How To Transcend Your Impulses and Instincts

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 week ago

Dr Demartini explains WHY impulses and instincts are survival not thrival responses originating from your subcortical subconscious mind, and HOW asking the right questions that allow you to become fully conscious can help you master your life.




DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 week ago

Looking inside the human brain

Inside your brain, you have a higher cortical level of function that deals with thriving, and you have lower subcortical area involved in surviving.

  • The thriving area is primarily the prefrontal cortex or forebrain, also referred to as the executive center.
  • The survival center, which is a subcortical level of the brain, in the limbic system and includes the amygdala.

The survival center can also be referred to as systems 1 thinking where your focus is on survival, and where you tend to emotionally react before you think.

Systems 2 thinking, on the other hand, involves the more advanced part of the brain where you are likely to think more rationally before you emotionally act.

You are likely to fluctuate between these two throughout your life. At times, you may be centered and think without reacting.

At other times, you may not be centered and instead be polarized, emotional, and react before you think.

Both systems 1 and systems 2 thinking are needed in life. If you’re under threat and it’s a life and death situation, where you require a quick reaction, then your systems 1 thinking is the preferable brain function for this. It’s there to help you survive like an animal.

However, the majority of the time, your survival is not at stake. While you may experience challenges that you perceive warrant a fight-or-flight response, those challenges are mostly not life-threatening. As such, systems 2 thinking is a wiser option in most circumstances you encounter in life.

I’ll explain more on how to do that a little later in this article.

Looking at human values

You have a set of priorities, a set of values that you live your life by, as does every human being. This set of values is arranged in a hierarchy – things that are most important to least important to you. This hierarchy of values is unique to you, almost like a fingerprint.

  • Whatever you perceive supports your higher values is represented in your mind as PREY.
  • Whatever you perceive challenges your higher values is represented in your mind as PREDATOR.

In other words, everything boils down to support and challenge or prey and predator inside the brain. As such, impulses and instincts are survival responses.

The gut brain and gut instincts

The subcortical area of the brain, which includes the amygdala, has connections through the autonomic nervous system into your gut.

Many individuals will talk about having a gut impulse or instinct, a feeling you get in your gut that you may use to guide you in a certain direction. This gut impulse or instinct is actually an amygdala and enteric brain response that results in a seeking impulse towards something or an avoiding instinct away from something.

As such, it is not a governed response from your executive center, but more likely an ungoverned reaction stemming from systems 1 thinking.

Many individuals tend to confuse gut impulses and instincts with intuition.

When you are in a thrival state, as opposed to survival state, you will tend to feel inspired, grateful, loving, and enthusiastic; certain about where your path is; and present in your life.

You are also more objectively neutralized or balanced in your perceptions - more synthesized and centered.

It is your intuition that has likely led you there.

Your executive center of your prefrontal cortex, as opposed to the desire center of your amygdala, is connected to your heart through hypothalamic and autonomic pathways. In other words, activating your executive center physically affects your heart. The intracardiac network within your heart becomes synchronous and you experience what is referred to as a well-paced ‘open’ heart. 

So, when you balance your perceptions, you ‘open’ the HEART.

However, when you imbalance your perceptions and see positives without negatives or negatives without positives, and enter a more survival mode, you likely feel it in your GUT.

You therefore have the capacity to listen to your amygdala and gut and have survival responses, or listen to your prefrontal cortex and heart and have thrival responses that help you be inspired by your life.

It all centers around your perceptions

If you perceive some individual or event as highly supportive of your values, and you’re conscious of the upsides, advantages, and pleasures and unconscious of the downsides, disadvantages, and pains, you will experience a positive subjectively biased interpretation.

As such, your gut impulse pleasure seeking center is likely to come online, initiated through your parasympathetic nervous system, and you’re likely to want to consume it as if it represented prey.

However, if you perceive something to challenge your values, if you perceive more drawbacks, disadvantages, negatives and pains than benefits, advantages, positives, and pleasures, and you’re more conscious of the downsides and unconscious of the upsides, you will activate your sympathetic fight or flight response. As, such, you will likely have an instinct to avoid it, protect yourself, and close off.

So, impulses tend to result in you opening up and wanting to take it in.

Instincts tend to result in you closing off and wanting to avoid it.

In other words, you become an automaton that reacts to your subjectively biased perceptions of your reality around you.

There is no event or individual in life that has positives without negatives or negatives without positives. All events have a balance of yang and yin. However, very few individuals see it.

If you don’t see the balance, and you rely on your subjectively biased interpretations of reality, you will become impulsive, instinctual and in survival mode as a result.

Survival mode can eventually wear you down

Hans Selye talks about how, if your adrenaline keeps going and keeps going and keeps going, you are more likely to experience adrenal fatigue and adrenal shutdown, and eventually feel like you have no energy.

This impulsive and instinctual state, if it stays is chronic, tends to run down your immune system.

Every time you have a perception that's positive without negative or negative without positive, it's stored in your subconscious mind.

Your subconscious mind takes all your subjectively biased interpretations and stores them as epigenetically coded impulses and instincts that keep you in this primitive kind of response.

As a result, you’ll likely experience anxieties and fantasies, and become emotional and hypersensitive to whatever's going on in your life.

As such, you’ll tend to be externally (extrinsically) driven instead of internally (intrinsically) driven.

To sum up: as long as you have polarized perceptions, you’re highly unlikely to be in command of your life.

The question is, is how do you transcend systems 1 thinking and activate your systems 2 thinking or executive function?

The purpose of the executive function is to dampen the polarities, govern, mediate, and bring those into balance. Your higher brain center is integrative and governs homeostatic mechanisms trying to bring your autonomics, physiology and psychology into balance.

Each symptom in your body functions within a negative feedback system trying to get you back into psychological and physiological balance, but it's often misinterpreted as an illness or disease. As a result, very few individuals fully understand that symptoms are part of your wellness instead of your illness, and are there to guide you back to your authentic self and state of wellness, allostasis or homeostasis.

When you take the time and do the work to balance your perception by asking new sets of questions - for example, what's the downside to the thing you perceive is an upside; and what's the upside of the thing you perceive is a downside – you direct the blood, glucose, and oxygen going into your forebrain.

Not only does your executive center come online as a result, but your heart also tends to ‘open’, and you likely feel inspired, enthusiastic, present, grateful, and certain as a result.

When you're emotionally polarized, you are unlikely to have certainties in life. As a result of this underlying uncertainty, you may tend to offload decision making to other people and become part of the herd on the outside instead of actually being heard from the inside, and not create opportunities to share your message, mission, vision, and inspiration with the world.

The quality of your life is mostly based on the quality of the questions you ask

The most powerful questions you can ask are the ones that bring equanimity to the mind and liberate you from the emotional impulses and instincts of your inner animal brain, the amygdala, and lift you up into your prefrontal cortex or executive center.

In other words, when you ask questions that help balance your perceptions that help you become fully conscious, you liberate yourself from the impulses and instincts that make you live in survival mode.

Irrespective of space and time, anything stored in your subconscious mind is going to continue to run your life until you bring it into full conscious, balance it and liberate it.

Anything you can't say thank you for in life, aren't grateful for in life, don't love in life, aren't enthused about in life, and not present with in life, is likely to run your life until you balance it, appreciate it, and love it.

I've spent the last 50 years of my life studying human behavior and doing whatever I can to help maximize human awareness, potential and help people live extraordinary, inspired and magnificent lives in all areas of life, spiritually, mentally, career, financial, family, social, and physical.

I've delved into every imaginable topic or discipline that can help people empower those areas of their lives, and I am certain that the quality of your life is based on the quality of questions you ask yourself daily.

Let me give you a few examples:

  • Instead of asking: “Why is this happening to me?” it is wiser to ask: “How is what's happening helping me fulfill my mission in life?

One question makes you the victim. One question makes you empowered.

  • Instead of asking: “How can I afford to do something?” it is wise to ask: “How can I get paid handsomely to do what I would love in life?”

The quality of your life's based on those questions. If you ask amazing questions, you’ll likely get an amazing life.

I've set up thousands of questions that I've accumulated over the years and that led me to create the Demartini Method that I teach during my signature 2-day program, the Breakthrough Experience.

The Demartini Method comprises questions you can ask yourself to transform the apparent chaos that you're perceiving when you’re in survival mode, to help get you get back into thrival mode where you can see the order.

There is a hidden order in your chaos, and it's available to you if you ask the right questions.

I designed the questions of the Demartini Method to liberate you from the baggage and bondage that you get trapped in, that weigh you down, and that trigger fight or flight responses, and instincts and impulses.

In that way, you can get on with your life, live intuitively and be inspired, and pursue a mission in life without being distracted by imbalanced perspectives and emotional reactions.

To sum up:

You have 2 levels of brain function, the higher advanced parts of the brain that deal with thriving, and you have lower subcortical areas of the brain that are involved in surviving.

  • The thriving area is primarily the prefrontal cortex or forebrain, also referred to as the executive center.
  • The survival center, which is a subcortical lower level of the brain, is the limbic system and includes the amygdala.

You are likely to fluctuate between these two throughout your life.

When you are doing something low on your values, and have imbalanced perceptions, you often experience survival responses in the form of an impulse towards prey or an instinct away from predator.

These are survival and not thrival responses that can be effective in an emergency when you’re about to be chased by a predator, but not a wise way to live your life if you have a value on mastering your life.

If you would love to live a more balanced, objective, neutral and thoughtful life where you are inspired, energized, present, posed and certain, then it is wise to activate the more advanced part of the brain, the executive center.

As such, you are more likely to have more governed systems 2 thinking where you think before you react, instead of systems 1 thinking where you react before you think.

A powerful tool is to ask quality questions to help bring your perceptions into balance. Questions such as those I have used in the Demartini Method that I teach in the Breakthrough Experience, that can help you neutralize and transform polarized emotional feelings into integrated feelings of presence, certainty, gratitude and love.


Not sure what's the best way to get started? 

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If you’d love to learn how to put the principles covered in this blog into action, join me at my 2-day seminar, the Breakthrough Experience, where I’ll introduce you to a powerful self-development process called the Demartini Method.

The Demartini Method is a breakthrough discovery and cutting-edge individual transformation methodology that results in a new perspective and paradigm in thinking and feeling.

It is the key methodology incorporated in Demartinian Psychology. The Demartini Method consists of Executive Function Development exercises used strategically to drive the evolution of the brain - from subcortical dominance to prefrontal cortex or executive center dominance.

It is the culmination of more than five decades of research and studies in numerous disciplines, including physics, philosophy, theology, metaphysics, psychology, astronomy, mathematics, neurology, and physiology. It’s a cognitive process that involves balancing your mathematical equations of perceptions through a continuous thinking and writing action, driving you from your more primitive survival brain (systems 1) dominance to your more advanced thrival self-governing (systems 2) brain dominance.

The Demartini Method results in greater self-governing executive function and thus life mastery.

It is a powerful transformation process used by many leading specialists in the mind mastery field such as psychology, psychiatry, coaching, mentoring, teaching, and holistic healing.

If you’d love to find out more, click here. You can also chat with a member of the Demartini team by booking a call here.