While this has a metaphorical approach to some extent, it is perhaps the most accurate and easy to understand way of looking at the brain. And, I think, it makes the point clearly on how to use your brain!
I use the term "organization" because the brain is organized with various functions to get an overall "profit" (called happiness and effectiveness), just like a corporation. Corporations run better with a Chief Executive Officer (a "CEO") to oversee and direct things.
Read the following two charts starting at the bottom, level 1, and then go up.
SIMPLE, THREE CUT VIEW
Level Function and Nickname
100 Executive (CEO, manager) - Thinks, reasons, decides, best interpreter,
plans, integrates, puts things together into meaningful wholes. See CEO box
10 Monkey mind - Simple thinking, often incorrect but moves things along
1 Lizard Brain - Automatic, built in reaction system
TOTAL VIEW OF THE ORGANIZATION
Level Function and Nickname
100 CEO, manager. Thinking, reasoning, deciding, best interpreter
20 Special Assistants to help manager do the most important
Nonsense screener - In right pre-frontal cortex, sifts out inappropriate
messages; developed through training AND through meditation
Homeland security - Screens for danger, overdoing it sometimes; gets
signal from amygdala, the alarm center
15 The Learner - Learning, making sense of things - Devises rules (if x, then y)
which are called "beliefs" - often approximate, not complete, has to be
checked on; produces beliefs + knowledge (and mixes them up)
10 Sensing Computer, inteprets, primitive - Interprets emotions, friendliness,
etc., a first warning system, often incorrect but always operating,
manager must look at significant signals.
2 Signaling computer - Chemicals and electrical signals sent out to cause action;
1 Brainless computer - Built in hardware, if x occurs, then do y; Part of
"instinct" along with Sensing Computer
WHAT POINTS TO CARRY AWAY FROM THIS
Our primitive functions are excellent support for the working of our body and systems (the brain is part of our body). We are also blessed with sensing, instinct, primitive deciding modules, which help us where things are simple - but they are often inaccurate in their interpretations, given their primitive simplicity, and need some higher level monitoring at times.
Our "monkey" mind is capable, basically, of doing the higher thinking animal functions. It mechanically interprets what is going on "out there" and then uses and develops some primitive strategies to save our lives. It is said to be committed almost 100% to survival and repeating what has worked for survival. Many of its decisions and modes of operation are incorrect or only partially functional.
The highest level monitor, the Executive function of the brain, pays attention only to significant signals in normal operation. It must have time where it can retreat to look more deeply for more subtle signals. Paying attention to signals is called "mindfulness", and is part of the "awareness" function - to manage we've got to know what is going on, just like in any organization! This is less tangible than in a business, so people make it "mysterious" and put it in with religious or philosophical disciplines - nevertheless, it is a legitimate thing to learn to improve on, so you'll be able to monitor what is happening [look at the "reports"] and to decide what to do.
The Executive is actually the "You" that you experience. It is what is called "the witness" or "the observer". Unless one learns more, one will often think that the emotions, physical characteristics, acquired beliefs, and even the computer are the "You" - but they are only the support mechanisms and the knowledge and ways of behaving that we have acquired.
Developing AND using the Executive is the key to living a good life. It can use The Learner to develop more operating knowledge, just as a leader would do in any organization. As it becomes more knowledgeable, it makes better decisions and gives better order. It is the top, best screener of the nonsense that the less sophisticated parts of the brain fail to screen out.
Using the Executive to look at what needs to be done and how to do it is the most effective way to create happiness and effectiveness in one's life. Using the Executive to make decisions on an ongoing basis and for deciding what principles should be used and for deciding "what works" to produce the desired results. It also prioritizes things, so we don't waste our time getting 2 units of benefit when we could get 50 units of benefit.
Initially, it is the job of the Executive to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, deciding what ongoing events are less important and worth less time so that the "highly effective time" learning is used instead. Its initial job, once it is capable, is to decide what "rules" make sense and which ones don't. Rules are what we often call beliefs. It seeks to get those rules as straight as possible so that we don't waste time and energy doing things that don't benefit us. Many people do not do this completely (some hardly at all) so they end up repeating that which does not work, thus lowering their entire life experience, having it be far less than it could be, year after year after year after year...
Beliefs about how things work, including primitive beliefs that create stories, illusions, and false fears, plus principles and laws of how things work must be sifted through for what actually works. It makes no sense to go through life burdened by a 100 lbs of weight we are carrying, when we could lighten our load plus learning how to walk-run in life.
Many give up, believing that the "subconscious" or the "mind" runs the show. It is easy to make that conclusion, since the chemicals evolved to motivate us are powerful and compelling. That's the good news (it saves our butts when needed) and it's the bad news (it goes off inappropriately, not aligned to our wishes). The Executive must decide best how to motivate the employees so they don't damage each other. Out of balance chemicals create ravenous hunger or rage or lethargy that seems and often is irresistible. The Executive is in charge of keeping the chemical balance within a workable range, so that the powerful monster motivators don't go out of hand. It has to set rules and manage the actions so that that occurs and to put on emergency restraints to stop the out of control portion (to build in signals and rational reminders that divert the primitive strong men from continuing to rampage).
So, after all these words on a page, the point I want you to get is that you must use your Executive (as in the phrase "use your head") to handle non-ordinary situations and to plan and revise all rules that don't work, so that life will work at the highest level. It must combat the conversations of the lower levels to "just let life happen", to ignore signal, to just do what appears next, to be reactive instead of proactive. It must review each belief, make new ones that line up with reality, and then teach the employees and have them learn them (repeat, repeat, repeat, practice, affirm...).
It must do the thinking, studying, analyzing and take over from the "sound bite" shallow mentality that is our natural animal bent. We are not animals and we are creatures who have the unique ability to create and to manifest what we want and what we value. It is in the valuing process that we create the basis for what makes life worthwhile (valuable) and then to implement what is necessary to create that value - and to be fulfilled, happy, satisfied, joyful.
This is what I wish for all of you. And the only way to get it is to "do the work". That is what this whole site is about. "Do the work" and you'll live a life far above that of the ordinary mortal. Will you do that?