So, how does the story of cogjam begin? With two main characters holding center stage.
First, the antagonist: the gut brain, affectionately known as the inner lizard. He looks innocent enough, hiding there in the shadows. But he’s a formidable foe to any who dare threaten.
Next comes the protagonist: the logical brain, seeking to bring wisdom and practical know-how to the inner lizard’s automatic alarm system. He’s more inclined toward thinking things through than knee-jerk reacting.
Unfortunately, the two of them haven’t been getting along very well these days.
Here’s how Chapter Two describes their relationship situation:
“The prevailing view of today’s strained society is of two extreme positions duking it out, with both trying to claw their way to the top of the food chain. This certainly paints the most tangible picture of what we see and hear. And it’s definitely the arena that stirs up the most cogjam misery.
However I beg to differ in regard to what it is we’re really looking at. I suggest that this conflict we’ve entered into is a reflection of something much deeper and more profound, an allegory of epic proportions. What we experience today is only a bump in a story that has been unfolding for many thousands of years.
This cogjam saga is merely one more skirmish breaking out in an ancient inner battle, one that fired its first rounds when the cerebral cortex became big enough to throw its weight around. Eventually finding ourselves in this spot was inevitable—at least, so say the musings of this Monday morning quarterback.
Both sides are formidable. When it comes to self-protection, the gut brain really knows its stuff. Its star-power benefits species of lesser and greater developmental advancement alike. Biologically speaking it is finely tuned and high functioning. Without it, earthly fauna wouldn’t have proliferated with such diversity and resilience.
On the other hand, this larger cerebral cortex of ours is a relatively new kid on the block. Nonetheless its ability to think its way out of tight spots also helps us flourish, especially for self-defense when physical adeptness is in comparatively limited supply. Without it, our species probably would have gone the way of the dinosaur.
Meanwhile, world order did not sit around and stagnate. Societies morphed in complexity. Social standards and practices snowballed, eventually becoming etched into patterns and principles of how groups satisfy their members’ needs. For our particular species, getting along with the other guy became as great an asset to day-to-day survival as being bigger, stronger, or quick enough to punch out the other guy first.
The human race hasn’t outgrown the need for a stress response, and never will. A certain amount of arousal is critical for both motivation and general effectiveness. But the primacy dedicated to some of that early wiring is beginning to become obsolete. The guy in a spear fight with a neighboring tribe needs a completely different set of survival strategies than does a business owner battling a magnate threatening a hostile takeover. Surviving in a complex social world requires more thinking it through.
All would be well if the two brain functions knew how to play together nicely. But that’s what’s only beginning to get sorted out in the grand history of the evolving brain. More typically, no matter how gently or firmly the gut brain tries to keep cognition from getting in the way, the logical brain becomes all the more insistent, believing it’s the better lobe for the job. As a result, the restricted flexibility of the stress response can become self-defeating.
Thus the real conflict is not one of opposing social attitudes, differing philosophies and worldviews, or cartoonishly polarized political parties. It is the ultimate battle between fear and logic, two yet-evolving brain functions going head to head. What spins around us today is merely the joint echoed cry of each individual’s inner struggle between logic and gut.
We live at an evolutionary crossroads. Something—or perhaps many things—will need to give before the human race either successfully adapts, or watches the inner battle implode.”
And there you have it – the evolution of cogjam, playing in an arena near you. Except, we typically have yet to recognize it as such. Instead, we tend to see only political perspectives busily tearing into one other. We react. They react back. And the beat goes on.
But there is hope: resilience, proving itself stronger and mightier than antagonist and protagonist alike. To be continued . . .