Is your lizard brain taking over?

The horse was a focal point of human transportation in the 1500’s. Plains Indians ate buffalo as their primary meat. Hunting buffalo was important in the food gathering process and back in the days where there wasn’t a farm or slaughtering house to outsource all of the nourishment, it had to be caught from the wild. During the hunt, each of the Indians would head out on horseback in groups to alarm, chase and exhaust the gigantic beasts.

It is true that various Plains Indians would occasionally chase buffalo over a small cliff. The Indians, when they found a suitable bluff, would conceal themselves behind the rocks with hides. When the herd would start to move towards the bluff, the Indians would jump up from behind their rocks, shouting and waving the hides, keeping the buffalo moving toward the cliff, according to a caption by Alfred Jacob Miller.

During these critical moments when the buffalo would be forced to make a decision to save their life, their lizard brain would be put into hyper drive. This last ditch effort was dictated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. When this part of the brain is initiated it creates a sequence of nerve reactions that will prepare the body for running and fighting. Chemicals adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are released into the blood and cause every part of the physiology to prepare for battle. The same brain that protects the buffalo is what foundation that also affects human psychology.

When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into “attack” mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. Like airport security during a terrorist threat, we are on the look out for every possible danger. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world. – Neil Neimark, MD

Your lizard brain is not making decisions that will help you

On a basic level our lizard brain only has the ability of looking out for the basic food/shelter physiological needs and doesn’t allow us to make rational decisions when it is engaged. How many people are walking around with their lizard brains telling them what to do?

The Indians were dependent on the fact that these buffalo were acting solely on the most primitive part of their brain. Modern society has caused a lot of additional stressors that didn’t affect generations prior. Since there’s such a risk to us for falling ill and degrading our quality of life, it’s important to consider whether or not our lizard brain has taken over.

Next time you are feeling anxious, angry or tense, take that opportunity to ask yourself: Is this my lizard brain talking? Find a moment to release the claws of the lizard and regain control of self. This is a mantra that will help you become the best you possible.

 

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ― Dorothy M. Neddermeyer