Friday, 17 July 2015

Of Lizard Brains & Blog Posts

Greetings friends!

So it's been a funky couple of weeks down at Chez Loxley including travelling across the country, playing an in person game of Override, talking about Override, being unwell, adventuring through dense overgrowth and spending more time than I should playing a Visual Novel (more on that another time when I can figure out how to discuss it without sounding like dirty perv).

But I wanted to reassure you all that I'm very much alive, just kind of hibernating at the moment while I wait for my body to recover.

In the meanwhile i'd like to have a quick chat with you all about an expression I've been using a lot recently.

I first heard (or should that be read) this expression in the thoroughly captivating book Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.

That phrase is of course The Lizard Brain! The first time I read it, it captured something in my imagination, the perfect description of instinct.

Of course I learned shortly afterwards that this is a common phrase and has been in use for literally decades. So I'm a little behind the curve on this one.

But today, while looking for a good description for someone in the office who questioned the meaning in my context, I came across an interesting blog post: Quietening The Lizard Brain.

Give it a read, and while I can see in the comments there is some dispute over the writer's scientific understanding, the principal of it being the region of your brain that covers instinct is still strong.

What I find most interesting about this is just how much I disagree with the principal of this post.

Essentially (and correct me if I'm wrong) but the author suggests that we as people should be suppressing our Lizard Brains, that it is this part of us which has the addict relapse, and every other form of "I don't know why I did that" idiocy.

This may be right, it may be wrong, but I was left with a strong feeling that actually the advice was misleading.

If the Lizard Brain is our primal instinct, then is this not a part of us that we need to listen & acknowledge?
- Note; I am not saying act on.

As people we all suffer from the Duality of the Human Condition. We spend millions on cities & skyscrapers only so we can go on weekend retreats to get 'back to nature'. We thrive in communities and long for a home of our own but often poll as having a 'fear of being tied down'. As a species we thrive on conflict both physically and intellectually, but we go to green rallies and run around with 'down with the armed forces' banners.

If one part is our intellectually evolved brain and our Lizard Brain is the primal side, then surely quietening one is only going to make things worse?

There are many analogies I can use; a pressure cooker, anxiety & stress, hell even water in a pipe will do! But one thing we have seen as a universal truth is that when you try and stop something that wants to be let out, if you put a lid on it and try to suppress it, the pressure builds until the end result is an explosive release!

These things need to be released, and it's a natural part of life itself. It's why when we develop technology and tools that deal with pressure we keep that in mind; do we want s gradual release? or do we want the explosive release?

Surely the same would be true with the Lizard Brain?


In what is pretty much archaic psychology, you had Pathos & Eros, the sides of your unconscious that dealt with destruction & love, both of these are primal reactions; we're looking at Flight 'n' Fight combined with our need to reproduce. These are part of who we are and need to be acknowledged.

We all have in ourselves the potential to do great things, but also do great harm and what is the difference between them if not tempered control?

Aggression can bring an athlete to the peak of their performance, or drive someone to hurt an innocent bystander. What is it that is causing the aggression? What is it that drives you to perform well in certain circumstances or feel a strong desire to punch someone's face in others?

We're talking about the Lizard Brain again.

How many times have you heard about someone mentally snapping, of the metaphorical straw that broke the camel's back? What causes this snapping? For a good natured office worker to one day put down their pen, unsling their tie and open fire with a handgun into their coworkers?

It's not because they spent too much time listening to their lizard brain, it's because they didn't spend enough time!


Now don't get me wrong, I would never put myself on a pedestal as the master of a grounded personality, but I can take a lot of crap from people. I channel it into something that is beneficial and fun to do - in my case it's playing video games and shooting hundreds of pixels on a day to day basis.

Sure loads of people do this, but do they realise why? Is it just for fun or is it serving a purpose? For me it is largely purposeful. For those moments my lizard brain is king! As I walk down the hallway of the virtual world, my M41A in hand ready to shoot the next drooling xenomorph that jumps out with jazz hands, my lizard brain has the reigns, it's controlling my instincts and reactions and is ready to serve white hot lead justice to whoever my chosen target is for that night.

I've made peace with my lizard brain, I know that it is a heavily defining part of my life and to listen to it and acknowledge it's presence is a strength not a weakness.

For so long now as a people we have tried to distance ourselves from our primal cousins, to say that we are above and beyond the animals that not so long ago roamed our forests and woodlands. But give someone the right little push and you will see there is very little difference between us and a monkey bashing in another's head with a rock, or a wild beast rutting on a full moon.

Just think for a moment, what's better? Quietening? Or Tempered Control?

The differences are marginal but wide reaching.

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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