The Brain's Control Center


Overview Function Levels Capacity Training Hierarchy


The main function of the brain’s control system is regulating our emotions in a way that fits our identities as individual and groups of related people. The first control skill we really appreciate is the ability to quiet ourselves. People who can’t quiet themselves stay upset too long, tend to “lose it” with others and are overly reactive. The main emotions the control center regulates are: joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and hopeless despair. In the Life Model we refer to these regulation skills as “building joy” and “returning to joy” when we speak of regulating the unpleasant emotions, The control center also regulates our motivation for everything we do.


Four Levels of the Control Center

The right hemisphere of each brain holds an emotional regulation structure called the control center.  This four-level control center tops the command hierarchy of every brain. Identity, who I am, resides at the top (level four) of the control center in an area called the prefrontal cortex. Below who I am, the third level, or cingulate cortex, synchronizes our life rhythms. The lower two levels control our basic evaluations (level two) and our personal reality (level one.) The primary development of the control center is in the first two years of life, depends on proper stimulation of the brain and is primarily non-verbal.


Limited Capacity

The control center keeps the activity of the brain running smoothly as long as the emotions do not become more intense than the capacity of the system can handle. A well-trained control center has lots of capacity. A poorly trained control center has a low capacity so the person is easily overwhelmed or traumatized by emotions a stronger control center would handle comfortably. For an excellent short video presentation on the limits of our control center capacity by Karl Lehman M.D. click here.

The capacity of the brain’s control center is built through experiences of joy in our significant relationships. When we lack capacity or skills we are in need of quality brain training.


Training the Control Center

We are particularly interested in synchronization of our emotional capacity to act like a human being.  This synchronization is developed by right-hemisphere-to-right-hemisphere communication from a trained control center in one person to an untrained control center in another person.  Right-hemisphere-to-right-hemisphere communication requires face-to-face interaction between two people. Right-hemisphere-to-right-hemisphere communication is so fast it completes six cycles of communication every second.  This rapid and authentic communication creates a momentary mutual mind between the two brains. If one brain has a trained control center and the other does not, this right-hemisphere-to-right-hemisphere has very strong training effect on the untrained brain’s control center.


Hierarchical Brain Model

The Life Model uses the hierarchical brain model that is the basis for the THRIVE training. There are several current models of brain function competing for explanatory value. One popular approach is a modular brain model that looks for a location in the brain where each function is accomplished. This model has hard job explaining the interaction of different brain regions. Non-linear models have been introduced to combine the modules in various ways using concepts from electronics like “feedback loops.”  There are biochemical models used for most medication and addiction treatments that have difficulty explaining much of what the brain learns and does.

The Life Model uses a brain model based on three factors: hierarchy, value and synchronization. In our brain model, what happens in the brain depends on:

Believe it or not, this hierarchical brain model actually makes the explanations easier as well as more powerful and useful.