• Troy Springer

Monkey Brain & Masculinity

Recently I have tried to become more in-tune with my inner conscious, spirit, soul, whatever you want to call it. I have wished to understand my own emotions and feeling, where they come from and how I can better temper them. Regardless of if we specifically acknowledge it, our emotions shape almost every second of our lives. Are we feeling, happy, sad, angry, jealous, anxious? -- Its the monkey brain.

Naval Ravikant and Seth Godin, two of business's most brilliant minds describe our brain as having an unconscious internal processor that responds to everyday situations. The "Monkey Mind" as Ravikant calls it, "is always frightened and anxious but serves an incredible purpose." Seth Godin referred to it as the "Lizard Brain," because Lizards don't think, they react, just as this part of your brain isn't connected to your thoughts, it just reacts.

It is hard to think away anxiety, depression or any sort of feeling because it is controlled by the monkey brain. Humans have been trying to control or temper out emotions since existence. We are the only beings that can actually have thoughts about our own thoughts. And we hate it. It sends us into those depressive states. We invented things like alcohol and drugs to free ourselves of the Monkey Brain. The idea of meditation is really just trying to escape the constant stream of thoughts our monkey brain populates.

This realization that we much more primitive and are in less control of ourselves than we realize is rather enlightening. It is important to be conscious of our unconscious and learn how to control it the best we can. Ravikant believes, that controlling our monkey brain and living in a more present state IS happiness. And Siddhartha Gautama would agree.

When I sat down to write this, I wanted this post to be about how men temper their testosterone masculine fueled emotions. Right now I a feeling particularly "testosteroned up;" I really don't know how else to describe it. Maybe other men can relate but it is that feeling where you can feel the energy flowing through your veins. You are confident, and you feel like you could go to the gym and rock through a heavy workout. I wanted to write this while I was in touch with that side, and reflect on a certain experience.

To people that know me personally it is pretty well known that I am a critic of Greek Life and the social culture at my university. I realize more so now that It has to do with my own identity of myself.

I had a very clear identity in high school as an Athlete. I came to the University of Richmond as a preferred walk-on Football player, which was still a pretty big deal at my high school. What I lacked in natural ability I had always made in up hard work. After dislocating my shoulder upwards of twenty times and getting surgery on my shoulder. I devolved into a pretty crappy football player where I was always protecting my shoulder. I hated how weak it made me feel. When I tore it again after surgery, I knew my shoulder, and I could not withstand Football at the Divison 1 level.

As a normal student, (or NARP) I failed to see the virtue in fitting into the dominant social culture, which is, in all respects Greek Life, for the average student coming from middle to upper-class American society. I had prided myself on the hard work and dedication that was apparent of sports and always thought that the more human needs like love, attention, and respect would be born out of that.

When I was playing IM football my junior year I had just finished a game (that I played with a group of freshman who I oversaw as an RA) and was watching two of the fraternities play. One player was running a route and had the ball thrown at him when the defender clearly interfered and knocked him to the ground hard. The defender who was in what was considered to be the "coolest" fraternity on campus stood over him and said "This is why we fuck and you don't."

If I had ears like a dog, they would have stood up. I felt the blood rush through my veins like Goku becoming Super Saiyan. My monkey brain was kicking in. My protectionist instincts were kicking in. The defender had just violated the unsaid rules of human society. He clearly claimed dominance and implied he deserved women for it.

As humans, we are evolved enough to know, despite our history of persecuting women that, you DO NOT deserve women or sex.We don't beat out chest to show dominance anymore... although I might be guilty of that on occasion.

The person saying this was a wiry kid of only about 160 pounds. And my monkey brain said, "beat his ass." I, of course, didn't. The refs didn't even call a foul, probably because they were afraid of going against the "dominate" social institution.

I then realized how primitive parts of our society are. This wiry 160-pound dude hidden in his monkey brain actually thought that by being in a certain fraternity that he should be afforded, essentially more sex. Sex is a primitive desire in itself, but it motivates all of us whether we admit it or not. These fraternities are just wolfpacks all hunting of a piece of the pie. The pie is all the hidden desires we don't expressly talk about, sex, fear, approbation, money, heck even Instagram followers.

It manifests in every aspect of society, and it is pretty ugly. Men use wealth and power to justify mistreatment of women or breaking the law. Testosterone is as powerful as it is toxic.

I realize my rejection of the dominant social culture has made me into a bit of a lone wolf. Not because I don't want to be social, but because I am staking my own claim. While the wolfpacks quarrel with each other for the top spot, the Alpha spot. My monkey brain is telling me that I am "Alpha," despite not getting that reaffirmation from other males.

This "alpha" business is what is responsible for a lot of bad in this world. Wars between tribes, city-states, nations. We humans, like wolves, are social creatures and fly our flag whether it is the stars and stripes or a fraternity seal. Along the way, we do build virtues like a brotherhood and cohesiveness.

We also build institutions that corrupt; institutions that oppress women, minorities, and those who try to take their piece of the pie. I have long thought some aspects of religion were just a ploy to control female sexuality so those in power could hoard sex for themselves. Or when white men came to Africa and saw some members, they felt threatened and invented racism and the slave trade.

It is ugly.

This is why controlling the monkey brain is important. It will lead us to a better future.

I really can't speak for female emotions but women gaining more power in our world is essential for cleaning it up. Sure women have quarrels of their own. But if we balance the ugly traits of both male and female leadership we are bound to reap the benefits of a world less tilted to one extreme or the other.

Things like the "Vagina Monologues" are positively empowering. The idea of taking something that men have tried to control and characterize as sinful or dirty, and using that as a way to channel a movement is brilliant.

Masculinity is a tough concept. But it can be used for good. When I saw (or heard for that matter) something that questioned a fair society I sparked up; not physically, but with words almost a year later. And I'd like to think writing this is a part of me balancing that testosterone flowing through my veins and tempering the monkey brain with a bit of self-realization and control.

P.S I really wanted to title this piece "This is why we fuck, and you don't," but ill keep it more PG as this is already a pretty contentious piece. Lots of can of worms were opened.


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