For some reason I have been hearing the term “lizard brain” a lot this week. This is a nickname for the part of your brain that deals with survival and creates your fight or flight response. You may think of it as your own personal freak out zone.
While it does help with important things like breathing. making your heart beat, and can save your life when faced with real danger, your lizard brain is activated way too often in the modern world.
This part of your brain is where excess worry, fear and anxiety come from. It is how you get stuck in your comfort zone and don’t live your dreams. It is why you fear becoming homeless, even when your financial needs are met.
You lizard brain is constantly shouting at you:
You are about to be attacked!
You don’t have enough!
When I heard people talking about their lizard brains and struggles with fear and anxiety this week I remembered an exercise that worked for my clients in the past. It was really kind of fun, and sort of ridiculous at the same time.
This is how it goes: Go buy a toy dinosaur to represent your lizard brain and start talking to it.
I know it sounds strange, but it really helps. When fear, anxiety, or negative thought loops come up, go look at your dinosaur. See it as your lizard brain and the source of the voice in your head causing your distress. You can even yell at it, comfort it, or have a rational conversation with it, if you like. Perhaps you can thank it for looking out for you and let it know you have things covered.
Here is why this works:
You get perspective – the lizard part of your brain is not much bigger than a dinosaur the size of a toy soldier. When you see it as small, it feels less powerful and you will start to realize how the fearful stories in your head are out of proportion with reality.
You disassociate with it – by letting an object outside of you represent your lizard brain, you disconnect from the idea that those voices in your head are who you really are (because they’re not) and see things more clearly from a neutral state of mind.
You can make friends with it – you can stop resisting this important part of your brain and start relating to it in a more relaxed and healthy way. You may even want to thank it for how it keeps your vital organs working or supports you when there is a real emergency. You could even put it in your pocket and take it out to dinner.
Eventually, it all seems silly – after practicing this for a while you are likely to find talking to your dinosaur (aka lizard brain) funny and start to smile. Maybe, even laugh. And as you do, you will find that this new sense of ease is not just about the little toy dinosaur, but also a sign of making peace with the dinosaur in your head.