“Deep within your brain lies the amygdala, the lizard brain. It sets out to sabotage anything that feels threatening, risky or generous. Until you name, recognise, and deal with the resistance, you will stay frustrated.”
Seth Godin, Author.
Don’t be fooled by his cute looks because George is an evil little bugger and has very sharp teeth.
George has spent his entire life resisting anything important I’ve ever wanted to do. When cornered he fights dirty by disabling me both physically and emotionally!
So who exactly is George?
‘George Amygdala’ is the name that I give my lizard brain. The limbic or lizard is the most primitive part of our brain. It evolved millions of years ago and is in charge of our fight, flight and freeze responses.
The newest part of our brain to evolve is called the neocortex is responsible for rational thinking, speech, consciousness and creativity.
The lizard brain triggers responses 500 times faster than a thought. It’s also closest to the chemicals that generate our emotions. So before you’ve thought something, you’ve reacted! If there’s an emergency then our lizard brain takes over to protect itself when our basic survival needs are threatened.
This is great in a life and death situation.
But not during a presentation…
Your Lizard brain can’t tell the difference between real or perceived danger. If something makes us feel uncomfortable then our lizard brain will resist.
A friend delivered a presentation skills course where a delegate had a real fear of presenting. She stood up to present and passed out. The fear of presenting was so real, that her lizard brain pulled the biological plug (She was okay and successfully beat her fear).
The lizard brain flicks the ‘off-switch’ on the weaker neocortex if we feel that our basic needs are threatened (fear, anger, arousal, revenge or hunger). We become stuck in the lizard brain which generates flight, fight or freeze through a raft of emotions such as shame, guilt, fear and envy. Rational thinking is replaced by fragmented limiting or negative beliefs:
“See, you were stupid to even try that!”
“You should have listened to me in the first place!”
“You’re always going to be crap with money!”
“These people hate you!”
“Who do you think you are?”
Emotions such as shame, narrow the lens and paralyse you. Triggered and hooked by the voice inside your head (George) you falsely believe these messages to be true.
Here are 5 ways to tame your lizard:
1. Name it – Give your lizard a name and write a description of him/her. Draw a picture of your lizard and keep it as a visible reminder. Using humour is a great way to be able to flick the ‘on-switch’ in your neocortex.
2. Self-Awareness – Start to notice when your lizard is running the show. List your limiting and negative beliefs. Your lizard is fuelled by lack and attack fears. Use a journal to write down your top ten lizard messages (like the examples above). Just know that this is part of our biology!
3. Find your neocortex ‘On-Switch’ – The neocortex is where you become rational and logical. Here you know that your thinking is not true. Learn how to re-frame your limiting beliefs so you can turn them around.
4. Get comfortable with uncomfortable – Our lizard brain seeks comfort so it can feel safe. To grow and be successful you need to go out of your way to be uncomfortable. Discomfort means that you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone and this brings change, growth and engagement.
5. Understand Fear – Fear is a powerful hardwired emotion. It has kept our ancestors alive. Today we are often worried more about criticism than fear. Fear makes us take hesitant attempts. Think your way out of fear by getting clear on what you want and take action. The reality is that you will fail sometimes, but you can’t fail to learn. Successful people learn from failure, not that they shouldn’t have tried but how they can try it differently next time. Don’t give up!
What do you call your lizard?