Our mind is conscious to us, but conscience is largely unconscious to us, like insight or intuition. Knowing how our brain works can connect them.
Neuroscience calls our brain "triune," indicating it is three parts. Stimuli first enter our spinal cord, often called our reptilian brain, because we share it with all living creatures, beginning with reptiles and birds 500 million years ago.
It sends its impulses into our limbic system to express our emotions and feelings, which relays them to our cerebral cortex to do our thinking and make our decisions.
This order -- reptilian to limbic to cortex -- is how we react to stimuli. However, in a panic situation -- like reacting to a threat -- we may react reptilian without feeling or thinking.
Like other creatures, our reptilian brain is primarily concerned with survival -- flight or fight -- with behaviors centered on aggression, dominance, territoriality and self-indulgence.
Humans existing today were born 200,000 years ago to a female scientists call "Lucy" -- every human on earth today is related to her.
The key to our phenomenal growth has been our realization we needed each other to survive. This moved us beyond the reptilian survival of the fittest instinct, to a group survival instinct. This kind of concern strongly embraced reproduction and parental behavior -- why there are 6 billion of us today and growing.
Our reptilian brain impulses were more civilized by a limbic system of emotions and feelings because of our group concerns. In time, our cerebral cortex became capable of abstract thinking and problem solving.
Survival largely transformed into quality of life, with groups changing into civilizations with more civilized men and women, seeking to better the world for themselves and others.
Interestingly, while all other primates live in warm tropic zones today, we humans pushed north into hardship where we since formed almost all our 27 civilizations, confirming the adage that we humans thrive on adversity, but flounder in prosperity.
However, we humans still have to contend with a triune brain with primitive impulses. So how well do we recognize those reptilian moments in our lives when we become aggressive, territorial, seek dominance by bullying, or perhaps get lost in pleasure?
These impulses belong to "self-regarding" emotions of our likes and dislikes, desires and fears that define our ego-self. Such negative self-regarding emotions undermine our best and the best in others.
The incredible accomplishments of humans help us appreciate the wisdom of human concern and our ability to help each other. Humans were able to reach beyond themselves to discover the immense power and inspiration of synergy, truth, beauty, excellence, noble deeds, respect for individual persons, love, destiny.
These self-transcending emotions define our "higher-self."
The struggle to make sure self-transcending emotions of our higher self ultimately lead self-regarding emotions of our ego-self enables each of us to truly conquer our primitive impulses and become what it means to be fully human.
Over centuries of accomplishment, we have developed a deep wisdom of right and wrong and what is worthwhile. The golden rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you serves as an example.
That wisdom lies deep within us, passed down by generations. As our self-transcending emotions lead our self-regarding emotions, our reptilian impulses do not interfere and we enable our deeper wisdom to speak to us and guide our lives.
That wisdom is our conscience. Even more, our own ancestors pass down family wisdom to personally guide our lives. So conscience can serve us like a GPS in a car that knows the best path to our ultimate fulfillment in life and destiny.
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste. Learn more