Conquering Fear by Controlling the Lizard Brain

Irrational fear can be crippling and will affect nearly everyone at one time or another. This fear can prevent the affected person from fully enjoying a particular experience. and even stop them from attending events or trying new things at all. This type of chronic fear is unreasonable. It robs a person of the very thing they hold most dear – life itself.

The emotion of fear is, in and of itself, a very useful evolutionary tool. Quite simply, it helps to keep an organism alive long enough to guarantee procreation and, as a result, another generation of similar organisms. It’s sensible and reasonable to be afraid of something that has a good potential to cut your life short. However, when fear has no grounds it makes no sense. Let’s take a look at this phenomenon a little more closely.

Fear, both reasonable and unreasonable, originates at the base of the brain known as the reptilian or R-complex. This is one of the oldest parts of the human brain. We share its structure with many other species, including lizards. Hence, it’s other common name – the lizard brain.

Besides producing the sensation of fear, the lizard brain also largely controls many of the basic autonomic functions of the human body. In this sense, it can be said that the job of the lizard brain is to keep the owner of the brain alive. However, the lizard brain evolved at a time when danger, as well as the stress caused by danger, was relatively straightforward. You either ate or were eaten. The lizard brain dealt with that simple situation very efficiently.

The problem is that modern stresses usually do not involve life threatening situations. The lizard brain does not understand this and when mundane stress is experienced it can misinterpret this stress as critical. This misinterpretation is the source of unreasonable, groundless fear.

The easiest way to combat this unreasonable fear is by using your rational mind to reinterpret the situation. This is done by calmly assessing the circumstances causing the fear. Once this is accomplished and you’ve seen that the situation is definitely not life threatening, ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be given your assessment. This rational examination of your fear calms the lizard brain, thus reducing the severity, as well as the occurrence, of that fear.

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