22 August 2017
Catch it if you can
Our minds default to fear. Understandable, when you consider that this one emotion has kept us alive for a hundred or so thousand years. See a lion and our instinct was to run. Ditto for snakes. It's what makes us choose the long way home rather than a quick stroll down a dark alley.
But why do we experience fear before giving a speech or hitting publish on a blog post? As far as I know neither of those things have ever killed anyone. We suffer from an evolutionary fear hangover. It's done so well in the past keeping us alive that we get an extra shot when we're deep in the unknown.
So, our brains are tricking us. Even though fear is generated in one of the oldest and most instinctual part of our brains - the amygdala - we can actually override it. The trick, as I confirmed whilst walking down my street this morning, is to catch yourself in this fearful state - to be conscious of it. Then you need to ask yourself if the thing you're scared of is going to kill you. For real. And unless you’re in debt to the Mafia I very much doubt it will.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? You need to realise that your fear is largely unfounded, that your amygdala has highjacked your consciousness and you need to wrestle it back. Realise there’s nothing to be truly fearful about and change your state. Notice that emotions happen to us and we are not our emotions. “I’m having fearful thoughts” replaces “I am scared”. “I’m an idiot” turns into “I made a stupid decision on this occasion”.
The hardest part is noticing when you’re in a negative state, but I've found the more I practice the easier it gets (what doesn't?)
This, I believe, is how we overcome the lizard brain.