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Safety and The Lizard: The Essay — 33 Comments

  1. Hi Al,

    I am trying to develop a deeper sense of understanding of how lizards work.

    I was wondering what you think the difference between a lizards point of view (i.e., jumping to negative conclusions), and just being a pessimist is. Would you expect that creating safety would produce a more optimistic attitude as the lizard would be less active, and would the reverse be true as well (an optimistic attitude would make a lizard feel safer).

    Does an overactive lizard manifest itself as anxiety? If so, do you think anxiety medications would appease the lizard’s fear?

    • Heck, Rhonda, we have been deepening our understanding of our Lizards since about 1996. And we’re still at it. So I took your posting to Sandra and we pondered for a while. Never been asked this one.

      I think the Lizard’s world is all about caution, and pessimism has a useful component of caution. But I believe optimism/pessimism is a higher brain function i.e. mid-brain and mostly cortical. So I think people can be pessimistic and have a relaxed Lizard. Probably the Lizard won’t allow too much optimism if it is active. Note I consider the Lizard to be either more or less activated or more or less sleeping.

      And so I think your guess is fine. More optimistic thinking, more “positive” thoughts probably help the Lizard feel safer. THO a big component is the issue of Trust. If I am around optimistic people, my Lizard tends to feel better as long as I don’t think those optimistic people are bullshitting. A person who smiles make encourage my Lizard. A person who holds a gun will probably fully activate my Lizard and if they also smile my Lizard may go nuts.

      Optimism sees to me mostly a Cortical or thinking process. There is a concept called “Apperceptive Schema”, which refers to a kind of map we all create and manage about how the “future is going to go”. Optimism probably most often means our current schema is positive and pessimism probably suggests that we think our schema is more negative. Remember our most primitive emotion is a continuum between Like a lot and Dislike a lot. So I am talking about our current emotional reaction to our current Apperceptive Schema.

      Anxiety is to me a clue to an active Lizard. The Lizard communicates its status by causing the secretion of hormones (adrenaline and nor-epinephrine). Medications may alter the body’s ability to create or metabolize those hormones, and thus minimize how well the Lizard communicates. May be helpful. May not. When I see someone who is anxious, I look for what their Lizard is seeing.

      A fun book on this stuff is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.

  2. Thank you for your years and years of dedication to your self growth. My partner of 9 years (on and off) suddenly decided to part ways yesterday and now I understand why. In reading your paper I have learned about myself and others. Hopefully this will help me make better decisions in the future. I am glad that after reading it, I don’t feel so panick stricken. Thank you.

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