|Sylvie Dog is the embodiment of my "critter brain."|
Friends, I've heard a lot lately that "just when you're ready to give up, you're on the brink of a breakthrough" and "if you fail, it means you quit too early."
Well, I must be on the brink of a LOT of breakthroughs, because I have been wanting to throw in so many towels. I've been wanting to just cut and run off from pretty much most aspects of my life.
It's because my "Critter Brain" is off its leash and is running amok.
"Critter Brain" is something I've been learning about in my training to become a health coach/life coach. It's another way to think about the brain stem, which is the primitive part of our brains that are meant to keep us safe and alive. The Critter Brain isn't into higher order thinking or future-focused thinking. Critter Brain doesn't care if we're happy. All Critter Brain is about is our survival. Critter Brain loves things staying the way they are. Because that is known and safe.
And anything that threatens things staying the way they are triggers Critter Brain. Critter Brain will do whatever it can to make sure things stay the way they are. That's what it's hardwired to do. This can add up to things that look like self-sabotage - like when I've done really well with not eating stupid things like a pound of Nutella a week for six plus weeks or staying super-consistent with my workouts and my clothes start fitting a little looser... and then I go on a sugar-bender and stop going to the gym for a fortnight so I chunk right back out.
Evidently Critter Brain was scared of having to go clothes-shopping if I get back down to 135 pounds.
Or when I'm really rolling along on a project, and Critter Brain detects that I might be really making a difference in my life this time, and all of a sudden, I'll start procrastinating, or just put the project aside and let other things fill in the time I should be devoting to that. Because if I finish that project, Things Might Change, and Change is a threat!
Like I said. Critter Brain doesn't care if we're happy or satisfied or growing mentally or spiritually. All it wants is to keep us safe. And it can go a little bit berserk in the name of keeping us safe, trying to override everything we want to do to improve ourselves and our lives.
All I can think of is my dog Sylvie, when there are leaves blowing in the wind. When it's Fall, and the leaves start falling off the trees and blowing in the wind, she's a bit of a nightmare to take outside on her leash. She doesn't think about anything but chasing leaves. Imagine eighty pounds of muscle, attitude, and torque hooked to your wrist and just taking off when the wind changes, hidebound that she's going to catch that leaf right there, regardless of your thoughts on the matter.
That's the Critter Brain, not thinking, not listening, just on a single-minded mission to keep things stable, the way they are, whether they're miserable or not.
You really have to talk to that Critter Brain sometimes. It really helps to address it: "Critter Brain, thank you for keeping us safe. You are doing a great job. I need you to let me try this new thing, though. I swear we aren't going to die if I lose twenty-five pounds. Or get a new job. Or eat this new green vegetable right here. We're going to be okay, Critter Brain!"
I'm having to talk my Critter Brain back so I can snap the leash back on. It's really running amok lately. I have been on a self-sabotage bender. I have been wanting to quit "too early" and fall back into the comfortable cocoon that has kept me safe but miserable. It's really taking some Doing, and by that, I mean some real self-care to appease the Critter Brain, as well as taking some serious action. Keep on pressing forward.
So if you're wanting to quit something, or you've started falling into patterns of self-sabotage on whatever journey you're taking, you might need to reel in your Critter Brain and get it on a good leash so you can grow and change and develop some new healthy habits or transform some aspect of your life. Those frantic, negative voices in your head that start going off like a dog when the UPS truck is in the driveway aren't signs from the universe that you should stop the progress you're making. They're the very most basic part of your brain, the brain stem, detecting change, reading it as danger, and acting accordingly with Fight, Flight, or Freeze. You have to let the higher order parts of your brain override that Critter Brain so you can keep on keepin' on!
I'm in this battle too, Friends! I think we're all going to make it, probably!