Choose courage
over comfort.
~ Brené Brown

From Lizard to Wizard


Moving from fear-based decision-making to empowered decision-making.

For the purpose of this blog I am going to refer to fear-based decision-making as listening to your Inner Lizard and empowered decision-making as activating your Inner Wizard.

In order to understand the role that your Inner Lizard (Amygdala, or reptilian part of the brain) and your Inner Wizard (Prefrontal cortex) play in your life we have to go back five hundred million years to where life began on earth as single-cell organisms.  Over time some of these organisms started evolving into more complex forms of life and then after a very, very long time, and many, many adaptations, reptiles made their appearance. And with reptiles came the “fight and flight” instinct. Thus the reptilian brain was born.

Then, about one hundred and twenty million years ago, through complex and consistent evolution, the mammal brain developed… bringing some interesting adaptations with it. One such adaptation was a psychological mechanism concerned with caring for our mammal offspring instead of deserting or eating them. Another was the advent of mammals living in groups.

This was the way for some time, until, about two million years ago, one species of mammal started to change even more. At about that time we, our species as we now recognise it, came into being. Our frontal cortex underwent a dramatic change and brought about the ability for symbolic thinking and self-identity. This gave rise to the “human” brain.

So here we are, thousands of years later, caring for our children instead of deserting or eating them, living and working in groups and becoming self aware.

But before you get too excited about this, don’t forget that underneath all this fancy new brain matter lies your reptilian brain, just waiting to react. Its only, and incredibly important, purpose is to keep you alive.

Your Amygdala or Lizard Brain is constantly scanning the environment looking for danger, looking for any threat or deficit that might attack or threaten your life. Unfortunately your Inner Lizard sometimes becomes confused between a real threat and a perceived threat. This is why, depending on your circumstances, your Inner Lizard believes there might be a lack of time, beauty, money, intelligence, talent, shoes… any number of other things that might be compromising your life.

It only operates in lack or attack and compare and despair mode. Putting you in constant alert would make sense if you are living in the middle of an active warzone, but when you’re at home in your PJ’s lying in your comfortable bed in your safe home with money in the bank and food in your fridge, trying to sleep, it doesn’t make sense at all. A finely tuned lizard brain can fixate on dangers that are totally vague and impossible to get rid of. It elevates cortisol levels (stress hormones) which disturbs sleep patterns and many other bodily and cognitive processes, sometimes even spawning things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue, headaches, incessant worry, anxiety etc. Our Inner Lizard’s theme song would sound something like this: “Just because they are not out to get you doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you.” Catchy, isn’t it?

So how do we combat the paralyzing and self defeating effects of our Lizard brain? By enlisting our Inner Wizard (prefrontal cortex), of course. Your Wizard with its Wise Mind characteristics will help you problem-solve, be more courageous, creative, ingenious and compassionate.

Moving your focus from Lizard to Wizard is probably one of the most worthwhile journeys you will ever undertake. It will also be one of the most challenging.

Meet your own Inner Lizard by completing these sentences with the first thing that pops into your mind. Please do not over think it, the first answer is usually the right one. Afterward, scan the list for your personal “lack and attack” and “compare and despair” themes.

  • I don’t have enough __________.
  • I’m not ____________ enough.
  • If I don’t watch out, someone or something will __________.
  • People wants to take my __________.
  • I can’t be perfectly happy until I get __________.
  • Everybody pressures me to __________.
  • I just can’t trust __________.
  • People will hurt me unless I __________.
  • If only I had __________.
  • Someone’s always out to __________.
  • I must hang onto __________.

You can now take this list and consult with your Wizard.

  • Are these Lizard beliefs true?
  • Are they facts or just biased Lizard opinions?
  • How are these beliefs keeping you blocked/trapped?

Given the choice between a Lizard and a Wizard, which one would you rather have in your corner?

Remember that you always have the choice not to buy into your Lizard fears.

Please feel free to contact me for any observations or questions. You can also explore the role your Wizard and Lizard plays in your life by booking a free one on one life coaching session with me via my website.

Warm Regards

Vincenzia Diedericks