Survival?! It might not be your issue, but it sure is your brain’s priority.
Your brain is designed with specific reflexes guaranteed to ensure your survival. Why is it important for you to know what they are? Because, when triggered, these brain reflexes cause survival behavior that looks and feels like anxiety.
(Let’s call the reactive part of your brain the Beastly Brain, so it’s easy to remember. It’s just one part of your brain, and although it’s one you have met, you haven’t been properly introduced. We’ll do that, now.)
Meet and Greet: Your Beastly Brain
You cannot get away from your brain’s biological imperative to survive. Your Beastly Brain is inborn, and it stays with you forever.
By way of knowing what triggers your Beastly Brain, you will recognize this part of yourself. Also, you may figure out exactly what part of you has been – sometimes (maybe often?) – running your life.
The Nitty-Gritty of Triggers!
A trigger is any event or experience your Beastly Brain categorizes as a threat to your survival. It reacts immediately with behaviors that feel dramatic. Your Beastly Brain is not trying to stress you out; it’s trying to save your life.
Move In Closer: Introducing Your Beastly Brain Mascots!
Using animals as mascots to help you recognize and remember the seven most common reflex triggers of your Beastly Brain, let’s proceed. I have codified your Beastly Brain so you will always remember this introduction.
Introducing, YOU! The 7 Mascots that Represent Your Beastly Brain and its Top Triggers:
The Dog is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Hunger for Food (Your Beastly Brain believes: no food/no fuel!)
The Monkey is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Hunger for Sex (Your Beastly Brain believes: no mate, no procreation!)
The Lion is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Displacement (Your Beastly Brain believes: no territory, no rest!)
The Wolf is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Isolation (Your Beastly Brain believes: no pack, no protection!)
The Eagle is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Scarcity (Your Beastly Brain believes: no prey, no hunt!)
The Rabbit is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Defenselessness (Your Beastly Brain believes: no size, no authority!)
The Cat is the mascot for one trigger:
The Sense of Weakness from Illness or Injury (Your Beastly Brain believes: no strength, no energy!)
The Beasts represent time-honored evolutionary reflexes that are part of your brain function. The part of your brain that houses the reflexes is called your Beastly Brain. Every human has one. And, yes, that means every person on planet earth has the same seven triggers.
Knowing these triggers exist and understanding when and how they manifest gives you the insight you need to recognize what is going on when you feel signs or symptoms of stress and anxiety! More important: It gives you the power to stop it!
Psychotherapy Does Not Work on Beasts
Apart from cartoons of animals lying on Freud’s couch, you won’t see animals undergoing psychoanalysis.
If you have tried psychotherapy or other therapies that have not worked to eliminate high-functioning anxiety…episodic anxiety…heck, any kind of anxiety, consider this:
Maybe the poor outcome is not because you aren’t trying. Maybe it is because no amount of psychotherapy will ever calm a whining dog, a roaring lion, a growling wolf, a screeching eagle, a paralyzed rabbit or an unresponsive cat.
If the beasts within have been triggered, then there is just too much noise and activity within your nervous system to do anything but resist, retaliate, run or hide! Neither you nor a therapist can restore calm to your nervous system when it’s in a fight or flight mode. Think of it like that.
Maybe, after all, you will want psychotherapy. Do it. But, first, tame the beasts so you can hear your therapist – and yourself – think (without the distractions of an inner zoo)!
The Difference Between a Beastly Brain Reflex and Psychological Problem
Life is easier when you can differentiate between a biological brain reflex (there within you to protect you) and a psychological challenge (there within you to authenticate your identity). Each problem requires its own solution.
So, before going on blaming yourself for suffering from anxiety – or thinking you have a psychological problem – how about finding out, first, if the anxiety you feel is healthy protection for your survival that you have misinterpreted!?
The Good News
The good news is this: You are more than your Beastly Brain.
You are more than what triggers the beasts!
You are more than the beastly signs and symptoms that seem to take over your body and brain.
Right now, however, you must put away any notion that you can escape the black-and-white view your Beastly Brain has on your world. Set aside any ideas you can avoid the physical, chemical and mental reactions stimulated by your Beastly Brain when it feels threatened. That part of you is going nowhere.
So, then, what? You must learn to Tame the Beasts.
Begin to Tame the Beasts by Observing. Observe Yourself.
Your super-human brain knows more than you give it credit for. It knows the beasts. It knows what the beasts are there for (to protect you and to help you survive). It knows it’s smarter than any beast. But it can’t do a darn thing for you if it’s overridden by the noise and chaos of the threatened beasts.
Now that you are aware of your Beastly Brain, you can start to learn more. Knowing what the beasts react to will help you solve the problem.
Right now. Begin to observe so you can stop beating yourself up.
Observe for understanding, and compassion:
- You would not kick a dog that was whining for food.
- You would not condemn a monkey that was panting to mate.
- You would not have contempt for a pacing lion that was seeking territory.
- You would not chase away a wolf that was howling for its pack.
- You would not accuse an eagle that was competing for prey.
- You would not deride a rabbit that was frozen stiff because it was too small to defend itself.
- You would not ridicule a sick or injured cat because it was injured or ill.
Instead, wouldn’t you quickly sum up the beast’s challenge, feel compassion, and try to give it what it needs? (After all, beasts want simple things that are obvious, right?)
Your awareness will empower you.
Here is the great news: Observation is easy. And, it’s fun. (Who is more interesting than you?)
Observation is where the solution begins. Once you observe your own Beastly Brain in its various forms, you will begin to know and appreciate yourself in a way you have never done before. Remember: Your mammalian brain is looking at your life through the lens of survival, and interprets many events as danger. Though you might not agree, at least, now, you won’t be afraid of the beasts reactions, because you know a little more about what’s happening. Your observation will start the process of taming the beasts.
Observation is the first step to being DONE with anxiety.
Well, this concludes the introduction. You have now properly met your Beastly Brain.