The Old Brain and the New BrainUnconscious body language originates in the oldest part of the brain called the limbic system. The limbic system is primarily responsible for our emotional life and has a lot to do with regulating hunger, thirst, aggressive behavior, and sexual needs. (For some people, sex is highest on the list!)
The parts of the brain shown in red make up the limbic system. It is deep within the brain and is highly interconnected with the outer layer. That means it is highly influential on the "new brain" areas and our everyday behaviors, including body language.
This limbic system part of the brain is referred to as the "old brain" since it formed eons ago in our ancestors as they figured out how to survive and find a mate. These deep layers appear to be the brain's pleasure center, which plays a role in our need for pleasure and sexual arousal. (You are going to be amazed at how much body language is about sex!)
We still have some ancient animal behaviors and needs stored in our "old brain". Fortunately our training and experience stored in the "new brain" areas normally keeps these animal behaviors under control. However, those ancient animal desires often still show up in our body language today! Much of our unconscious body language display often reveals we are seeking pleasure and sexual arousal. We truly unknowingly advertise our desires in our body language!
Later in our evolutionary development the human brain added more layers on top of the old brain for processing higher level thought processes like language, creativity and reasoning.
This "new brain" is called the cerebral cortex and at the right it is indicated in green. The cerebral cortex receives and processes the sensory information from the many different sensory organs such as the eyes, ears, taste buds, nose and touch sensors. Here is where we learn how to function in our modern world as kind, caring, socialized citizens in our particular culture. (However, sometimes the controlling part goes to sleep with alcohol and in some people their "old brain" goes wild.)
We Use Both Our Old and New Brain
It is important to understand that we operate from both the old and new brain at the same time. For example, a healthy young man may be using his new brain for selecting the correct fork to eat his salad at a dinner table while at the same time his old brain is primarily interested in surviving and getting some sex.
As he eats his salad and talks politely with others, his old brain is constantly on the lookout for any woman who might be open to doing a "quickie" so he can spread his genes to more offspring. It is his new brain with its powerful ability to control his conscious behavior that keeps him operating somewhat normal and not approaching the hostess for sex - at least not right now.
However, his sexual interest in the hostess will show up unconsciously in his body language. For example, his eyes will not miss a centimeter of her soft bare skin down her collar when she leans over to serve him. His every move will be unconsciously affected by his old brain limbic system trying to signal her that he desires her and is waiting for her to respond. When he sits, he will sit in the open-leg position displaying his "goodies" in her direction. His arms will be wide open and in her direction much of the time. He will watch her every move with great pleasure watching for a positive body language reply to his own body language. And this is all done unconsciously!
The fascinating and wonderful part of this scene is that her body language may be unconsciously responding to his body language with affirmative responses to his every move - if not for a real encounter, at least for the fun of seeing how much she is desired! It will be no accident when she repeatedly leans over to offer him more to eat and exposes a clear view down her blouse. She is not just being a good hostess interested in feeding him! In the mean time the discussion may drone on about what a wonderful meal it was and how the duck was prepared with orange sauce and etc. That is the socialized new brain talking and doing what it learned to do in this modern world. At the same time the old brain wants to have a "quickie" with her in the kitchen!
Use Your New Brain to Understand Your Old Brain
The point here is that there are conflicting messages we must deal with in this flirting, dating and mating process, especially concerning all the body language happening. It helps to understand that at all times everyone's body language is accurately and honestly reflecting how they are feeling from moment to moment.
If you learn to observe and understand body language you will better understand how others are feeling about you. Hopefully you will greatly improve all your relationships. The goal is to respond consciously with your own most appropriate body language that will facilitate your relationships. You may want to curb your own inappropriate body language and therefore present a much better image. Even if others are not consciously aware of reading body language, their unconscious old brain will still understand your nonverbal cues that you send.
[For a body language analysis of the couple eating above, Click here.]
If you want to really understand people in your daily relationships, study their ongoing body language.
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