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Fear and the Rational Mind
Fear and the Rational Mind

My palms were sweaty my hands were shaky and my stomach was tied in a sickening knot. My lizard brain was in overdrive trying to sabotage me again. “It’s just first day jitters.”, I tried to tell myself as I entered the classroom. I had taught classes just like the one I many times before but for some reason today, all I could think about were all the things that might go wrong. The stories my lizard brain and my rational mind were focused on were completely at odds. If I were going to find some peace I would need to find a way to quiet the lizard brain and listen to my rational mind. 

The secret the lizard brain doesn’t want you to know is that the deep emotional information it relies on is mostly outdated and that facts are not all that important. It’s all about survival. How many times had I taught this class, 25? Maybe more? This information wasn’t new, I had been making my living off the programs I was be teaching for more than 20 years. Yet my lizard brain remained unimpressed. 

What the lizard brain was telling me didn’t add up. It was time to start thinking more rationally and try to unravel the warnings I was receiving. I remembered a time when I was very young, standing in front of a class attempting to deliver a book report on a book I hadn’t read. Was this the same? Not really, I was confident in my knowledge today back then I was completely unprepared so I dug deeper. Why was I centered on that particular moment? I remembered stumbling through my report as the class looked on. I remembered the snickering, the laughing, the teacher angrily rolling her eyes. In that moment it wasn’t about being unprepared it was more about how I felt.  Is that the reason why it had stuck with me all those years? Was it more about the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation I had felt? My lizard brain was not trying to sabotage me at all. It was trying to protect a sensitive kid from being humiliated in front of a classroom all over again. As I examined my situation suddenly it all made sense, I thanked my lizard brain for trying to protect me and began my lecture. 

Did my new knowledge spare me from the messages my lizard brain feels it still needs to deliver? Of course not. My lizard brain is just as active as it’s ever been but now I try harder to use my rational mind to find out what’s at the center of what I’m feeling and when  I’m able to use rational thought it makes dealing with my lizard brain much easier.