I love Lucy

I've always liked snakes.

I recall one day long ago when I was in primary school we had a show and tell day. The school allowed us to bring our pets to school and share an interesting story about them. I brought my pet Black Indigo Snake. The kids in my class loved it. The teachers were more in fear than in favor.

As I grew older I still maintained an interest in exotic pets. I had a Tarantula named Cupid and a Python named Lucy. Lucy was very warm and affectionate to females but was very hostile and aggressive with makes. She could sense the aggression and fear in the males and would react accordingly to them. Lucy and I had a relationship where she was affectionate with me probably because I was the one who fed her and cleaned her habitat.

There was a kind of wordless communication between us, in which Lucy seemed to feel I wouldn't hurt her, and I felt she wouldn't bite me. After a while, I hardly knew she was there, and sometime in the afternoon She left without me realizing it.

Now, years later, as I've learned more about how the brain evolved, my odd affinity for snakes has started making sense to me. To simplify a complex journey beginning about 600 million years ago, your brain has developed in three basic stages:
· Reptile - Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm
· Mammal - Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards
· Primate - Cortex, focused on attaching to "us"

This message has to do with helping the brain disengage from its ancient survival patterns of fear, frustration, and heartache., and instead, rest in the Responsivie, "green" mode of the brain, which refuels and repairs the body, and fills the mind with a basic sense of safety, peace, contentment, and love.

To rest in green while still being fully engaged with life, it really helps to take in, again and again, experiences of your core needs - for safety, satisfaction, and connection - being met. This will naturally strengthen the Responsive mode of your brain so that it will be harder to knock you out of it when the worldly winds blow - even if they blow hard. In terms of our three core needs - and their evolutionary links with our brainstem, subcortex, and cortex.

Of course, the brain is highly integrated, so these three key functions - avoiding, approaching, and attaching - are accomplished by all parts of the brain working together. Nonetheless, each function is particularly served by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it. This fact has significant implications.

For example, in terms of avoiding harm, the brainstem and the structures just on top of it are fast and relatively rigid. Neuroplasticity - the capacity of the brain to learn from experience by changing its structure - increases as you move up both the evolutionary ladder and the layered structures of the brain.

Consequently, if you want to help yourself feel less concerned, uneasy, nervous, anxious, or traumatized - feelings and reactions that are highly affected by "reptilian," brainstem-related processes - then you need many, many repetitions of feeling safe, protected, and at ease to leave lasting traces in the brainstem and limbic system structures that produce the first emotion, the most primal one of all: fear.

Or to put it a little differently, your inner reptile needs a LOT of petting!

To begin with, I've found it helps me to appreciate how scared that little Snake inside each one us is. Snakes - and early mammals, emerging about 200 million years ago - that were not continually uneasy and vigilant would fail the first test of life in the wild: eat lunch - don't be lunch - today.

So be aware of the ongoing background trickle of anxiety in your mind, the subtle guarding and bracing with people and events as you move through your day. Then, again and again, try to relax some, remind yourself that you are actually alright right now, and send soothing and calming down into the most ancient layers of your mind.

Also soothe your own body. Most of the signals coming into the brain originate inside the body, not from out there in the world. Therefore, as your body settles down, that sends feedback up into your brain that all is well - or at least not too bad. Take a deep breath and feel each part of it, noticing that you are basically OK, and letting go of tension and anxiety as you exhale; repeat as you like. Shift your posture - even right now as you read this - to a more comfortable position. As you do activities such as eating, walking, using the bathroom, or going to bed, keep bringing awareness to the fact that you are safe, that necessary things are getting done just fine, that you are alive and well.

Throughout, keep taking in the good of these many moments of petting your inner snake. Register the experience in your body of a softening, calming, and opening; savor it; stay with it for 10-20-30 seconds in a row so that it can transfer to implicit memory.

Some have likened the mind/brain to a kind of committee. Frankly, I think it's more like a jungle! We can't get rid of the critters in there - they're hardwired into the brain - but we can tame and guide them. Then, as the bumper sticker says, they wag more and bark less.

Like Lucy we need to relax and be at ease finding our peace and rest in the Green Zone.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Bill Fetter has over 30 years of experience improving organizational performance using management, organization development, training, team development, and executive coaching for strategic change. He has served as both an internal and external consultant and senior manager for several Fortune 200 Companies.

Disabled Veteran, Neuropsychologist, Speaker, Author, Minister, Certified Professional Coach, Former University Professor, Former Space Shuttle Astronaut trainer, Actor, Musician, Performer, Pilot, Life/Relationship Coach.

Bill's track record includes success in corporate, non-profit, and aerospace; including astronaut and crew training for Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, and consulting environments. He is an internationally recognized leader in innovative Training and Development Solutions. Bill has been published in over 55 professional journals, publications, and books; and, has been on TV and Radio stations worldwide for his contributions in advancing learning technologies and cognition.

In addition to Bill's technical training design and development skills, he also has facilitated over 100 seminars and workshops including career development, customer service, time and stress management, management coaching, sales effectiveness, meeting management, performance management, presentation skills, Leadership Development, Samurai Leadership, and many others.

Bill started his professional journey as a Registered and Certified ASCP Microbiologist and was a Clinical Virologist for the Texas State Department of Health.