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In the New Age people talk about the higher self, higher levels of consciousness and higher levels of mind. In this article, Michael Hall, the founder of Neuro Semantics, gives a neurological basis to those statements. Phone 07 5562 5718 to book a free 20 minute telephone consultation. NLP Coaching, Hypnotherapy and Meditation. Gold Coast, Robina, Australia. Online sessions on Skype also available.
An article by L. Michael Hall. Reprinted from the Meta Reflections Newsletter 2014 #21, May 26, 2014.
"While presenting APG recently, one NLP Trainer intensely struggled to get his head around the idea of meta-states. Having been trained exclusively within “the Bandler camp of NLP,” he had been explicitly taught that the Meta-States Model was simply wrong and inadequate. Yet here he was at a Meta-States Training for Accessing Personal Genius (APG)! Isn’t that great as an example of being open-minded? At the breaks, he inudated me with some excellent questions that got me thinking. It was obviously he was experiencing brain strain as he struggled to figure it out. So absolutely fascinated at his experience and wondering what ideas were preventing him from gaining clarity, I asked him as many questions as he asked me.
Quoting Bandler and Michael Breen, he argued that there is only one neurology and that therefore we can only have one state. “Whatever state a person is experiencing is a single state within a single neurology. You cannot have a state about a state.” On the surface, that sounds reasonable, right? He asked, “There’s only one neurology, you can’t have two neurologies in the same body, can you?” Now while I had never thought about things in that way, I answered in the affirmative. “Yes, you can.” “How?” he asked.
The answer to how lies in brain and nervous system anatomy. First of all, we do not have a single nervous system. We have many nervous systems: the autonomic nervous system, the immune system, the digestive system, the sympathetic nervous system (fight-flight response), the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response), the circulatory system, the endocrine system, etc. Our brain also has layers of distinct functional parts wherein our nerve impulses processes information level upon level. We generally identify the anatomy of the brain as having three parts or brains: the reptilian, mammalian, and higher or human level brain. This makes our brain and nervous system complex and layered.
The higher level brain:
Governs: Learning, language, problem solving, deciding, creativity.
Involves: Cerebral cortex, the parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes; the prefrontal lobes (have an array of inhibitory neurons capable of stopping the directives the amygdala sends) and the left frontal lobe.
The mammalian brain:
Governs: Emotion, coordination of movement, the general adaptation syndrome (fight- flight- freeze response)
Involves: The limbic system, amygdala (the brains alarm), thalamus.
Reticular activation system (RAS): located at the beginning in the upper brain stem, continues into the lower reaches of the cerebral cortex. When emotionally charged, RAS shuts down the cerebral cortex.
The reptilian brain:
Governs: Respiration, digestion, circulation, reproduction.
Nerve impulses are processed at different levels. The body is first activated by the senses which experiences a stimulus in terms of sights, sounds, sensations, smells, etc. This “information” then enters the human body as the nerve impulses move through the nerve cells (neurons) which are connected to each other through the dendrite and axon structures. Along the way neuro-transmitters as chemicals are secreted at the synapse which in turn affect the formation, maintenance, activity, and longevity of synapses and neurons.
As the nerve impulses move from sense-receptor away from the outside and into the body, it goes first to the lower levels of the brain (thalamus and hypothalamus) where we “process” that information. Then, the nerve impulses are sent to the higher brain levels to be processed there (the frontal cortex). Korzybski noted that if we “use our nervous system the way animals use theirs” then we process the “information” only at the lower levels and do not take the time to reflect on the information and so use the higher processing levels. To use our neurology as a human nervous system with its full potential, we need to take a moment to stop and reflect. This will send nerve impulses upwards to be processed further by the higher levels.
In writing about this in Science and Sanity, Korzbyski (1933/ 1994) described the order or syntax of the nervous system and its levels:
“The structure of our nervous system was established with ‘senses’ first, and ‘mind’ next. In neurological terms, the nervous impulses should be received first in the lower centres and pass on through the sub-cortical layers to the cortex, be influenced there and be transformed in the cortex by the effect of past experiences. ... We know that the reversed order in semantic manifestation— namely, the projection into ‘senses’ of memory traces or doctrinal impulses— is against the survival structure...” (176)
In writing about our neurology, Korzybski spoke about “the nervous system works as-a-whole” and the anatomical homology of the parts of different nervous systems (177). He also frequently spoke about the structural complexity and differentiation of the nervous system (183).
“Since the cortex has a profound influence upon the other parts of the brain, the insufficient use of the cortex must reflect detrimentally upon the functioning of the other parts of the brain. ... Processes should pass the entire cycle. If not, there must be something wrong with the system.” (178)
“What part in the ‘seeing’ is due to ‘senses’, and what to ‘mind’? The answer is, that, structurally, the ‘seeing’ is the result of a cyclic interdependent process, which can be split only verbally. ... The human nervous system represents, structurally, a mutually interdependent cyclic chain, where each partial function is in the functional chain, together with enforcing and ‘inhibiting,’, and other mechanisms.” (180)
The cycle that he here speaks about is the circuit of information coming into the nervous system, being processed at various levels, and then returning to activate one to respond in an appropriate way. Later in Science and Sanity he provided some diagrams of the flow and direction of the nerve impulses.
“Figure 1 shows how the normal impulse should travel. It should pass the thalamus, pass the sub-cortical layers, reach the cortex, and return. That the impulse is altered in passing this complicated chain is indicated in the diagram. (193)
Processing of “information” at different levels in the human nervous system creates different kinds of thinking. Here he speaks about thalamic thinking versus higher level thinking which shows up in us as being reactive versus responsive (thinking and choosing our responses). The lower levels of brain functioning and processing involves comparative unconditionality whereas the higher levels involve increasing more conditionality. This led Korzybski to talk about the lower levels to be more animal-like as it involves “the confusion of orders of abstraction” (36,37, 42). That is, people here “think” in terms of things being determined.
“... the ‘thalamic thinking’ in humans; those individuals who overwork their thalamus and use their cortex too little are ‘emotional’ and stupid. ... when these shifting, dynamic, affective, thalamic-region, lower order abstractions are abstracted again by the higher centres, these new abstractions are further removed from the outside world and must be somehow different.” (291)
“The more elaborate a nervous system becomes, the further some parts of the brain are removed from immediate experience. Nerve currents, having finite velocity, eventually have longer and more numerous paths to travel; different possibilities and complications arise, resulting in ‘delayed action’. It is known that the thalamus (roughly) appears connected with affective and ‘emotional’ life, and that the cortex, farther removed and isolated from the external world, has the effect of inducing this ‘delay in action’. In unbalanced and ‘emotional’ ‘thinking’, which is so prevalent, the thalamus seems overworked, the cortex seems not worked enough. ... it appears at the silence on objective levels’ introduces this ‘delayed action’, unloading the thalamic material on the cortex.” (422)
“... one of the most fundamental functional differences between animal and man consists in the fact that no matter in how many orders the animal may abstract, its abstractions stop on some level beyond which the animal cannot proceed. Not so with man. Structurally and potentially, man can abstract in indefinitely many orders ...” (439)
There are multiple functional parts at work in both our nervous systems and our brain. These levels of processing explains how we can have multiple states simultaneously. A further mechanism that contributes to this is our self-reflexivity. This is the mechanism within us by which we can think, then think-about-our-thinking, feel-about-our-feeling, etc. This explains how we can have one state and create another state-about-it. If they are aligned, then we can create congruent states like joyful learning, respectful anger, mindful fear, appreciative sadness, etc. If they are not, then we can create meta-states that work to our detriment as they put us at odds with ourselves: fearful anger, guilty fear, anger-at-ourselves for our sadness, fear of our fear, etc.
So the levels of brain and nervous system anatomy and the self-reflexivity mechanism explains how within our single body we can have multiple states. Now add one more factor. Add to this the time element of our nervous system. After all there is a definite and finite speed of the nerve impulses and that causes there to be a length of time required for the processing of information. So, can we have multiple states (neurological states) within our body simultaneously? Yes of course. You know it; you have experienced it as have all of us!" ___ © Author L. Michael Hall, Founder of Neuro Semantics.
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