The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival.” – Seth Godin


Many of you may be shocked to hear that we all have a lizard brain! Now I am not saying that we all have the same brain as a lizard. Nor am I saying that in your brain lives a tiny little lizard. That would be weird, lol.


Rather, the lizard brain refers to the oldest part of your brain that is responsible for primitive survival instincts. Primitive survival instincts? Well, that refers to the old “fight or flight” responses.


You see, back in the day when a human, like yourself, went out foraging in the forest to find food. You needed some sort of warning survival system to come to your aid when facing a big scary animal with big teeth that probably wanted to eat you for lunch. AKA a bear!


Seeing that bear, triggered a survival instinct in your lizard brain activating your flight or fight response. You either fought or ran away frantically. Then, hopefully lived to tell about it!


What is important to understand here is the stress you experienced back then was short and short-lived. In other words, we responded to the situation and then moved on. Our nervous system then reset itself and all was good.


However, today we have created a very different culture in which our old lizard brain gets triggered way too often. Let’s think about that for a moment…


We can track every horrific and tragic event anywhere in the world all day and night with our constant exposure to media and news. Plus, we can set our phones to gives us constant notifications of all those horrific events throughout the day.


Let’s not forget how we tend to wind down and watch some more dramatic and tragic movies and television shows. All of which we call “entertainment” LOL.


This constant exposure overtaxes our lizard brain which was designed to handle one event and then move on. In other words, our lizard brain is no longer reacting to just the bear but feels like it is reacting to the whole forest!


You see, your lizard brain doesn’t know that those events aren’t actually happening! It fires off anyways! It’s the chronic, constant triggering that results in stress problems; not the single events you experience and then move on from.


Here is a striking fact to help illustrate this point: Individuals who watched more than six hours of news on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing experienced more PTSD (trauma) symptoms than someone who was actually there and experienced the bombing.


I would invite you to think about this and reflect upon how much taxing triggering you are placing on your lizard brain each day. And then maybe give the lizard brain a break and go for a relaxing walk. Or, maybe shut the television off for a bit. Don’t forget to disconnect yourself from your cellphone either. It is all about learning to relax.



Chris Swenson is a licensed Couple and Family Therapist currently helping people learn to relax and understand how to handle and manage stress at his private practice counseling office in Sterling, CO (Rhino Wellness Center). To contact Chris, you can call 970-522-0796 or schedule an appointment online at