The captain is looking out over the world from the bridge of his ship. He is proud, confident and skilled in what he does, he has never done another job in his entire life. Surrounded by a vast array of equipment he knows everything that is going on on his ship, he needs no one else. Screens surrounding him inform him of every little detail, reports show up on his desk every morning with a full assessment and the lights and beeps from the panels let him know what needs his expertise and attention. The world outside is familiar to him, the sea his home.
The sound of the massive machine below him has become a monotone droning he is used to by now and manages to ignore most of the time. Only when the sound changes it may receive his interest. His crew knows what it is doing and doesn't need his supervision. At least most of the time it doesn’t, but then again when things go wrong it will show up on his equipment. His position is on the bridge where he is in control of everything, right?
It’s strange to think this captain actually knows everything there is to know, isn’t it? How he never seems to have the need to get the opinion of anyone else?
However most people (us included) have been taught that is how our brain and consciousness works. We are in control of everything we do. Our body is nothing more than a vessel we control from the command center that is our head.
“The body should be treated rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind.” a position held by Seneca, an old Roman philosopher. Many have followed in his footsteps by emphasizing that the body and mind are completely separate, and the body is supposed to be obedient to the will of the mind.
Descartes is one of the most famous that followed this philosophy even further. He is one of the founding fathers of the idea that reason is the only knowledge worthwhile.
All of them advocate (or are explained in such a way) to ignore the “crew” and its opinions. This crew however is what we call the primal being inside every single one of us, and today I’ll do my best to introduce them to you, or at least make a start, the crew is huge after all. And maybe more importantly I will try to convince you about the value of listening to them.
So let’s dive into the thick of it and start at the beginning: What is the primal being?
The primal being is the combination of everything that happens inside us without our conscious choice. It represents our deeply rooted innate, instinctual, biological and emotional needs, behaviours and responses. It goes by many names depending on where you encounter it: An inner voice, habits, your subconscious, body language, self speech, your personality, even muscle memory is part of it, and of course many many more.
As you can imagine when you start zooming in on all the “different” things these names mean, and start picking them apart, many overlap and/or share roots in the exact same parts of our 'being'.
Those are the parts that came into existence and helped our survival during our earliest history. The parts we share with many beasts and most of us tend to call the savage part of human nature. Our most 'primal' instincts if you will.
With simplicity in mind and to stay as far away as possible from confusing nuances we decided to simply group everything under one new name: your primal being.
So again for simplicity's sake, let’s stick to the ship-analogy for a moment. Now it’s time for me to introduce you to some of the key “members” of the HMS Primal Being.
Your body: We can not not start with the most important part of your crew: the ship itself. Your body is with you every single second of your life, it takes the blows of the outside world and keeps you alive to the best of its ability. It transports you, keeps the organs running, heals itself and gathers an unfathomable amount of information from your surroundings. All so the rest of the crew can do their job.
Your basic needs: You can see this as the measuring devices checking on the functioning of the ship. Some things are simply biologically and evolutionary ingrained into our very nature. We all need sleep, food, water, safety, connection, stimulation of the senses and expression of emotions. When we don’t or can’t satisfy these needs we will go crazy and in many cases even die, from some of course more directly and/or swiftly than others.
Your instincts: Now the crew becomes involved and starts acting upon the signs they are getting. Most of your instincts are closely related to how we respond to our basic needs. Feeling the urge to rest when we get tired, not wanting to go into a dark alley because it doesn’t feel safe or looking around for food when we get hungry. Most of these responses happen without any conscious choice and are really hard to suppress.
Your habits: Consider this the training your crew has gone through. Some of it good, some of it definitely not. They know how to respond to certain situations without any input from the captain and will not ask for involvement unless something new and unexpected happens. Your habits are responsible for almost half of your daily activity and in most cases you don’t even notice them taking over. Depending on the habits that have formed that can be a good or a bad thing.
Your authentic self: We can’t ignore the moral and sense of identity when looking at the entire ship. When led with an iron fist, negativity or ignored, nothing will function as it should. However when we handle it with love, respect and understanding a ship will feel like a lifelong friend. By paying attention to what is happening aboard the HMS Primal Being, we can truly reach living life as our most authentic self.
In a world where we all have been taught that our body is little more than a vessel that has to be controlled, it is extremely hard to take care of ourselves. That reality however shouldn’t stop us from trying to make the change. We can’t ignore all the signals our primal being is giving us and hope to be healthy and happy.
No longer should we treat the body rigorously to make it obey the mind. We don’t want to be tyrants to ourselves, do we?
There is no better time than the present to change our worldview, change the way we interact with ourselves and start on the path to a better way to work with our crew instead of against it.