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PART I: Reptilian Brain... Sensation & Instinct

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Pleasure is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

-Nan Wise, Ph.D.

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Brain Stem: Our brain stem is the conduit in which our brain receives all of the internal and external sensory information detected by our bodies.

It is also the pathway in which our brain sends information and direction back down to various parts of our bodies. The terms “Bottom Up” and “Top Down” in brain-based psycho-therapy models reference this bidirectional pathway.

This process moves with intense speed. At all times, our brains are processing and sending out an immense volume of information.

Reptilian Brain: From the brainstem, all information enters the reptilian portion of our brain (predominantly the cerebellum). As implied by the name, this portion of our brain is very old and shared with most living creatures.

It processes information very fast as it controls our body regulation like heartbeat, temperature and breathing. This is also where automatic habits are stored; the reason why we don’t need to consciously think about how to walk or how we can drive to work without a memory of the drive.

Our bodies perceive the processing that occurs in our reptilian brain through experience, without language.

This part of the brain is fluent in the language of sensation and leads through instinct.

It learns through not only pain, but also pleasure. Because our pain and pleasure networks are physiologically interdependent, when we turn away from either, we lose the tension of this sensational paradox and feel nothing at all.

Pleasure is a particularly salient learning signal because it is enjoyable. We can experience pleasure when we fulfill our needs. The subsequent flush of feel-good chemicals urges us to pursue more pleasure by meeting more of our needs. When our ecosystem hits the sweet spot of “liking what we need”, we are a naturally pulled towards good fulfilling decisions, without the heavy hand of discipline.

I believe the reptilian brain is also where our “Felt Knowing” lives, that sensation of quiet certainty. Calm clarity. Unflappable Courage. The experience without the story.

5 Post Series: (Rolling out Weekly)

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