Monday, June 18, 2012

I give a shit! -- Scatalogical Marking and the Enteric Brain

“The world is not a problem; the problem is your unawareness”
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

I trust and hope that you find today's blog post fascinating, edifying and entertaining in equal measure :-) and I also hope you aren't easily offended by swearing or scatalogical language, as it's going to form the basis for what we are exploring here today...

Scatalogical Marking

In ethology (the study of animal behavior), scatalogical marking is the act that animals undertake to mark out or define their physical or spatial boundaries -- the space they consider to be 'theirs', that they own. To do this they 'scat' around their boundary by depositing their shit or by urinating. This marks out their territory and sends a clear olfactory message to other animals or rivals of their own species.

In mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) terms, scatalogical marking is an obvious manifestation of the prime functions of the gut brain. The gut (or enteric) brain is deeply involved in protection, threat monitoring and control, in spatial motility and in maintaining core self. In a sense, the spatial territory that an animal controls is like an extended part of itself and is crucial to both its foraging/food control and its threat/safety control. So the gut brain naturally uses the parts of the anatomy it controls (the bowels and bladder) to deposit strong messages about its domain. Notice also that the gut brain is strongly linked to the senses of taste and smell, so it's part of the language of the gut brain to speak and communicate with strongly smelling substances, and all animals (including humans) are attuned to this. [BTW, if you haven't already, grab a copy of my new book 'mBraining - Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff', and you'll learn all about the prime functions and core competencies of the head, heart and gut brains and how they communicate and how you can align and integrate them for wisdom and success.]

Who gives a shit?

Now this is all very interesting, but really, who gives a shit? (so to speak) -- What has this got to do with you and with enhancing your life???

Well, as we evolved higher functions and more complex brains, our gut brain not only became responsible for physical territory maintenance, it was also co-opted for 'semantic' territory maintenace. With our complex head brains and advanced language centers and frontal lobes, we have evolved to be semantic and meaning binding creatures. We live and create our lives and sense of self through the processes of abstraction, symbol manipulation and linguistic meaning. We construct our complex world views through language, beliefs, values and the semantics of identity. And all of this forms our 'semantic territory'. So guess what... when someone transgresses your semantic boundaries, when they 'shit' all over your values or beliefs, when they act like 'turds' or 'assholes' and threaten the meaning you are making in your life, it typically 'pisses' you off and gives you the 'shits'. Indeed, if they piss you off enough, you are likely to haul off and beat the 'shit' out of them, either physically, emotionally or intellectually.

Now isn't that fascinating. Our common parlance reflects the scatalogical marking we do within our semantic territory. And this is a direct example of cognitive linguistics, of how the metaphors we use in our every day language are deeply embodied and reflect our underlying unconscious processes.

The reason I share this with you is to begin to attune your mind and ears to mBIT Predicate Tracking -- to noticing and listening for words that indicate heart, gut or head processing and the prime functions of each of those neural networks. Knowing which brain is functioning within any element of human behavior puts you at choice and control for leveraging generative change. And that is certainly life enhancing!

I give a shit!

Courtesy of my good friend and colleague, exquisite cartoonist, corporate speaker and organizational leadership guru, Colin James, I'd like to share the following cartoon that Colin drew for this blog post.

It highlights the idea that each of us has things that we give a shit about, and that we metaphorically mark our semantic boundaries with respect to. And based on this idea, here's a little exercise that I'd like you to play with...

So I'd like you to take a moment, and think about something that you 'really don't give a shit about', something that you could care less about, that really doesn't affect you in any meaningful way. For me its football and other organized sports. I really don't give a shit about them at all. If football was outlawed tomorrow, I wouldn't lose a jot of sleep over it. Wouldn't care less. It's neither a value for me, nor part of my identity. Once you've thought of something you don't give a shit about, I'd like you to get a sense of how that feels within your body, what your visceral experience of it is, in your heart, chest, gut, torso etc.

Now moving on with the exercise... I'd like you to think of something you value, something that's important to you, you care about, but is not part of your identity. In other words, something that you like, but if you weren't able to get it anymore, or if you lost it, then it wouldn't particularly rain on your parade. For me its my drive day car. I like it, I value it, but you know, if something happened to it and I had to replace it, I wouldn't be bothered. A car is a car. No probs. So take a moment, reflect and come up with something you value but that isn't vitally important to you. Once you've done that, notice your felt sense around it. Where do you feel and represent this within your body? For most people, it will be in your heart region. Notice this.

Now, think about and focus on something you really give a shit about, something that is vital to your sense of self. Something that defines you. For me, an example would be my motorbike. As I've written about in this blog, I believe motorbikes are Life Enhancing Devices (LEDs). So for me, my bike is like an extension of my self. I love it. It's linked to my core values. So think of your equivalent, and as you bring it fully to consciousness, notice where in your body you feel and represent the meaning of this. For most people this will be felt viscerally in the gut. You may also feel some heart response due to the values and desire for this person/place/thing/process. But the core feeling will be in the gut.

When you experience something as core to self, the gut kicks in. Your enteric brain has a prime function around core selfing and protection of core self. The ability to notice this and become mindful and aware of where and how you are representing things is key to being able to shift and control your life. I'll speak more about this in upcoming blog posts, and of course, the mBraining book teaches you cool techniques for powerfully utilizing this. But for now I really wanted to bring to your attention the notion that semantics and meaning are embodied and that various functions and aspects of these are processed preferentially and differently in each of your brains.

You can begin now to notice over the coming days, where in your body you are feeling and processing each experience and work out whether you are representing something as core self or just as a value. Notice what figuratively (and sometimes literally) gives you the shits, pisses you off or impacts you viscerally. Notice what stinks in your life (so to speak) or conversely smells sweet. And start listening for scatalogical marking in the conversations around you and in your own internal dialog. Mindfulness is life enhancing, as is choice and control. And control starts with awareness!
“Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.”
Stephen R. Covey

with life enhancing appreciation and smiles,

1 comment:

  1. Most excellent ruminating here Grant. At first I was shocked and aghast at your title of "giving a shit" I thought could you really be that serious... swearing like that in open public on your blog and all... shock horror.... But I soon realized, that as usual you have a great twist in your presentation of the topic at hand, or at foot as if you might actually step in it. Being viscerally aware of what your stepping into and stepping out of by choice is very empowering indeed. Cheers to you again M8... Glenn.S


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