There is a saying: “The brain knows before the body shows.” It is an ages-old truism that only recently has been revisited in the study of psychosomatic response. But let’s take a step back…
I think almost everyone has experienced the phenomenon whereby you are reminded of an illness you had a year or more before. For this illustration let’s say it was the flu, and a particularly nasty strain at that. You think to yourself, “Wow, that was a random thought, but that was a terrible week to deal with. So glad I got over it as quickly as I did.” And then, only days later, you come down with the flu again.
The common wisdom has been that a psychosomatic response has taken place. Concern, voiced by the overactive brain, has compromised the system, made you prone to contagions around you, and has caused you to suffer it all again. In essence: blame the brain.
But new thinking in this field has turned that notion on its ear, recasting the brain not as the enemy, but as the ally, albeit the ignored and diminished ally. Here’s how it works. The brain doesn’t capture and store memories so much as it captures impulses, conditions, and pure, non-corrupted data. When we remember, we don’t replay memories like recordings. The brain reconstructs them from captured data. This is why “sense memory” is so powerful. It can feed the reconstructive process through sight, sound, smell, and so forth. When the result is pleasant, we tend to congratulate the thought process.
But there are times when the brain is reacting to stimuli and is kicking sense memory in that we’re not nearly as charitable toward. The gut rumbles in ways that only occur before a major wellness shift. Tonsils swollen ever so slightly, not enough to warn the present mind but certainly enough to flash to the brain, “Hey, we’ve been in this place before. Something’s about to go down.” Allergies flare up, hair coarsens. These are all the near-imperceptible changes that the brain is cataloging, switching on the “uh-oh” signal.
But the present mind – which always will think itself better than the subconscious mind because it is also the seat of the ego – interprets these things merely as, “Oh, remember when I had the flu and puked up my guts? Gosh, I never want to relive that!” We so stupidly reject and recast the warning as a spasm of the anecdotal. Then we get knocked flat days later and, seeking something to blame, say the brain caused it. Ingrates, we are.
Let’s be clear. I’m not making a case for external data as evidence. All evidence is malleable. It is the one major fault in every court system that relies on a jury that when a judge demands that evidence be thrown out or disregarded, the very utterance of the now non-evidence has tainted the jury. You can instruct them to not take that into account, but you can’t make them unhear what they’ve heard. You can’t toss a jury every time you toss away a claim or assertion; the court system simply hasn’t enough time, money, or bodies to throw at such a possibility.
Not necessarily good attorneys but clever attorneys know this. They will employ this tactic knowing the meat of what was presented will get chucked away, but the residue — like any form of grease deposit — clings.
So evidence is manipulated. Data can be thrown to either prove a positive or a negative, and all that really matters is whether you’re a glass-half-full/empty type or how you’re trying to persuade your audience. And this isn’t just the domain of the “devious, crafty eggheads” either. This is equally effective for the mad, incoherent loony who tells you that the only reason why we haven’t been attacked by the aliens by now is because of the proliferation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Clearing the GHGs would put us in harm’s way because we’re now a promising pick, not a tainted fruit.
You want to laugh at the absurdity of the statement but it hinges upon two things that are hard to argue:
- 1) We have a lot of GHGs in the atmosphere.
- 2) We have not been invaded by aliens.
The rest of that pathway goes however we want it to go. We actually build that pathway to make it work however we choose. The brain, the center of the anxiety factory, is shooting off alarms left, right and center. “You’re being coerced by a nutter. Pay attention to what your own biology is telling you.” Your present brain, however, instructs to ignore these…the better to assist what we want to see rather than what we’re seeing. We do it to ourselves.
There is a credible, scientifically-acceptable validity to “gut instinct.” The disconnection we have faced these many years is in thinking that it is the gut speaking. It’s actually the brain, trained instinctually for thousands of years to recognize the minuscule details – the elements of sense memory firing on all cylinders – that should warn us, “We’ve seen this before. We’ve been here before. It ended very, very badly. We need to stay alert.”
Instead, we think, “Wow, that was a random thought, but that was a terrible few years to deal with. So glad we got over it as quickly as we did.”
(Editor: The views and opinions expressed by Mr. Dunphy are solely his. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Popdose, the Popdose staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site. And I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.)