How to tame your lizard

Posted on April 20, 2010


So you’ve got a lizard. And it’s running wild and crazy. Here’s what to do when your lizard gets out of hand.

If you’ve ever heard me talk about Blanche, you know about my lizard. She is such a part of my everyday, she even has her very own page on my blog. After years of trying to get rid of her, I’ve finally accepted her presence in my life.  Most of the time, I actually find her proclamations of danger to be ridiculously funny.  But our relationship wasn’t always like this.

There was a time when I actually thought Blanche was me. Her fearful warnings and exclamations of terror were enough to keep me from ever really putting myself out there, which, as you can imagine, put quite a damper on my love life.

When I learned to distance myself from her scary words and mean criticisms, I could relax enough to really enjoy the company of the person I was with. Instead of listening to her, I was listening to him, which was the beginning of me making some better choices in my relationships. So in this post, I’d like to talk about your lizard and give you some tips on how to tame it.

The Science Behind Your Lizard

Your brain has different areas that serve different functions, including a brain stem and something scientists refer to as “the triune brain”. The triune brain is also called the reptilian brain and it is a small part of the brain near the brain stem. It has been with human beings since the beginning.

A long time ago, we relied on messages from the reptilian brain to keep us alive. This part of our brain would tell us to fight predators or to run away-it was essential that we listened to it for survival purposes (think human in wilderness with tiger nearby). Of course, as hundreds of years have passed, our tribes and civilizations have changed. Few of us now are ever in any real danger of life-threatening lack or attack. However, the reptilian brain is still alive and kicking and it mistakes anything that looks like personal growth or deep change as a life-or-death matter. In coaching, we call this part of our brains the lizard.

Why the wild lizard is a problem

The purpose of your lizard is to keep you safe (and the lizard’s definition of safe is pretty dysfunctional). Your lizard holds you back from really going after what you want in life. It tells you not to bother because all of the good men are already taken or that you’re too flawed for any one to really want you.

I know, it sounds mean-IT IS MEAN-but the lizard, in its primitive little way, thinks that it’s keeping you safe by trapping you into this comfortable box where you’re never challenged to really grow or change. (The lizard also traps you by keeping you in the same bad relationship patterns but that’s a topic for another post).  If you don’t learn how to tame the lizard, it will continue to run your life. Fear, not love, is the dance of the lizard.

How to tame your lizard

Forget about taming dragons, sister, you’ve got a much bigger beast to contend with. Your lizard. Here’s how to regain control over your reptile:

Step One: Give your lizard a name. I picked the older name Blanche because my lizard always sounds like a critical and frightened old grandmother. It fits her.

Step Two: Draw or find a picture of your lizard.

Step Three: Write down her Top Ten Tunes Of Terror-the top ten things she likes to tell you to scare you in relationships (or perhaps I should say out of relationships.)

Here are some of Blanche’s favorites:  Do you honestly think anyone will find YOU attractive? You need to lose 10 pounds. His ex is gorgeous-what makes you think he won’t go back to her? Online dating? Are you kidding me? What are you now, a total loser? {By the way, I share NONE of these sentiments}

Step Four: Isn’t your lizard nasty?! Take a second and reflect on how bad those Tunes of Terror really are. This is why your lizard must be tamed.

Step Five:  Do one thing per day that pushes you, ever so slightly, out of your comfort zone. Your lizard WILL freak out. That’s the point. Let it freak out and do the thing that frightens you anyway. Maybe that means smiling at a guy on the train or joining a singles club. Maybe that means NOT always going out with the girls on Friday night and going off and doing something new instead. The point here is to stretch out of those comfortable patterns that you have established and to do something NEW.

Step Six: After you’ve “lived through” the thing you were afraid to do, give yourself some kind of reward. Even if you did not get the results you were hoping for (ESPECIALLY if you did not get the results you were hoping for), you so deserve some recognition for trying.  I mean, after all, you just tamed a lizard and that was NO easy feat.

Posted in: Relationships