Modern Times · Our Subconscious

Letting The Lizard Drive.

The Lizard Looks After The Details Whilst You Enjoy Driving.

The Sub-Conscious, Part 3.

A little further than Regensburg, towards Austria.

You’re driving your car. You see the sign for Regensburg and know there aren’t any speed limits on this stretch of the A3. You think “yahoo!” and your car shoots down the road. Just like that. You didn’t even notice the movement of your foot.

You don’t think “I need to press this pedal with my right foot to adjust the valve that allows more fuel into the injectors that makes the engine pull more power now that I’m on the Autobahn”.

All that happens is that you think and it moves.

The “it” in this case being your back sinking into the leatherwork of a Mercedes 550. A fifty something frump I may be, I have driven down the A3 at 260km/h in a Mercedes 550. I know what it feels like to want to go faster and not take any notice what my feet are up to. Or take any notice of the petrol consumption. It wasn’t my car and he was paying for the fuel. And he wanted to get to Budapest.

The Unexpected

From another perspective, Brian’s rather slower Fiat Panda has just had a cruise control fitted. Fine by me, it’s his car and his money. Only when trying it for the first extended period on the busy motorway towards Hamburg, I noticed that as I turned off into the service area, my left foot didn’t know where to go. There was this sort of fuzzy empty space where the clutch should have been! So I had to start thinking about what was down there in the car’s pedal department. Consciously imagining three pedals allowed my foot to get the right idea and I was able to park safely. It was a bit bumpy though.

When you’re driving, you want to get somewhere. Your vehicle’s just that – a vehicle. It becomes a strange extension of your body because in using the thing, you’re unconscious of using it. That’s to say, you’re conscious of going somewhere, you aren’t conscious of all the details. A good example’s when Brian arrived at his place of work one dark winter’s morning only to realize that he couldn’t remember one single thing about having driven there. Not the tiniest memory – he’d driven through traffic lights quite safely, maintained a sensible speed. All of it unconsciously. Or at least at its threshold.

What was going on?

The point of telling you these things is to realize just how much work the brain does for you without you needing to deal with the dirty details. The issues are profoundly subtle, and for most irrelevant. That they shouldn’t be is neither here nor there, that’s modern life. Because the things you do often and repeatedly become prey to the lower brain. That’s being a little unkind to the lower brain, it’s only doing what its designed to do, after all. Only the very real danger is that your brain’s incredible ability to re-program itself means that the lower brain will take on any oft-repeated actions and nestle them neatly into the realms you aren’t conscious of.

Better put, don’t need to be aware of.

Your Unique Cocktail Of Habits

Do something too often and your lizard brain engulfs it. We all remember learning to drive, how difficult it was to find the gear stick. Windscreen wipers running double pace instead of the indicator to turn left. Crunched gears and stalled cars. Angry motorists in your rear-view mirror blaring horns.

Like the skilled truck driver, swinging his trailer to the back door of the warehouse with a grace that’s difficult to find words for. Were you handed a large lorry to drive, there are things you’ll find amazing. Firstly you’re faced with the sheer bulk of the vehicle. After all, you literally have to climb up the side of it just to get into the thing! What’s more, behind you there’s really rather a lot of it. That’s intimidating enough in its own right.

Secondly since it’s all hydraulic, which means it’s incredibly easy to steer. Even the clutch is hydraulic. No more double-de-clutching – changing gear’s as easy as in a Fiat Panda. Actually easier. Only you do need to know which of the 18 forward gears you’re going to use! All of which means you’ll need to have some degree of confidence in dealing with how responsive a vehicle it actually is. Before that point, you’ll have to think about each and every move you make.

Turning into traffic with a 40 foot semi-trailer is no joke. Not only do you have to judge the kerb, your turning circle, the gates you’re passing through. There’s the oncoming traffic that you’ll get in the way of. There’s rather more vehicle behind you than when you’re driving a Fiat Panda. It also weighs getting on for a hundred times as much and has ten times the power – and half the acceleration.

Only after just a few months, these things have become habits. Your lizard brain has swallowed up the intellectual details and you’re spinning semi-trailers on dimes with the rest of them.

What Do You Need To Think About?

The human body is a most remarkable tool. I use that word carefully in the context of this thought. Because one of the most important things the Lizard does is take away the things you don’t need to be thinking about. Your brain allows you to deal with the things in your life that are salient. The things that matter. The things that don’t happen very often. Actually, the very things that make your life pleasurable. Worth living. That’s the gift of your Lizard brain!

So think of your lizard brain as something of a maid-of-all-work. Something to be made use of. The Lizard’s there to help you get on with the important things in your life. Like tearing down the A3 Autobahn whilst reaching for that coke bottle you left on the back seat.

The Subconscious: Links To Other Parts In This Series.

Part 1 Why Some Africans Can’t Count Beyond Three.
Part 2 Doctor Jazz, Düsseldorf.
Part 3 Letting The Lizard Drive!
Part 4 The Lizard Brain Meets Its Match: Brian’s Fiat Panda.
Part 5 Snow White And The Railways.
Part 6 Enemies In The Boardroom.
Part 7 The Clock Ticks: The Unconscious Threshold.    (Published on my private blog)
Part 8 Milena Sees Witchcraft Everywhere.
Part 9 Frustration!
Part 10 What’s On Mina’s Mind Today?
Part 11 A First Peek At Autism.
Part 12 A Railway Waggon At The Roots Of Dementia?
Part 13 What’s It Like In There? Life With Dementia… (Published privately)
Part 14 The Evidence For Dementia.
Part 15 The Trouble With Alzheimer’s.
Part 16 The Man On Platform Two.


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