Our minds are so complex. I was thinking just this morning about why people do some of the stupid, and at times horrendous, things they do. Why do people hurt each other physically and non-physically? What kind of right-minded individual would initiate violence on another, especially over something petty or contrived? I’ve written a bit about it in past posts, but the stuff I’m reading currently talks a lot about the “lizard brain“. Everyone has one. The part of your brain directly attached to the brain stem is called the amygdala. Some people call this the lizard brain, or reptilian brain, among other things. When we’re in a fight or flight situation, this is the first part of our brains that light up on a brain-scanner-thingy (yep, technical jargon). It even lights up when we merely think about something we determine threatening or fearful. This is huge. So, basically, nothing even has to be actually happening in our physical world for this bad boy to hop into action. When it does activate, our shoulders tend to tighten up, tunnel vision narrows our focus, our heart rate goes up a bit, and a lot of other animal-like natural instincts that may have served us well in the stone age (or if we’re actually in a life-threatening situation), but are totally counterproductive in the drive thru at In-N’-Out Burger. So, this lizard brain can be a blessing, but it’s mostly a curse in this day and age.
Our brains have evolved a lot since the lizard brain came around. They’ve grown in mass and we’ve developed the frontal cortex, which lights up when we listen to music we like, or are creating things. The lizard brain is quiet during those times. We’re stuck with this lizard brain. Sure, it could save our lives, so thank goodness we have em’, but more often than not, when we obey it’s command, it gets us in a pickle, almost every time. The difficult thing about it is it’s automatic. When we’re stressed, angry, scared, or (trying to keep this as P.G. as possible) sexually aroused, that ole’ lizard brain is going to talk to us first. It’s a lot like walking around with a loaded gun with no safety. It would be nice, if when we get up in the morning, to be able to flip a switch to make sure it doesn’t go off unexpectedly and get us fired or kicked out of our mother-in-law’s house or something. We have to always be aware of it. Just know that if something comes up in our day (which it will) that when it starts giving us commands, to consciously recognize it, thank it for doing it’s job, and not listen to it. In Aikido, we build this safety switch, so to say. There are times during a technique that our partner’s floating rib is soooo exposed, and we could just blast em’, but we don’t, and we take them to the ground fairly safely. I’ve heard it said that there should always be opportunity for a debilitating strike throughout the technique. Do we act on the opportunity? That’s up to us, but in Aikido we mostly practice the option of not taking it while also being well aware that the option is there.