In 1954, the limbic cortex was described by neuroanatomists. Since that time, the limbic system of the brain has been implicated as the seat of emotion, addiction, mood, and lots of other mental and emotional processes. It is the part of the brain that is phylogenetic ally very primitive. Many people call it “The Lizard Brain” because the limbic system is about all a lizard has for brain function. It is in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing-up, and fornication.
The limbic system is much more powerful than we humans credit it to be. While seeing a patient this morning, there was wonderment on the patient’s part about how she relapsed. She had been doing everything “right,” but she had some time on her hands and mysteriously found herself in the liquor store and subsequently drinking. I do not for a second think that she was trying to be deceptive about her amnestic trip into the store to buy vodka. After she drank, she called for help and got back into treatment, but she was still mystified at her behavior.
What we know from a lot of research of the brain is that this type of unexplainable behavior happens all the time, and not just to addicts. It is just that addicts have more consequences for their actions in situations such as this. If one were to poll individuals about “unexplainable” behaviors, there would be a lot of stories if people would be honest. How many times have we done something that we said we would not do, eaten something that we said we would not eat, and said something that we said we would not say? We all know that it is a very extensive list and it happens every day.