Fight or Flight… The Lizard Brain Response

Fight or Flight, Freeze or Fold.

Fight or Flight, Freeze or Fold, everyone at one time or another has had this experience. This naturally occurring battle within themselves and many have found themselves at a crossroads. Do they continue to utilize these responses or do they try something new? Something new, like standing up for yourself, speaking your truth, or just doing something different, because it’s time to grow up?

It all boils down to whether we continue to allow our lizard brain to keep us in reaction mode or do we finally begin to use the rest of our little gray cells (cerebral cortex) and chose our responses?

Your Limbic or Lizard Brain

When you are stressed, ill or injured your Limbic or Lizard brain is going to take over to keep you alive. It’s a good thing, survival-wise. Here’s another way of looking at this. Let’s call it, adventures with your Lizard Brain. The Lizard Brain isn’t bad or good, in fact, it’s a very simple brain that processes information in only a few ways.

The Lizard Brain only wants to know:
Am I safe?
Is there food?
Is there something around here to have sex or procreate with?

Those aren’t very many options, but if you were a lizard that’s probably all you would need to know. People, living in the wild or with a tribe could probably do just fine with only these parameters. Modern humans are going to need a few more options if they are going to fit into our ‘polite society’. And that fitting in seems to be what causes us most of the problems. This brings us to the cerebral cortex or our BIG BRAIN.

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Cerebral Cortex

The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that functions to make human beings unique. Distinctly human traits including higher thought, language, and human consciousness as well as the ability to think, reason and imagine all originate in the cerebral cortex. (source:

What this means is we can actually think about what response we wish to have, practice it and train it into our responses, in addition to the fight or flight, freeze or fold response. Think martial arts or sports performance. Everyone knows that one person who is ALWAYS calm during a crisis. They have been trained to do that. And you can do that too.

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Changing Behaviors

Changing a lifelong behavior isn’t as difficult as one might imagine. Sometimes it’s just a simple as changing your mind. But in order to change your behaviors and responses, you need to be in a resourceful state of mind and change your movie.

Watch the videos below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And thank you, Kathy Brandon, for recording these videos on your show.

Creating a Resourceful State

Part 1

The Part 2

Rehearsing Success

Whether it’s crisis management, public speaking, sports performance, or just normal daily life, we have the opportunity to choose our responses, rather than reacting to them in a fight or flight, freeze or fold manner.
Rehearsing your responses, instead of reacting seems to be the logical thing to do but how many of us actually think to do this in advance?

Try this:

1. Pick 3 Things you would normally cause you to fight or flight, freeze or fold.

2. One a time, watch an internal movie of the situation and your reaction. 

3. Pick a different response and rehearse it several times. Add all of the details including succeeding and celebrating the day after. 

4. Go back to your “reaction” movie. Stop the video just prior to the reaction and insert the new response with the celebration. Once you are happy with the new response. Continue to practice until you have it. I recommend 3-5 times for each of the 3 things you’ve chosen

5. Repeat with the other 2 Things on your list.

In Summary

Your fight or flight, freeze or fold reactions are based on fear. Choosing a different response is always going to be your best option. It may take some practice but you’ll get it if you practice. Think about learning to ride a bike or any other skills you had to practice to master. This is no different. Eventually, your brain will begin to create its own options and responses if your practice this long enough. It takes years to earn a black belt but only seconds to change your mind.

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Need Some Help?

Do you need some help with this exercise? Maybe you just have a couple of questions
Feel free to call me @214-702-3774 or email me, anytime
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