This article is excerpted from the brand new online workshop for my book, An Inner Journey: Living Your Life Purpose. Enjoy!

This Is Your Brain on Fear

There is a part of your brain that exists solely for your physical survival. It's called the "reptilian" brain because it's been with us for about 100,000,000 years... since the era of the big reptiles the dinosaurs.

This is the first - and only - part of the human brain our species had for millions of years. The main purpose of this original part of the brain was to protect the physical body from harm, thus continuing the survival of the human species. To this day, it serves the same purpose.

As humans evolved, other parts of the brain were formed, such as the limbic system which deals with emotions, and the cerebral portion which is the logical thinking and reasoning part.

The reptilian part of your brain is located at the stem of the brain, securely cushioned and protected from injury by the rest of the brain. In the event of a major injury to your brain, all the other parts of it may stop functioning, but because this part is so well protected it will probably still be ticking away. This is a very clever bit of evolution; you can live without logic and reason, you can live without emotions, but you can't live without your physical body.

The reptilian brain is command control for your survival instinct - the "fight or flight" response. During a state of fear, your physiology changes, causing your blood to be re-routed to only the body parts you need for survival - muscles, heart, lungs, adrenal glands... and your reptilian brain. This means all conscious brain activity goes to your reptilian brain while the activity in the remainder of your brain, the thinking and feeling parts, shuts down.

When you're in the emotional state of fear, and the reptilian portion of your brain is in control, you have only two choices - either fighting the fearsome thing or running from it. Everything you do will be a form of one of these two choices.

If you're thinking, "Hoo hah! We're waaaay too advanced for that fight or flight stuff," just think about the last time you were in a very disagreeable situation. Did you want to have a nice cozy, chat with the other person and work with them to create a viable solution to your common problem? Not likely. Probably you wanted either to get away and escape their nastiness or tell them off. These are flight and fight reactions.

When you're experiencing fear you have no capability for creative or even rational thought. It's all fight or flight, good or bad, me or you, right or wrong. When you're in this state you simply don't have the physiological ability to think of creative, alternative solutions for a win-win solution. Your mental capacity is limited to only two choices: fight or flight.

As you're hopping and skipping along your path and are beginning to live your life purpose, you'll come up against many challenges that will induce fear within you. When this happens, your focus will automatically revert to survival as the reptilian brain moves into action.

At this point, you won't be in the mental state for creative solutions or focusing on forward progress, and certainly not for achieving success. Success? Win-win solutions? How could you possibly think of them when you're so busy focusing on fighting your fear or running from it?

Don't fret. There are solutions. Julia Cameron in her world-famous book, The Artist's Way, writes about, and for, blocked creatives. That describes not just the writers and artists for whom she initially intended her book, but all of us at one time or another. As you're moving toward living your life purpose, you're creating your life… and creativity doesn't get much bigger than that. Being blocked is a fearful state of being.

What keeps you blocked and unable to find creative solutions to your challenges is being in a fearful state. It's like a catch 22; you can't find solutions to your problems because your problems keep you in a state of fear where you can't find solutions to your problems. When you're in this state, you're bouncing back and forth between the only two options available to you when your conscious awareness is in your reptilian brain - those two very limiting choices of either flight or fight.

Luckily for you, our brains evolved and you now have additional portions of your brain which you can utilize. The cerebral cortex is one of these "new" areas. It's where you think logically and with reason, visualize, and dream. This part of your brain has the capacity to find new opportunities as you "see" the array of choices and solutions available to you.

Using your cerebral brain puts you in a choiceful state of being.

When you move your awareness out of the reptilian part of your brain and into the cerebral cortex, you begin to find choices that are far better than the limitation of only fight or flight. You begin to see choices that lead to creative solutions, such as collaboration, win/win solutions, harmonious relationships, and most importantly, peace.

Sounds great, doesn't it? But when your consciousness is in the limitation of the fear-based reptilian brain, how do you move it into the creative cerebral cortex? It's quite simple, actually. Visualization.

When you visualize, your awareness is moved instantly out of the reptilian brain and into the cerebral cortex, activating the creative portion of your brain. Now you can begin to see additional choices about your situation choices that are more beneficial for you and for all concerned. Any form of visualization will work.

Author's Bio: 

Kathy Wilson is a Life Purpose Coach, Author of An Inner Journey: Living Your Life Purpose, Reiki Master, and Spiritual Teacher.