I was listening to a podcast, “Live Your Epic Life: by Byron Davis”, the other day and he was talking about how we learn. He talked about how we are motivated by pleasure and pain, but pain is a stronger motivator. We learn more through pain which is why we sometimes find ourselves in painful situations that we just can’t move past. Deep within, we may believe that we are meant to learn something from the pain.
He also talked about the “lizard brain” or the amygdala. It’s the most primal area of the brain and it’s where fear lives. Animals possess the lizard brain and that is why they do the things they do without a second thought. It’s why you will see animals seeking out food and scurrying about as they hide or run from predators. As humans, we have a more sophisticated brain, so we can use a deeper method of understanding as we conduct our daily lives. But, the lizard brain is always present and ready to take over.
“The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.
The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.
The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry.
The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.”- Seth Godin
Self-sabotage or resistance is when we allow the lizard brain to run the show over our more sophisticated ability of thinking. The lizard brain is present in boardrooms, bedrooms and it shows up in our relationships, our careers and even in our conversations with ourselves. If you’ve started a new diet, it’s the lizard brain that convinces you that donuts will be fine for one day because you’re hungry. You may wonder why you’re laying on the couch watching the exercise video while snacking on potato chips instead of working out. Thank your lizard brain. If you’re lonely, the lizard brain will convince you that a conversation with a familiar friend won’t harm your current relationship. It’s the lizard brain that rewards every act that is supposed to ease fear even when it stops your progress or ruins your momentum.
The lizard brain convinces you that avoiding fear is avoiding death. The truth is that, sometimes, you have to step through fear to get to progress. Progress is usually on the other side of fear and the thing that scares you the most is the very thing you need to do. The lizard brain is there to save you, but as a human, we have to understand that it’s not always right. Sometimes, we have to rationalize and turn the lizard brain off. If you allow the built-in fears of the lizard brain to run wild, you will destroy your life.
The lizard brain is trying to avoid pain, but we have to feel that pain to learn. Sometimes, we have to lose things, people and places to propel us into the very things we claim to want. If you’re climbing a ladder, you have to let go of the rung below you to continue upward. The lizard brain will convince you to stay on the ground, so you won’t fall. But, we were made to climb. We were made to, not just survive, but thrive. Unlike animals, we were gifted with the ability to think beyond our programming. We can choose our thoughts and actions.
The next time you feel resistance or the desire to sabotage yourself, tell that lizard brain, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Make the decision that scares you.
“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” – Bob Dylan