Neuroscience and your Three Control Systems to run your life: The more I observe the intricacies of human life the more awed I am at the gift of life. I can speak this more easily than write it but it’s worth the inquiry for you to watch videos and read links to researchers into brain function and social/mental health.
[Updated 11/2014: Includes link to my blog essay on social intelligence — Autonomic Science: Relax, you’re not sitting atop a rocket, and note on similar Internal Family Systems concept.]
As a doctor I enjoy teaching about how to move forward from where you are to an improved state of health. The more you understand the physical body and its importance to your overall existence the easier it is to make choices that support the life you were meant to have. One way that I describe human health is to recognize the Three Control Systems that each person has by which they manage their life. [Note: I generally think of myself as being “one thing”/”one whole”; however, it can help to identify three fairly separate aspects of how the human being functions. This is especially so with the neuroscience contributions of Porges and Eagleman below. You don’t have to accept my Three Control Systems model in order to benefit from my recommendations, but I now can point to the Internal Family Systems model as essentiall the same.]
Your Three Control Systems: These are: 1) your brain and motor nerves; 2) your physical body with its neurotransmitter receptors located in the gastrointestinal tract so that it can make decisions without your conscious brain; and, 3) your autonomic nervous system which acts separately, “in the background” without conscious control, to maintain for the brain and body a safer, more stable base of operations. I will write more, but first is this disclaimer:
Describing the complete “diagram” of a human being has been a task that many have sought to do. I consider it impossible for us to ever fully create a “map” of every aspect of a human being. The graphic to the right is courtesy of the Institute of HeartMath Research Center and used with permission as part of my project on what I call Human Energy Anatomy.
About your Three Control Systems:
When you work with me your integrative medicine program includes more than one step, more than one way of improving your health. I include the Three Control Systems in constructing individual integrative medicine programs.
1. Your brain and motor nerves: Your brain needs to know what is going on, that you are doing things that will help. This is part of what I call Therapeutic Education and I may assign reading and homework such as temperature graphing and Diet Diary.
2. Your physical body: Your body with the gastrointestinal system that contains neurotransmitter receptors can make decisions without your brain having a role in them. The body must have good food, rest and appropriate movement. We may begin with laboratory testing to check for things that are holding back your ability to physically heal (such as gastrointestinal microbial imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, enzyme production polymorphisms, and more).
3. Your Autonomic Nervous System needs to sense that it is being acknowledged and supported. On my teaching site you can read more about the ANS as your Internal Protector, featuring Dr. Stephen Porges’s writings about the ANS, autonomic dysregulation and ways to treat “dysautonomia.” [click here]
Below is a favorite introduction video. However, more details are at the link above.
Addendum, March 3, 2012: You can respect your ANS by listening to its calls for your attention such as when you feel cold or hot, thirsty, needing to go to the bathroom and other sometimes subtle signs that it may soon become overwhelmed. The more that your ANS can trust you, the more relaxed and dynamic your health will be, mentally and physically. This is a major reason why I include recommendations for people to learn FlexAware®. FlexAware neuro-rehabilitation and fitness introduction.
A lot more could be said about this way of looking at this life that we have. [Addition: My description of your inner Healing Power of Nature: Your Vis medicatrix naturae.]
In closing here is a note about the “Stage” upon which we live our lives: [Addition: This is the what is called “The Self” in the Internal Family Systems approach.]
“Outside the Box”: I am convinced that there is a consciousness that is outside of these Three Control Systems, which is the You that can influence those three. This “real you” has been the subject of conjecture by philosophers and religious scholars. I classify it as being a more elemental observer and subtle influencer of the three control systems. It does not experience fear and anxiety and is always available to help the three discover successful courses of action. I consider each of those three to be perfect in its conducting its activities in accord with what it knows. I do not blame them for not being given the information or the raw materials for healthy living; that is the purpose for my teachings and my resource networking and for the work of all others in society who are dedicated to helping people experience life more fully.
Addendum: Below is a graphic that I compiled that illustrates your Three Control Systems. This shows that the three (brain; body; autonomic nervous system) are held within the greater context of “the real You” — represented by the circular purple container. This greater context is my representation of what has been called the creative aspect of each human. This might be the same as the Vis medicatrix naturae. This might also be what some homeopathic scholars say was described by Hahnemann as the Dynamis, in particular the creative Generative aspect of that Dynamis that animates the minerals and chemicals of our body into a living being. Some religions have described “the breath of God”, or “the spark of life” that makes a human come to life. Bruce Lipton, The Institute of Noetic Sciences and The Living Matrix Movie all speak of something that animates us that is different than our physical brain and the neurochemical impulses of the nervous system. I respect each person’s religion, philosophy, or stance of no belief. This greater context is what I respectfully propose that you consider as the most important aspect of who you are. This makes it easier for me to design treatment programs because we can consider ways to support each of those three control systems. I plan to write a separate blog entry in the future about designing what I have called Your Health Menu. Here is the illustration:
Addendum March 25, 2012: Yesterday I listened to Daniel Siegel, M.D., psychotherapist, speak about the Mind as being separate from the body. His model of scientific and experiential study of health has definitely got my attention. He has compiled much research and shows how important is the Social Engagement System or Relationships (see my blog on Neuroscience and Relationships) in the development of a healthy brain and social skills. I do recommend his writing: Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology (2012), and The Developing Mind, Second Edition (2012) — DrDanSiegel.com.
Addendum: David Eagleman, Ph.D., neuroscientist, has done brilliant work to describe the way that a person may perceive that there are more than one part to themselves. There are two brilliant interviews linked from my information site that show how a person can begin to understand this aspect of human complexity. Of note, I enjoyed his scientific openness when in the NPR interview he stated that he can’t actually rule out the possibility of a Creation event and thus his work is written to be respectful of people of faith.
Each of the Three Control Systems — as well as the consciousness that is You — are all worthy of the Welcome that is a key to being part of the human family (see Family Constellations). You deserve to be here and to live a full, rich life. This is the driving intent behind the services offered online (Tele-Health) and in person (at the Washington Institute of Natural Medicine), where I join the others in creating a supportive environment for deep healing.
Addendum February 2013: I’ve been enjoying listening to the Teleconference Archives of a group of psychotherapists who have developed a similar model of an internal three and a greater outer Self that encompasses them. This is the Internal Family Systems approach: Link to Home page of their site. You may enjoy listening to podcast presentations by some of the psychotherapists in their growing network: Link to the description of the development of the IFS approach, and to the Teleference Archives.