About the Limbic System

As described under the Dual Mind, most of our irrationality occurs when our limbic programs are strong and difficult to control. The limbic system holds, among other things, our subconscious, which can operate independently of our rationality. Another excellent example of how it can make us irrational is Karen Carpenter, a singer in the 1970s and early 80s. She was told one day: "You look overweight on television." She instantly went on a crash diet, began to lose weight and eventually became anorexic. Her parents put her in front of a mirror when she was only 85 pounds, but she still thought she was overweight. Shortly afterwards, she passed away, all from a five-word comment.

That is the power of our limbic system. Since each brain is different, some of us are much more vulnerable than others to what might be traumatic events in our lives. However, all of us have irrational quirks and tendencies, some just annoying, others serious and still others severe. These emanate for the most part from our limbic area. As described, one of the functions of our frontal cortex is to control these irrational quirks and tendencies, to make us more human, more civilized.

But if our limbic programs are too strong for the frontal cortex to control, or the frontal cortex itself is weak and has flaws, we may find ourselves doing things that make absolutely no sense, such as Karen Carpenter believing she was still overweight when she looked thin as a rail.

The five limbic programs we've identified actually originate from the primatologists, the academics who study the higher animals such as the chimpanzee. The chimpanzee brain is very similar to the human brain, except for the cognitive section, the cerebral cortex, which is relatively much smaller. But the limbic area, including the amygdala, the culprit organ in the brain that can create fears and anxieties...whether there is a real threat or not, is very similar to that of a human and other higher animals.

So in a sense, as we've pointed out, we share five basic limbic programs with them that appear to operate independently....power/status, territorial, sexual, security and attachment. This website offers tests on the strength of three of them, power/status, territorial and sexual. Of the hundreds of thousands who have taken these tests, on a scale of one to ten, most score in the mid-range...four, five and six. If you are a seven or over in any one of them, your views can be clouded and you can be difficult in specific areas of your life. But maybe you already know that.