The scariest reptile of all lies deep within
By Lisa Earle McLeod www.forgetperfect.com
Is your inner lizard gnawing away at your happiness? We’ve all got an inner lizard. It’s the reptilian part of our brain. Buried deep beneath our well-mannered, high-minded cerebral cortex, it’s an actual, physical part of the brain. Scientists refer to it as the “reptile brain” because it’s a neural structure that first evolved in early vertebrates, specifically reptiles. During times of stress, the reptilian part of your brain overrides your more evolved mind and, much like a hyper-alert lizard, it senses danger at every possible turn. “O” Magazine columnist and bestselling author Dr. Martha Beck says, “The inner reptile is the most primitive part of us, it’s also the deepest layers of the human brain. Its only function is to broadcast aversion and fear signals. It will keep you running toward things you think will save you and away from things you think are dangerous at the exclusion of everything, including your own happiness.” Beck tackles the inner lizard in her latest book, “Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life No Matter What” (Rodale 2008). She suggests that it’s the inner lizard that “makes you ruin your relationships out of jealousy or lust or both. It makes you cheat and lie to get money or avoid punishment, and thereby puts you in a position where you actually create what you fear most.” I guess that’s why my old boss always looked like a nervous salamander during year-end closing, darting about the office, eyes bulging, jerking his head from side to side, clutching his coffee mug with his skinny little fingers, lashing out at us every few seconds. According to Beck (www.MarthaBeck.com) our hard-wired reptilian brains continually broadcast two primary fears: lack and attack. “On the one hand, our reptile brains are convinced that we lack everything we need. We don’t have enough love, time, money, everything. On the other hand, something terrible is about to happen to us,” she writes. Drawing upon her many years as a life coach, Beck provides examples of wealthy people living in fear of being poor, and loved people living in fear of being abandoned, to demonstrate just how irrational we humans can become when our inner lizard takes over. “We react as though it is already happening,” Beck says. “We think someone doesn’t like us, so we act as though they don’t.” Not surprisingly, our worst fears are usually confirmed. In “Steering by Starlight,” Beck describes the step-by-step process she uses to help her private clients overcome their lesser instincts and discover their true destinies. Beck says she subconsciously understood her own destiny when, at age 16, she tossed out a random thought in answer to a scholarship application question, writing, “My mission in life is to help people bridge the gaps that separate them from their true selves, from one another and from their destiny.” An example, she says, of how our right life rides in our cells and speaks to us during our idle moments. During a recent interview, Beck described how to move the energy of your brain away from your inner lizard and begin finding your way back to the authentic rewarding life you deserve. “First you observe it,” she said. “You watch it and say, that’s not me, that’s the lizard. Once you say that, your brain is observing itself and thereby changing the brain structure, so that it is more calm and less reptilian.” The second step is to laugh at it. “I truly believe that laughing at the inner lizard is the most powerful thing you can do to change,” she said. So listen up you lizards. We’re not going to let you meddle with our minds any longer. We’re lifting our thoughts and laughing our way to love, happiness and success. And there’s nothing you controlling little critters can do about it.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com. .
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