A thought occurred to me on one of my walks when I unclog my thoughts. Humanity, as we experience, is many human heads attached to animals bodies.
By human heads, I mean powerful minds with the most advanced prefrontal cortex. Our brain enjoys the functioning no other animals can claim. Our bodies, on the other hand, are not all that different from other non-human animals.
I should provide some context. As my years of counseling and coaching progress, I bear witness to the up and downs of many human psyche. One of those is mine. The mind is a powerful tool. Once it has acquired symbols for numbers and languages, it can generate an unlimited amount of ideas. Those ideas are the foundation of human achievements as well as suffering. Our prefrontal cortex can imagine the abstract as well as the concrete. That is what sets us apart even from our most advanced mammalian relatives. However, along with the most advanced ideas, we also invented pain. Unlike a leopard or a monkey, we are not only able to feel pain, but we are also aware of the pain in the absence of pain. Our mind has the power to carry us into the past or the future, as well as the realm of fictional possibilities. As a result, we suffer when pain is present in our body AS WELL AS when our mind conjures it up.
The mind is nothing if not a problem-solving machine. It helps solve our troubles at the moment as it happens. That is great. However, it will also try to solve problems that it feels might happen. It could also linger over things that past problems in hopes of doing better in the future. On the surface, these are very qualities our prefrontal cortex has superiority over others. However, when the need to solve problems becomes a compulsion rather than only when it is truly needed, it becomes a root cause of our anxiety and depression, two of the most common mental health afflictions of modern times.
This stems partly from the perceived superiority of our mental capabilities. With the dominance of cognitive education in our society comes the disconnect with our emotional and physical self. Over time, we learned to regard our physical and emotional self as the parasympathetic parts of our bodies—i.e. not in our control. What is more, we also think of them as inferior to our brains. After all, it is not directly responsible for answering algebra or nuclear formulations. However, by neglecting the link between emotional and physical aspects of our body to our cognitive functions, we often lack awareness about how our almighty brain is often serving at the pleasure of our physical and emotional self. At the slight hint of physical or emotional disturbance, the brain goes into overdrive to find ways to alleviate our discomfort. That in itself is not bad. However, without truly understanding the root of those pain, the mind can fall into a rabbit hole of blaming the wrong people, criticizing the wrong things, or making elaborate but useless plans. For example, when the heart feels pain, the mind immediately tries to look for ways to chase it away. In its problem-solving mode, it judges quickly that pain is bad and it does not want to bear with it. Since our body is a mysterious thing, we do not often know right away what is the true origin of the trouble. Even with all modern medical technology or plenty of education, usually, we only might know with hindsight, even then it is often not an objective view. We ultimately live in the center of our own universe, uninformed about all the circumstances around us that would be required of an objective view. Armed with limited information, the more quickly the mind goes to work the more effectively it drives us into conflicts with others, or negative moods if we blame ourselves. The mind feels the necessity to find the root of the trouble so it can begin to remediate the situation by correcting the trouble spot somehow.
This is where the “centaur” concept comes in. Ultimately our bodies might be feeling a myriad possibility of feelings that can change from time to time due to the multicellular movements either within or without our body. Determining the root of the cause is intellectually addictive for those of us educated to ask why, however, it is rather damaging for the quality of our relationship with others and ourselves. The human mind believes it is powerful so it steps into over-function for our animal body. Most of the time, it does not understand our body, worst of all it does not accept its animal instincts. In its problem-solving zeal, it tries to hold our “moods” to a judgment–what conforms to a standard and what doesn’t. This can justify its control-seeking moves when it perceives the body as “in trouble”. In reality, the moods and feelings are like the tides at the sea, it will come and go with the wind, the come and go of people around us, their moods, the rhythm of our work, or even the cosmic fields. We simply have no control, or the need to “solve” it except in actual life-threatening situations. The obsession with problem-solving was a byproduct of our creativity. Our prefrontal cortex has gotten so good at creating solutions that it imagines it can and should solve all problems immediately. In fact, it is the mind’s need to do so that prolongs, or even at times creates those moods, when we do not have the answer or just not have it quick enough.
Therefore it is my belief that we should recognize and accept that our human minds are implanted on animal bodies. Our mind can reduce a lot of its own affliction if it can stop over-function for the body. Like a parent who thinks he knows better, the body can get in the way of the body’s own healing process. Our bodies will always have different levels or kinds of energy that they must process in their own time. We must accept that the body at times will have pain, suffering, and inexplicable low moods despite our best effort to have the best diet or the most uplifting activities. The mind cannot control the constant shift and collaboration of the cells within us just as the body cannot control the mind. These two transplanted parts must learn to live with each other, much like partners in a marriage: respecting that each has their own lives, set boundaries, communicate so that they can align well on tasks they must collaborate on a daily basis.
Centaur is a beautiful creature. We are beautiful. We also have to see ourselves for what we are: a unique combination of the ancient fight and flight sensor-motor dominated body and problem-solving addicted mind. Our mind must respect the fact that its flesh host is less cognitively and verbally enabled but emotionally and physically their own being.