Learning to Lead Your Lizard Brain

Yesterday I attended the first session in a Master Mind Institute webinar series about neuroscience and life coaching. I learned fresh ways to consider and discuss emotions, and I’m excited to align my new learning with the lessons I gleaned from Susan David’s Emotional Agility.

The amygdala is an almond-shaped, almond-sized section of the brain that houses emotional experiences and responses. The word amygdala derives from Latin for almond, which I find fascinating. I imagine scientists of yore plotting various parts of the brain and their functions saying, “Yeah, we know this part of the brain deals with emotions, but instead of naming it for emotions, let’s name it something less intimidating. Almonds are not at all intimidating, and it looks like an almond, so….” So now we have an almond directing our emotions.

This emotional center is also known as the lizard brain (score another point for cool scientists and their nomenclature), which determines the fight-or-flight response.  In determining fight or flight, the lizard brain intertwines emotions and learning.

An example given in the webinar depicted a person walking around gathering plants and provisions and stumbling upon a lion. The lizard brain kicked in with the emotions of stress and fear, helping the person to decide whether to fight or flee. The person in the scenario chose to flee (which makes sense to me), but while fleeing, the person had to pay attention to where in the savanna she was, the time of day, directionality, topography, etc. In other words, she needed to learn how to avoid the lion while she fled from it.

Learning and emotions have never been separated, yet we often think of them as discrete. Because they share a neurological link, we can learn how to manage our emotions. First, we must accept that an almond-sized lizard directs synaptic emotional traffic in our brains.

You will have an emotional response when your status quo gets disrupted. You are hard-wired to do so. What you do with that emotional response, however, determines whether you grow and transform or become stagnant and stuck.

Dealing with your emotions doesn’t need to be scary. From now on, I will picture my emotions as a cute almond-sized axolotl (albeit an amphibian) on a mission to help me navigate my world.

What about you? The first step to transformation is acknowledging your emotions influence you. The next is to realize how they influence you.

To partner with someone who can help you figure out how to manage your emotions and transform your life, contact me. I would love to join you on your journey.

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Published by Roshaunda D. Cade

I am an educator, writer, and creator. I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband and teenage children and enjoy reading, writing, dancing, and pushing my creative boundaries.

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