Saturday, June 27, 2020

Critter Brain and Sweet, Sweet Self-Sabotage

This is what it looks like when Critter Brain is runnin' the show!
Friends, I do this thing where I do really well working out and eating, and I see a little victory on the scale or in the way my clothes fit, and guess what I do- 

If you guessed I reward myself by holing up in a closet with a giant tub of Nutella and a giant spoon, you, sirs and madams, would be correct!

Or if it isn't Nutella, it's like 4 bags of Peanut M&Ms.  Halloween candy.  Chocolate chips I bought to make something out of.  Marshmallow Fluff I bought in a moment of weakness.  Freakin' brown sugar straight from the bag.

Is this behavior really in line with the goals I work so hard to achieve?  No.  Is this normal?  Yes.

Yes, it is.  This is a thing humans do.

It's definitely self-sabotage, and while we think we sabotage ourselves because we lack willpower, that is not what's happening here at all.  Without getting too technical on you, we have three parts to our brain that work together to make us who we are.  One part of the brain is the part that loves to learn and grow and think higher-order thoughts.  This is called the Cortex, in case you'd like to give this a Goog one of these days.  Then there's the Limbic System, that supports emotion and behavior, among other things.  

But it's the third part of the brain that's driving here.  The brain-stem, the most primitive part of our brains.  This part of the brain is affectionately known as "Critter Brain."  Isn't that adorbs?

Well, ol' Critter Brain is all about keeping us safe.  And safe means status quo, even if status quo doesn't make us happy or let us grow.  And Critter Brain pops up after you've made some changes to make yourself better, and it looks like they're really going to pay off.  When you're sailing along toward success, coo-coo-katchoo, who shows up but good ol' Critter Brain, ready to do whatever it takes to keep you right where you are, or right back to where you started.

And it does this by making you do things that sabotage your efforts to be better.  For me, it's overindulging on all the sugar.  All of it.  Apparently my Critter Brain is afraid we'll die if I can wear jeans that are a single-digit size again.  

Critter Brain doesn't just like to keep us safe from weight-loss success.  Critter Brain also doesn't cotton much to us bettering ourselves professionally or in other personal development-type ways.  Procrastinate much?  No follow-through on ideas or opportunities?  That's Critter Brain.  

So to calm that guy down, you have to acknowledge it.  Remember Critter Brain's trying to keep you safe, even if "Safe" sucks.  So you say "Thank you, CB for keeping us safe this far.  Let me take this one and show you it's all gonna be okay."  It takes practice.  You've got to go gradually to get Critter Brain to stand down.  But when you approach your Critter Brain with compassion, empathy, and kindness, it relaxes, and you can sidestep the roadblocks to success that it keeps throwing down to keep you safe.  It helps keep Critter Brain on its leash.

And don't beat yourself up if you tussle with Critter Brain and Critter Brain wins every so often.  You wouldn't be the first person in the world to ever hole up in a closet with a big tub of sugary fatness and a giant spatula....

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