The Clarity Brain


Your brain and curiosity

The brain has a brilliant mechanism to keep you safe and that in turn can prevent you from sustaining clarity and confidence when communicating.

The Triune Brain is a simple model developed by Paul Maclean that explains what is happening, giving you the potential to set yourself up for success.

It makes sense of why you might get distracted or feel unsettled and stop listening and therefore stop being curious.

At a very basic level, we are animals. We need to know we are safe. Do we fit in? And what are the rules?

We also need to be fed and well rested to be able to think clearly and to learn.

The Triune Brain

In this model there are 3 parts of the brain referred to as:

1. Reptilian 

2. Mammalian

 3. Neocortex

I tend to refer to the reptilian and mammalian brain as survival brains and the neocortex as the clarity brain.


Reptilian brain – survival brain 1

The reptilian brain is located at the back of your head. It’s attached to the spinal cord and is about the size of your fist. This was the first brain to be developed and it is about our basic animal instincts to survive and keep us safe. It will respond automatically and you might see and hear behaviour of fight, flight or freeze when you feel threatened or unsafe. When this brain first evolved we had to run from or fight predators, and whilst that can happen in our everyday life now the reality is that for the vast majority of us it is rarely life threatening; it just feels like it might be.

That is when this part of the brain can kick in, driven by old and out-of-date data. The response can be quick and automatic, pumping adrenaline from our clarity brain to our extremities such as hands and feet. Giving us the power to run or fight.  It could be as simple as not knowing when you are going to be able to eat or drink next, meaning your reptilian brain might start to become agitated.

It could be fear of where your next client is coming from or how you will pay your mortgage.

Can you think of a time when your reptilian brain kicks in?

Mammalian brain – survival brain 2

The mammalian part of the brain covers the reptilian brain and this is where the rules are stored and where we create an understanding of social norms and how we do things around here. In my lifetime so many rules have been challenged and changed and I am sure you are no different. This part of the brain, although focused on understanding the rules, is again very much based on protection and survival. What are the rules? How do I need to behave to fit in and survive?

You might have experienced this when in a training session. Perhaps you have a question and you start to wonder when is the right time to ask your questions.

Do you worry about interrupting or talking too much or not enough?

Your mammalian brain will be counteracting preventing you from really listening because it wants to know the rules so that it knows you are safe.

Systemic Modelling trainer, Caitlin Walker talked about 3 kinds of rules.

Share rules

These are the rules you share openly. Maybe you express them verbally or perhaps in a written  contract. You might set out what you want and what you expect from others and you share your  expectations.

Unspoken or internal rules

These are the rules you say in your head and you don’t say out loud. You might find your
critic saying things like “That’s not fair” or  “That’s not right” but you don’t actually say anything.

Hidden Architecture

 These are the rules that even you don’t know you have until they are broken. Even when they are  broken you may not really know what the rule is – just that something has triggered an adverse  reaction and it doesn’t feel right to you. 

Notice when your mammalian brain is operating and challenging the rules or is worried it doesn’t know the rules. Perhaps you are someone that has worked hard to be different or maybe you have worked hard to be the same.

Notice where your attention is – what happens to listening and curiosity when you are distracted by the need to know the rules? Perhaps you worry about breaking the rules?

I know I did. I thought rules were like the law and you had to follow them. Perhaps you worry about speaking out and saying something that is different to what you have heard so far. That could be your mammalian brain trying to keep you safe.

Many entrepreneurs start their own business because they are sick of the limitations and rules of corporate life and then inadvertently they start playing by the same rules because they are running on autopilot without realising. Take a moment now and think: What keeps you in your mammalian brain? What do you need to settle your mammalian brain? When you have awareness of when you are operating from mammalian or reptilian you can pay attention to patterns and triggers and then develop strategies to stay in your clarity brain more of the time. I explain a bit more about the clarity brain below. Our hidden architecture is like the engine that drives our actions and our decisions and most of us are not consciously aware of the rules we are playing our life by. By changing the way you listen you are more likely to discover what triggers your reptilian and mammalian brain to kick in and practical ways to settle it.

Neocortex brain – clarity brain

All the time you are operating, thinking and therefore communicating from the reptilian and mammalian brain it is likely that you won’t have the words to articulate your thoughts as they are very instinctive and driven by your emotions.

I call this communicating from a place of survival. The challenge we have is that when we communicate from here, the brain takes blood from your clarity brain and surges it out to your hands and feet which drains your brain of the resources you need to think, learn, process and gain that clarity you are wanting.

If you are not listening to your critic and consistently updating it with the new data and rules you want to play your life by then you may end up here.

You are likely to communicate from a place of fear and usually be critical of you, someone else or the situation.

This rarely gets you the response you want and when questioned why you are behaving in a particular way you can rarely explain it rationally.

This makes it difficult to communicate and virtually impossible to lead yourself and others.



Sheryl – The Strength and Solution Detective
Supporting you to do more of what you love and ditch the critic that says you can’t

Feel free to share below your thoughts or join us in the Facebook group Manage your critic

If you are struggling to be heard and understood and it is preventing you from doing your best work and living your best life then please do book a 30 minute call today with no obligation and I will happy set you up for success. I might be part of the solution you need and I might not but you will you know your next best step. Or you can thickpaperbackfront_FinalPurchase a copy of my book here








About the Author – Sheryl Andrews – The Strength and Solution Detectivedetective-happy-smaller

Sheryl Andrews, Founder of Step by Step Listening, is well known for her fast speaking and her passion to make things happen. But what many of you may not know is that in private behind closed doors she was also no stranger to lapses in self belief and an overwhelming sense of not being good enough.

That was until she learned the importance of being heard and asking for support. In her book she describes the step by step journey she took to learn how to manage her critic turning her overwhelm into clarity in 7 steps.

Sheryl now runs retreats that encourage you to really listen to what you need to work, learn and live at your best with others and the confidence to ask for those needs to be met.

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Sheryl Andrews, Founder of Step by Step Listening is well known for her fast speaking and highly motivational passion. But what many of you may not know is that in private behind closed doors she was also no stranger to lapses in self belief and an overwhelming sense of not being good enough. Sheryl use to find it difficult when criticised even when she knew they meant well and found it difficult to respond rather than react. A series of 3 events in her personal life exaggerated her emotional overwhelm and forced her to address this problem and conquer her sensitivity to criticism. Today she shares every day stories of every day people and inspires you to discover ways to gain clarity and confidence to change the way feedback and criticism impacts your performance.

View all posts by Sheryl Andrews →

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