information that conflicts with the “groups” paradigm.
3) Reacting Instead of Thinking
Do you react without understanding why? Are you distracted and spend time on things that are of little value? Are you persuaded to buy products when you don’t need them? These are signs of groupthink manipulation. It shows you how powerful the cultural narrative is in your life. You are acting and reacting like a trout to a shiny object.
Taking Back The Controls
Our monkey brain is easier to program when we are young. The more exposure we have to propaganda, the more susceptible we are to groupthink manipulation. It is the primary tactic organized religion uses to maintain control. The longer you are exposed, the harder it becomes to remove the programming.
Religious prejudice can become deep-rooted. If you can relate to this situation, you may have some negative religious stereotypes and prejudices. Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in fixing your programming. Realizing you have a problem is the first step. Otherwise, you keep on the same course.
It’s hard to break away from religion once you are in its grip. Organized religions make it hard, so you can’t break free. The belief system becomes your identity, so leaving the faith is emotionally challenging. They purposely commingle personal and business relationships with the belief system. These relationships reinforce their control. It would help if you found others who have escaped the religious turmoil. Find an organization like ours if you can. It helps to have resources and people who have gone through the process of de-programming.
Taking control of the primitive mind isn’t easy. To do this, you must find the programming that is affecting it. Sometimes it is unhealthy thought scripts of our personality. It’s more likely the problem is with the programming made by the cultural narrative.
The best tool to help reprogram our thoughts, which affect our primitive mind is the Enneagram Personality Profile.
We overlook the monkey brain because it operates below our conscious thinking level. But taking control of the primitive mind is vital for our mental health.
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(1) Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia