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Three Brain Theory

By Nanook - Posted on 20 October 2010

[This section uses dialog directly from the teaching version of Scout to the Pole, chapter 18. " ** " before a heading means that heading is also shown in the novel. Nanook is talking with George. Nanook is italic type.]

Freud’s 3 brains

"Exactly. So, let me tell you about Freud and the 3 brains. Freud wrote a book in 1923 called The Ego and the Id. In that book he talked about patterns that he saw in how his patients processed mental concepts. What most people don’t know is that Freud never presented his 3-brain theory as a complete description. In fact, in his book, he clearly stated that his observations were very CRUDE, and he DIDN’T understand them well enough to offer them as a complete theory. He said he hoped he was giving just sufficient structure for others to pick up where he left off. And, in support of this statement, even though his book was titled ‘Ego and Id’, Freud never really defined these brains in the book. He just gave them names and started talking about how they worked in certain cases. He didn’t define or locate in the brain the super ego either.

In his descriptions, he said he could group almost all mental concepts into three patterns. But he had no clue how those groups physically mapped into the brain. Here, let me read a few things directly from his book. Page 630:”

"The division of the psychical into what is conscious and what is unconscious is the fundamental premise of psycho-analysis; and it alone makes it possible for psycho-analysis to understand the pathological processes in mental life …"

“Do you understand this?”

"I guess so. He is saying that psycho-analysis sorts out conscious and subconscious thoughts and uses them to understand pathology."

Properties of the ego

"Well, it actually says quite a bit more than that. But that’s good enough for now. Let me just point out that, in what I just read, Freud acknowledges an ‘unconscious’ process. This is controversial because many modern psychologists are trying to deny that there is a subconscious thought process. Continuing:”

"… We have formed the idea that in each individual there is a coherent organization of mental processes; and we call this his ego. It is to this ego that consciousness is attached; the ego controls the approaches to motility - that is, to the discharge of excitations into the external world; it is the mental agency which supervises all its own constituent processes, and which goes to sleep at night, though even then it exercises the censorship on dreams. From this ego proceed the repressions, too, by means of which it is sought to exclude certain trends in the mind not merely from consciousness but also from other forms of effectiveness and activity. In analysis these trends which have been shut out stand in opposition to the ego, and the analysis is faced with the task of removing the resistances which the ego displays."

“So here, Freud defines the EGO. One important point to remember from this is that the ego is attached to consciousness but is not synonymous with it. When we go to sleep, the ego mostly shuts down, but not completely. Second, that there are thoughts or concepts that Freud called ‘repressions’, and that they can exist in the brain simultaneously with other thoughts AND in opposition to them.”

"For our conception of the unconscious, however, the consequences of our discovery are even more important. . . . We recognize that the unconscious does not coincide with the repressed; it is still true that all that is repressed is unconscious, but not all that is unconscious is repressed. A part of the ego, too... undoubtedly is unconscious ..."

"Reading this reminds me of one thing I do remember about Freud. He isn’t easy to read."

“Right. A lot of people have made that observation. One thing I realized to make it easier is you have to read it slowly, allowing each word to be important. When you do that, Freud has an awful lot to say. Continuing. Page 636:”

Properties of the id

"… the ego seeks to bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavors to substitute the reality principle for the pleasure principle which reigns unrestrictedly in the id. For the ego, perception plays the part which in the id falls to instinct. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions."
"Note, the term ID appears in this paragraph. This is a frustrating part of Freud’s book. A new term, which is significant enough to be used in the book title, just pops up, without having ever been defined. Some important elements of the id are described here, however. Freud says the pleasure principle reigns unrestricted in the id, as opposed to the reality principle, that rules the ego. He says the part perception plays in the ego falls to instinct in the id. He says that the ego is ruled by reason and common sense, where as the id contains the passions."

"The id sounds like what people call our ‘reptile’ brain."

Properties of the super-ego

“Exactly. I think that’s so. Freud then goes on to identify a third brain: the SUPER-EGO, or ego ideal. But again, he doesn’t actually define it. He just starts talking about it. Here is what he says starting on page 643:”

". . . we have that higher nature, in this ego ideal or super-ego, the representative of our relation to our parents... It is easy to show that the ego ideal answers to everything that is expected of the higher nature of man. As a substitute for a longing for the father, it contains the germ from which all religions have evolved. The self-judgment which declares that the ego falls short of its ideal produces the religious sense of humility to which the believer appeals in his longing. As a child grows up, the role of father is carried on by teachers and others in authority; their injunctions and prohibitions remain powerful in the ego ideal and continue, in the form of conscience, to exercise the moral censorship. The tension between the demands of conscience and the actual performances of the ego is experienced as a sense of guilt. Social feelings rest on identifications with other people, on the basis of having the same ego ideal."

"This sounds like our guardian angel, who sits on our shoulder and keeps an eye on us."

“Exactly. Or, in cases of mental illness, that torments people with guilt. The super-ego is what we typically call our conscience. Note, Freud says this is the source of all religions. That’s a pretty important statement. He also says that the super-ego is critical of the ego, and keeps reminding it that it fall short of its ‘ideal’. He also associates this negative judgment with the injunctions and prohibition of authority, including MORAL CENSORSHIP. He says the TENSION between the ego, and super-ego brains is experienced as GUILT.”

"Right. He then says that our social bond with others is based on having the same ideals as they do."

“Very good observation. That statement establishes a link between social associations and idealizations. Specifically, it implies that the link is not founded on observations of reality.”

"Hmmm . . ."

“Continuing. Page 633:”


"Internal perceptions yield sensations of processes arising in the most diverse and certainly also in the deepest strata of the mental apparatus. Very little is known about these sensations and feelings; those belonging to the pleasure-unpleasure series may still be regarded as the best examples of them. They are more primordial, more elementary, than perceptions arising externally and they can come about even when consciousness is clouded."

“The important points for you to remember here are that he thinks some perceptions come from inside our brains – from the deepest strata. They are communicated as SENSATIONS and FEELINGS. And they can occur even when consciousness is clouded. In other words, in the midst of confusion, the super-ego can exert a strong influence by sending sensations based on primordial perceptions.”

"Sounds like fight or flight kind of stuff."

“Exactly. Or maybe panic, or anger, or FEAR!”

Importance of pain and fear

“I want to start out this discussion by making a claim:

I claim that humans inherently have most of the tools they need to reach a state of life that is NOT dominated by pain. In fact that state is a place that can be MOSTLY PAIN FREE.

Do you accept this?”

"Hmmm . . . At first, I wanted to say yes. But on second thought, I’m not so sure. The Catholic Church tells us that because of Original Sin, humans were cast out of the Garden of Eden into a world of suffering. We are told to use suffering in the form of abstinence to purify ourselves. So, from the standpoint of religion, I’d have to say living pain free is not possible, or even desirable. From the little I know about Buddhism, with life being a disturbance from peace and pain in life being the result of desires, that they wouldn’t accept this claim either. So, I’m going to say no, I don’t think I can accept it."

“Fair enough. I understand the skepticism that you have. It's so far from where you are now, it's hard to even imagine what it would be like. So, let's not try to present that new image to you yet. Let me just describe what the road to get there might look like.

RULE #1: The human animal is capable of living a life which has NO PAIN if it has NO SCARCITY, NO FALSE BELIEFS and is free from INJURY and DISEASE.”

"OK. Now I see where you’re going. I never thought about it this way."

“So, if you have no major injuries, are fairly free of disease, live in the US and have a reasonable job, YOU ALREADY HAVE THREE OUT OF FOUR OF THESE. Agreed?”

"OK. Let me think about this a little. I guess if we are talking about pain, I want to first break life up into physical pain and mental pain. The physical pain could be internal or external. So, if I’m disease free, have no injuries, have food to eat and a place to live, and no one is beating me up, I guess I’ll buy the physical pain part. But mental pain could still be a problem."

“Exactly. And the next point is that the thing that brings most people ALL their mental pain is FALSE BELIEFS. I want to emphasize that. I didn’t say ignorance. I didn’t say complexity. I said FALSE BELIEFS. Ignorance can be erased by leaning. Complexity can be handled by subdivision. But neither of those is really going to cause pain. Mental pain comes from FALSE BELIEFS that create IRRESOLVABLE MENTAL CONFLICTS. So, to solve the mental pain problem, people need to develop the tools to get rid of the mental conflicts.”

"And what specifically do you mean by mental conflict?"

“A MENTAL CONFLICT is a mental state where two or more concepts exist simultaneously in your brain that are not logically consistent.”

"Hmmm . . . OK. The key words here are LOGIC and CONSISTENT."

"Correct. Pretty simple, right?”

"Hmmm . . . Why do I think I should think about this a little more? If Ben were here, I’d be looking for my foot so I could stick it in my mouth ahead of time."

"Very perceptive. Unfortunately, rule #1 and the definition I used for mental conflict are very far from simple statements. This is another PhD thesis in disguise. But think about it for a minute and see what you can figure out.”

"Oh wow! Now I’m starting to see what you mean. There are all kinds of tangents that come out of this. The feeling of pain is something that we would automatically connect with the physical body. Things like getting cut, or burned or slapped. But now you’ve connected pain with just the process of thinking."

"Exactly. And if we accept, without being specific, that pain can come out of thinking, then what other physical manifestations can come out of just thinking?”

"You mean, things like headaches? But I guess maybe aches and pains all over the body?"

"Exactly. And auditory and visual hallucinations.”

"Hmmm . . . But isn’t this already well known? I mean, people pretty well accept the whole idea of pain and hallucinations being connected with mental illness, especially with the Hollywood version."

"Sensations of a pleasurable nature have not anything inherently impelling about them, whereas unpleasurable ones have it in the highest degree. The latter impel towards change, towards discharge, and that is why we interpret unpleasure as implying a heightening and pleasure a lowering of energic cathexis."

"Now it’s getting Greek. But let me be sure I did pick up on one important point. In the super-ego, the sensations of pleasure are much less powerful than those of pain, or what he calls: unpleasure."

“Exactly. There is a lot to be said in this. Think about the religious tie. Think about what religion says about doing penance for sin and the related need to inflict pain and punishment on yourself and others.”

"Whoa! This is scary stuff."

"One day it occurred to me that in all conscious life forms, there were actually identifiable PHYSICAL REPRESENTATIONS of Freud’s 3-brains. We could distinguish these if we simply adjusted Freud’s model a little. Freud called his brains: Ego, Super-ego and Id; I call them: THINKER, MR. GRIM AND HULK. Let me describe them in reverse order.


Hulk is almost equivalent to Freud’s Id. Hulk is a distinct subconscious process who’s primary role is to protect the life of its owner. I use the word Hulk because of the similarity between Id and the ‘Incredible Hulk’ cartoon character.”

"Oh yeah! Ben mentioned Hulk to me. He made me do the breath-holding experiment to show me how powerful this force was in me."

“Excellent. But what I’m going to tell you now is that there is a distinct part of the human brain that collects the traits Freud referred to as belonging to the Id. The HULK BRAIN is the most primitive part of the human brain. It is what psychologists call the animal or reptilian brain. But the KEY to really understanding this brain, that I came to see, was that Hulk brain is TOTALLY driven by INSTINCT. We are born with it. It already knows how to do things. It knows how to make your heart beat; it knows how to make your lungs breathe; it knows how to run your muscles - at least, in humans, well enough for you to learn to walk and become coordinated. It knows how to focus and move your eyes. It knows how to yank your hand or body away from things that can injure you.”

"Hmmm . . . Ok . . . I can understand this. It’s actually pretty simple. So where is this brain located?"

"The Hulk brain is actually located in tissues we can pretty easily find. But it’s not totally in one place. It’s key functions, however, have been found. As we learn more about the mind, we may find that Hulk has many more distributed parts. For example, it may run all the way down the spinal cord and do some preliminary signal processing in the nerves. But the unifying element of this brain is that its functions are primarily inherited and hard wired. If there is a brain that can be explained by behavioral theory, this is it. This is also the brain that is described by the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.”

"Ben mentioned Maslow a little as well when we were talking about Hulk."

Maslow Hierarchy – how Hulk works

“Maslow was a genius. He was the first notable psychologist to realize that to understand mental illness, it would be helpful to understand mental WELLNESS. When he did this, he realized it was quite a complex issue. So, to get organized, he had to put his findings in some kind of structure. One of the structures is what we call Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is a listing of the most important basic human needs. Now is a good time to expand on that a little. Let me read from Maslow’s book. Here it is: Motivation and Personality, Abraham Maslow. Page 38, the hierarchy of NEEDS:”

"1. Physiological Needs: Food, water, sex, sleep, activity
2. Safety Needs: security, stability, dependency, protection, freedom from fear, anxiety, chaos; need for structure, order, law, limits.
3. Belongingness and Love: affection, acceptance, community, family
4. Esteem Needs: high personal evaluation, self-respect, self esteem from inside ( strength, achievement, adequacy, mastery and competence, confidence, independence and freedom ); from without (reputation, prestige, status, fame, recognition, attention, importance, dignity, appreciation )
5. Self-Actualization ( fulfillment ); desire to know and understand, desire for beauty"

"Let’s focus on the first set of needs. Let me re-list them and add three more:

Air, shelter, waste and poison elimination, water, sleep, food, activity, sex. Note that these needs are true SURVIVAL needs. If these needs are not met, the person will die, or in the case of sex, that person’s genetic line will die. I re-listed these in this specific order to stress the importance of time. That is, if a person is denied air to breath for even a few minutes, they will die. If a person is denied shelter, that is clothing, for even a few minutes in an extreme situation, like living in Alaska, they will die. If a person is denied water to drink, or sleep or food for more than a few days, they will die. Notice I’m not saying MIGHT. It’s not that people denied these things ‘might’ die. No. This is not a relative thing. This is absolute. They will die. In the case of sex, as I said, the time period is longer. But if it does not occur, the genetic line will stop.

So, biological evolution over millions of years has developed brain functions to insure that the human is DRIVEN INTENSELY, to get these needs filled. You experienced the air deprivation experiment. That showed the dominance of Hulk over the other brains. After about 30 seconds, your lungs felt like they were going to burst. If you kept going, Hulk would eventually just take control and shut down your conscious brain. You’d pass out. And Hulk would start you breathing again.

Hulk communicates through the sensation of pain

Notice how Hulk communicated the lack of oxygen problem to you. It issued a sensation of PAIN. This is the primary way that Hulk communicates it’s alarms. Go ahead, think this through. Lack of air – pain. Freezing or burning – pain. Bowels or bladder – pain. Thirst – pain. Lack of sleep – pain. Hunger – pain.

"Hold on a second. You said ‘lack of sleep – pain’. How does that work?"

“Good question. But you know the answer. If you don’t get enough sleep, what happens?”

"Hmmm . . . I guess you’re right. My eyes burn, which is pain. I get a headache, which is pain. I get aches and pains all over."

The same kind of pain drives will occur if the other needs are deprived. The brain structure I call Hulk is inherently programmed to drive human behavior to fill these needs.”

"OK. I understand this. It’s actually pretty neat."

"The second type of needs, the safety needs, also have some components that I think are controlled by Hulk brain. For example: security, dependency, protection, freedom from fear, anxiety and chaos; need for structure and order. In these cases, the determining factor is situations where not meeting the needs could result in death. If a person all of a sudden finds himself caught in a blizzard, Hulk brain will drive actions to make that person do something about it. For example, as the person’s body starts to cool off, the person will perceive extreme pain, say, in their hands. Once the hands are no longer functional, that pain will disappear and other pains will become foremost.”

"So what about the higher levels?"

"Well, let’s not move so quickly to leave them out of Hulk’s realm. Again, it depends on the circumstances. The belongingness and love needs: affection, acceptance, community and family produce severe behavioral responses when they are denied. Humans will fight to the death for family ties; both males and females will fight to the death to mate. I think these needs start to get mixed with cultural issues, which I’ll talk about next, but there are major components that will still be traceable back to Hulk.

Hulk is involved in seven deadly sins

Let’s try to tie Hulk in for some much higher functions? Why don’t you try the Seven Deadly Sins!”

"Whoa! Sure. Let me take an easy one - gluttony. The drive behind gluttony is probably fear of starvation."

"Right. And what would be the role of Hulk in this?”

"When you say, role, I guess you mean how does Hulk brain get a person to do something. And I’m guessing a good place to start is to try to understand how an animal would deal with this. I guess it’s like the Pavlov dog experiment. The dog was trained to expect food when a bell was rung. Eventually, when the bell was rung, the dog’s stomach would start pouring out acids to get ready for the food, even though there was no food around. I remember all of this because they found that out by putting a glass window in the dog’s body so they could look inside the stomach. So, when some trigger circumstance occurs with a person driven by gluttony, Hulk probably sends out hunger pains and starts stomach juices flowing."

"Exactly. And that’s an important point I wanted to make here. Hulk communicates with the body both by directly controlling body parts, like muscles, but also by sending out FEELINGS. Feelings in this case are primarily the sensation of pain. There is a lot to talk about related to this. But let me just read one more part from Maslow for now because it goes so much against one of the false beliefs that pervade our society. Let’s see . . . page 64:”

"… a need that was fully gratified ran its typical course and … either disappeared altogether or settled down to a certain low optimum level… Those animals in which the need was frustrated developed various semi-pathological phenomena… persistence of the need past its normal time of disappearance, and secondly, greatly increased activity of the need."

“Do you see the points here?”

"No, not exactly."

"The point I wanted you to understand here is that Maslow directly contradicts the strict authoritarian models of human behavior we have in our country. His studies also contradict a lot of society’s Single Sentence Logic responses to moral issues. He tells us that when basic needs are satisfied, they go away, and get replaced by higher needs. This is opposite to the notion that if you give love and security to a crying child, it will learn to cry to get love and security.”

"And I guess this would also apply to sex, if it is a basic drive, right?"

"Exactly. Christian society has really messed the world up dealing with this.”

**Mr. Grim

Grim as second brain / middle brain

“OK. Let’s talk about the second brain which I call ‘MR. GRIM’. This brain, by the way, is what I called your MIDDLE BRAIN in the beginning of our discussion; the one that is in crisis and giving you the headaches.

Mr. Grim is most like Freud’s ‘Super-ego’. Mr. Grim is a distinct subconscious process who’s primary role is also to protect the life of its owner. Mr. Grim plays the role of our conscience and keeps an ‘eye’ on us.

"So, Mr. Grim is like Jiminy Cricket or our guardian angel?"

“Exactly. I use the term Mr. Grim, because I came to see that this brain is predominantly a large restraint on our actions. It greatly over dramatizes events. It especially over exaggerates dangers. Freud agreed with this view. Let me read . . . page 595:”

"Mental events are regulated by the pleasure principle. The events are set in motion by an UNPLEASURABLE tension. The final outcome coincides with a lowering of that tension by avoidance of unpleasure or production of pleasure. . . . This is the most obscure and inaccessible region of the mind . . . We have decided to relate pleasure and unpleasure to the quantity of excitation that is present in the mind . . . UNPLEASURE corresponds to an INCREASE in the quantity of EXCITATION and pleasure to a diminution . . . in a given period of time . . . The mental apparatus endeavors to keep the quantity of excitation present in it as low as possible or at least to keep it constant."

"Hmmm . . . OK. Grim is dominated by a concern for unpleasurable events. I guess this is like getting scolded for stealing something. Grim tries to avoid that in the future."

Grim primarily a pattern recognizer"

“Good example. Mr. Grim is a newer and much more complex part of the animal brain than Hulk. Grim first developed to improve external perceptions. That is, it had much improved abilities to process light images, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. Grim turns your perceptions into vivid images, complex structured sounds, structured tactile feelings and physical pain, rich aromas and flavors. Grim understands SIMPLE LANGUAGE STRUCTURES and is PRIMARILY A PATTERN RECOGNIZER. Grim is the basis for Single Sentence Logic.”

"Wow! So, you think you’ve identified where that occurs?"

Grim is subconscious

“I call Grim subconscious because the processes it uses to capture and store perceptions are still not conscious. A sound comes into the ears, the nerve pulses move into Grim. Grim sorts them out, stores them, analyzes them and sends out responses based on them. But this whole process goes on with details that we are not conscious of. Does this seem reasonable to you?”

"Sure. A lot of our thinking is subconscious."

“Well, would it surprise you if I told you that up until only recently, scientists didn’t want to accept that?”

"Yes, it would. But the more we talk, the more amazed I am at how science get’s limited by people in power positions."

“Exactly. Let me read something from a book by Eric Kandel called In Search of Memory. Page 133.”

"Hermann Helmholtz, the first person to measure the speed of conduction of the action potential [this is the speed of nerve electrical signals], also worked on visual perception. In 1885 he pointed out that a great deal of mental processing for visual perception and for action occurs on an unconscious level. In 1890, in his classic work The Principles of Psychology, William James expanded on this idea, writing separate chapters on habit (unconscious, mechanical, reflexive action) and memory (conscious awareness of the past). In 1949 the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle distinguished between knowing how (the knowledge of skills), and knowing what (knowledge of facts and events). Indeed, a central premise of Freudian psychoanalytic theory, enunciated in 1900 in The Interpretation of Dreams, is an extension of Helmholtz's idea that experiences are recorded and recalled not only as conscious memories, but also as unconscious memories.

WHILE FREUD'S IDEAS WERE INTERESTING AND INFLUENTIAL, MANY SCIENTISTS WERE NOT CONVINCED of their truth in the absence of experimental inquiry into how the brain actually stores information. Milner's star-tracing experiment … was the first time a scientist had uncovered the biological basis of a psychoanalytic hypothesis. By showing that a person who has no hippocampus (and therefore no ability to store conscious memories) can nonetheless remember an action, she validated Freud's theory that the majority of our actions are unconscious."

“There are two major points to draw from this paragraph. Until Milner’s work was done, IN THE LATE ‘50’s, neuroscientists were still denying subconscious memory. The second thing is how it supported Freud’s observations. But did this resurrect Freud’s work. NO! Exasperating.

Grim is a learning brain

The FIRST KEY trait that identifies Mr. Grim, is that the information this brain uses to process data is LEARNED. MR. GRIM IS A LEARNING BRAIN. Hulk, by comparison, uses only inherited structures to process data.

Our Grim brain is not born with the patterns that generate the responses. We are born with biological brain structures that can store both PROCESSES AND PATTERNS. We are not born with either the processes or the patterns themselves. Grim, for example, can learn that pain comes from touching a hot stove. In contrast, Hulk has pre-wired set points for blood oxygen and blood sugar.

Grim is a recursive brain

The SECOND KEY trait that identifies Grim is that it can process its own thoughts. It is RECURSIVE. That is, it can use its own process outputs as new inputs.

Grim’s basic training comes to us in childhood. This is where we store most of our learning experiences like those accompanied by pain and pleasure. For sure, Grim is there primarily to protect us; to help us survive. But Grim is so ruthless in protecting us that in most cases, it drives us toward paranoia. This is where we store our deepest FEARS.”

"Ah! That’s what Freud said. That this brain was mostly dominated by unpleasure. And he said it appeared as excitation - that is, like a disturbance."

“See how neat this concept is. So many pieces start falling into place.

Grim communicates by sending images and EMOTIONS

Grim doesn’t control any part of the body directly. It simply monitors perceptions looking for patterns. When it spots a pattern that it believes requires an action, it communicates to the other brains by sending IMAGES and generating EMOTIONS. These can be in the form of emotions like happiness, fear or anger.”

Grim causes pain by sending images to Hulk

"What about pain. Can Grim send out feelings of pain?"

“I don’t think so. For a negative memory to cause pain, I think a two stage process is needed. I think Grim sends its memory images to Hulk. And then, Hulk sends out the pain signals.”

Headache pain comes from Hulk triggered by Grim Storms

"Then how does this explain a headache? That surely is pain?"

“Some kinds of headache are due to emotional distress. But it is NOT Grim that is sending out the pain sensations. When Mr. Grim can’t resolve some issue to a logical conclusion, using its own set of logic of course, it can’t rest. It stays at a high level of agitation. I call this a Grim Storm. This was what Freud called ‘excitation’. If it goes too long without getting enough rest, or the level of computation gets too high trying to figure out all the alternatives, it communicates using a typical method: it sends out emotions. Grim sends messages to Hulk that it is in distress. But this is an internal communication between Grim and Hulk. Hulk responds by sending out the feeling of pain, and centers the cause of the problem in the head. Pretty straight forward.”

Emotions are just images

"Hmmmmm . . . Then maybe emotions are actually just images?

Grim uses tapes

“Very good! Very good! One of the key ways that Grim spots patterns is by matching trigger words or trigger perceptions to stored patterns. If the triggers correspond to significant stored patterns, once the trigger occurs, Grim appears to replay a sequence of the perceptions like a TAPE of the whole incident surrounding the initial experience that created the tape. This tape isn’t just audio or video. It’s a full sensory replay. When this happens, Grim sends the taped experiences to the other brains as well. The other brains will then take action as if the events were happening all over again.”

"Then, how come our perception isn’t just full of images?"

“Because tapes are only started for significant concerns. And, the intensity of the images that are sent vary. They can be pretty weak. In most cases, they are pretty weak, even for serious events. And, I think this explains a lot of mental illness. There are functional parts of both Mr. Grim and Thinker that restrain these taped play-backs. When the images are not regulated well, and come out in full fidelity, the person is actually living them again.”

"Amazing story. So you’re saying we have a second brain that deals with the world through learning. It essentially starts out as a huge set of blank tapes. But while it’s goal is to protect us, it can go overboard with this."

“Exactly. And this is not so unexpected in the evolutionary model. A creature’s survival is better if it over reacts to threats, even producing a lot of false alarms, rather than if it under reacts and fails to respond to a single lethal alarm.”

"Hmmm . . . A case of asymmetric philosophy."

“Exactly. Another point I want to make is that Grim is responsible for issuing the drives for the MIDDLE LEVEL needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Here. Let me read a little more from Maslow. Page 24:”

"Man is a wanting animal and RARELY reaches a state of complete satisfaction except for a short time. As one desire is satisfied, another pops up to take its place."

"Sounds like a major case of Greed to me."

**Hulk and Grim explain the Seven Deadly Sins

"Exactly. But what I’ve described is actually much more profound than that. With Hulk and Grim, you can now explain the foundation for most of the Seven Deadly Sins. But more important, look at my statement the other way around. If Hulk and Grim are actually wired this way, then the related Seven Deadly Sins are inevitable, unless we can reverse hundreds of millions of years of evolution. But it get’s worse. Page 37:”

"If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated by the physiological needs, all other needs may become simply nonexistent or be pushed into the background. It is then fair to characterize the whole organism by saying simply that it is hungry, for consciousness is almost entirely preempted by hunger. All capacities are put into the service of hunger-satisfaction… Capacities not useful for this purpose lie dormant. …. When it is dominated by a certain need… the whole philosophy of the future tends also to change …."

"While Maslow was talking about an extreme situation here where all needs are unsatisfied, I think this applies even when just a bunch of major needs are not satisfied. That is, ALL needs don’t have to be unsatisfied for a major breakdown to occur. In that case, the person still goes off the deep end. So, we are likely to see a lot of people in our society in very bad shape. BUT, it still get’s worse. Page 47:”

"There are certain conditions that are [perceived to be] immediate prerequisites for the basic need satisfactions. Danger to these is reacted to as if it were direct danger to the basic needs themselves: freedom to speak, to act, to investigate and seek information, to defend, justice, fairness, honesty." "

"Let me just mention in passing another book that came out at the same time as Maslow’s book: Ethics in a Business Society by Marquis Childs. In this book, a set of traits were listed that were compatible with Maslow’s higher level functions. Childs classified them as goals of society. Page 171."

"…love is primary; then fellowship, dignity, humility, enlightenment, esthetic enjoyment, creativity, new experience, security, freedom and justice."

"So, Maslow was telling us, in essence, that Hulk and Grim have a hair trigger. No wonder people are so quick to attack each other."

“Exactly. Now let’s consider a situation where the experiences are extreme. This could be a severe trauma experience, particularly in childhood. Grim also stores those experiences. When they are triggered and the experience starts to replay, the people can experience extreme panic attacks because they appear so real.”

"Do you mean like a person that was once attacked by a dog going ape whenever they see another dog?"

"Sure. Good example. But there are some cases when the recorded experience is TOO scary for the person to control. In that case, both Grim and Hulk brain intervene. Remember, Hulk’s job is also protection. And both Grim and Hulk, being more driven to protection than determining how real the perceptions are, decide that the threat recorded in memory, is real, that the person can’t fight it, and so the person must run. Fight or Flight, remember? When this happens, Grim and Hulk will drive the human to actions that a calm person would never do. These are the people we label ‘psychotic’.”

"This is pretty interesting because it is a pretty simple process. I’m sure there are a lot of variations. But if this principle is correct, it sure simplifies how psychiatry can analyze it."

“Exactly! There is another Grim trait that I’d like to mention here. Since Grim is a learning brain, Grim can be programmed by culture. Grim can learn languages. And how do you think Grim does this?”

"Ah hah! Single Sentence Logic!"

"Exactly. The concept of language is a pattern matching process that Grim excels at. Trigger words or trigger perceptions launch tapes of experiences. Those experiences play out in the form of language and add additional words which trigger additional experiences until a composite experience is generated.”


The third brain, The Thinker, parallels Freud’s Ego. Thinker is your conscious self. Thinker is the brain, that, IN A HUMAN, would be associated with a person’s name. In you, Thinker is the function that recognizes itself as an independent life form. In you, Thinker sees itself as Nanook and is the brain you use to make conscious decisions.

Thinker is a SECONDARY brain concerning sensory input. It observes all your external actions based on perception data pre-processed by Grim. In humans, Thinker understands languages and can generate communications based on symbols and concepts. Thinker is the newest of the evolving brains. It is also a learning brain. The structures for its operation are inherited, but its contents are learned.

But, very important, even with all these capabilities, Thinker should NOT be viewed as the supreme brain. It does what it does well. But it is significantly restricted in its role of controlling the body. Thinker is substantially limited in its ability to observe what the other two brains are doing. As you saw with the ‘air experiment’, when the chips are down, the power structure is 1 – Hulk; 2 – Grim; and 3 – Thinker. For some reason, animals universally require periods of sleep. During these periods, Thinker mostly shuts down. Grim may also largely shut down. Hulk is mostly awake. When you go under sedation for an operation, Thinker is shut down and conscious pain stops. But Hulk is very much awake running your heart and lungs and Grim can still sense things. Special medications to block memory are also used along with sedatives.”

"This is getting very complex."

Biological Consciousness

"That’s right. But only because so many things are starting to happen at the same time. The fundamental elements are pretty basic. So break it down. Let’s talk about BIOLOGICAL CONSCIOUSNESS. What do you think that is?”

"To be aware of your surroundings."

"OK, let’s examine this more. Do humans have it?”





"Hmmm good question


"OK. I stop at rocks. Not conscious.

"This has historically been a tough question because philosophers refused to first acknowledge that the concept we call ‘consciousness’ is complex and must first be subdivided. That is, we must first recognize its complexity and then agree to CREATE sub-definitions. Let me read Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand: Atlas p1013."

"A plant does not possess consciousness, … it has no choice of action; there are alternatives in the conditions it encounters, but there are no alternatives in its function. It acts automatically to further its life. It cannot act for its own destruction. Animals possess a primitive form of consciousness. . .But so long as it lives, it acts on its knowledge with automatic safety and no power of choice, it is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer. Man has no automatic means of survival. . … Survival is a problem to be solved. Man’s basic means of survival is his mind, his capability to reason. Comments?"

" She rules out plants because she says they have ‘no choice of action’. But we then have to figure out what she means by choice. Sounds like quicksand.

"Very good. In the battle to ‘own’ the word consciousness, she just slapped some unstated assumptions on the word and moved on. But that’s what I meant when I said, to make sense of this concept, we need to do that. So, if we define consciousness only to mean: response to external stimulus, then her description would fail. Plants respond to light; the Venus fly trap responds to physical touch. So, not to ruffle any feathers, let’s start by creating two terms: stimulus consciousness and choice consciousness. Plants don’t qualify for choice consciousness because they don’t have the CAPABILITY to make a choice.

But, what about animals?

"Sure, animals can make choices.

“Star fish? Flys?

"Hmmm I see your point. I’m not sure a star fish or jelly fish does much thinking.

"How about a dog? Monkey?


"So let’s add another distinction here. This is not a black and white issue. As we come up the complexity of life strata, this ability to make a choice, which you summarized by saying they think, is something that gradually appears and then grows in complexity. But, note, not only does it vary across species, it is even quite variable within a single species, like dogs, for example. Some are much smarter than others. We really test ourselves with primates who also have a huge variability. Gorillas are probably capable of thought at a human level as has been shown by recent cases where they have been taught sign language.

"And on that basis, I’d have to say that the ability to think is highly suspect in a lot of humans.

"While I’m sure there was a big element of joking in your statement, I think you shouldn’t dismiss that so quickly. The point I think we are reaching now is that we’ve got to tackle the assumption that Ayn Rand just threw at us. We need to dig into what it means to CHOOSE.


"Rand offers an amazingly insightful test for this. Let me read from Atlas Shrugged again. Let’s see . . . page 1013:”

"Animals possess a primitive form of consciousness; they cannot know the issue of life and death, but they can know pleasure and pain; an animal's life depends on , actions automatically guided by its sensory mechanism. An animal is equipped for sustaining its life; its senses provide it with an automatic code of action, an automatic know ledge of what is good for it or evil. It has no power to extend its know ledge or to evade it. In conditions where its knowledge proves inadequate, it dies. But so long as it lives, it acts on its knowledge, with automatic safety and no power of choice, it is unable to ignore its own good, unable to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer."

Suicide as a discriminator of A2

“Note, she says the plant, ‘CANNOT ACT FOR ITS OWN DESTRUCTION.’ She admits that ‘animals possess a primitive form of consciousness’. But she then says that even they can’t act for their own destruction. So SUICIDE becomes a KEY DISCRIMINATOR for the level of consciousness we call human. She describes this further as an ability to ‘ignore its own good . . .to decide to choose the evil and act as its own destroyer’. This, as far as I know, very clearly describes a trait specific to humans. But suicide is a result of human thinking, not a cause. So the word does not present a concept that would allow us to use it to explain human consciousness.

She says, ‘man has no automatic means of survival.’ Do you agree?”

"Actually no. I think you outlined Hulk and Grim in ways that say they do act automatically to drive humans to survival."

"Exactly. She then says man’s basic means of survival is his mind, his capability to reason. What about that?”

"Again, I don’t agree in a strict sense. Sure, reason gives humans a huge advantage over animals. But without the contributions of Hulk and Grim, I think humans couldn’t survive."

"Exactly. But this presents a great example of being careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water because she’s really onto some good insights here. Can you at least see the great advantage of reason, which gives us choice, but also allow suicide, which is a serious negative choice?”

"Sure. There is something fundamentally different about human thinking, that we call reason. It gives us great new powers. But the reasoning process is also capable of selecting actions that are against our own survival by outsmarting our Hulk and Grim defenses.

"Exactly. Let’s continue reading more about what she means by reason:

"Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. You are free to think or evade that effort. But you are not free to escape your nature, so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think’. If he is to sustain his existence, he must discover the principles of action required to guide them in dealing with nature and with other men."

"I don’t agree with this. Animals identify and integrate their perceptions.

"Correct. So, maybe her statement is incomplete. What if I said: in humans, ‘reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses’ using ABSTRACT SYMBOLS AND CONCEPTS?”

"Hmmm . . . OK. Here is the symbols and concepts element again.

"Exactly. So, let’s help Rand out by adding my clarification and keep going. She then says ‘You are free to think or evade that effort. But you are not free to escape your nature, so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think’.”

"Maybe I’m being picky, but I don’t quite agree with that either. I think these two sentences are contradictory. I agree with her part about humans not being free to escape their nature. So, I don’t think they are free to turn off their thinking. I mean, they can think stupid things, but they can’t turn their thinking off. I suppose what she might mean is, they are free to get lazy about it.

"Exactly. That’s what I think she means as well. And what about the ‘to be or not to be’ ?

"It reminds me of an old doctor joke: TB or not TB, that is consumption! Sorry about that.

Again, maybe I’m being too picky. If humans can choose suicide, then they have the power to chose to be or not to be. But this wasn’t the question. The question was, for humans, is ‘to be or not to be’ directly related to ‘think or not to think’? I still say no. If we go back to the interpretation of ‘not thinking’ meaning being lazy, then we are up against answering the question about how the world keeps going forward with so many people being lazy thinkers. So I think she’s idealizing this. Maybe it did apply for the cave men, where survival of the fittest still applied, but it doesn’t seem to apply any more."

“That’s a very good observation. I agree with you. So I think she was idealizing here. Let me read another quote about reason from her book The Virtue of Selfishness: page 21."

"For man, the basic means of survival is reason . . . A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food, but it will not tell him how to obtain it . . . That which his survival requires is set by nature and is not open to his choice. What is open to his choice is only whether he will discover it or not, and, whether he will choose the right goods and values or not. He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see."


"Hmmm . . . Now this I think is PROFOUND! This is really good even if I think it is still idealized to biological evolution. When an animal is hungry, and it is in a suitable environment, it instinctively knows how to obtain food. This is not the case with humans. They have to use their reasoning power to satisfy their hunger. But, what this clearly tells us is that while people may demand a large variety of freedoms, like free speech, and write them into constitutions, they are NOT able to just make anything they want a freedom. Freedom to succeed can not be so easily guaranteed. In this case, these two freedoms, speech and success, may be opposed to each other.

The idea of evading reality is a good example. If a person chooses to go that direction, they cannot also automatically expect to get what they want."

“Exactly. And this last point is extremely important. Remember you mentioned the concept of philosophical stability. This is the problem of Single Sentence Logic and false beliefs. People get caught up in a set of beliefs. They then think that because their set of beliefs hangs together, that the rest of the world will fall in place. The key teaching from Ayn Rand here is the IMPORTANCE OF REALITY.”

Basis for mental illness

"Reality? Is it possible that your 3-brain model can also explain mental illness in a more general way?"

“YES! And that’s what’s so attractive about it to me. The whole issue of values is related to this. When two separate thoughts or tapes in Mr. Grim, or one in Thinker and one in Grim, are in conflict, they both have to find a resolution. If a person is lying to himself about something for example, there will be a conflict. And by lying to oneself, I mean believing one thing in the form of an intellectual concept while experiencing the opposite through physical perceptions or earlier learned experiences. This condition results in a subconscious struggle between the brains to establish one consistent explanation. In such a conflict, the more primitive brains are always dominant, with Hulk being the strongest. But if the struggle is too intense, Grim can fabricate a fantasy explanation just like I described before. If that happens, the person becomes psychotic because when related triggers occur, Grim runs the fantasy tape to explain the triggers.”

"Very interesting. So, why is this explanation important?"

“For the same reason all the other explanations I’ve given you are important. They give us new logical models to both diagnose and treat mental illness and to understand human behavior.”

"Hmmmmm . . . Very neat."