“Silenzio Bruno” and the Phenomenon Called Lizard Brain
Taming the Reptilian Complex
I am a grown-up who loves Disney & Pixar movies. No, this is not a movie review. This article is about a beautiful motto from the movie Luca, which in reality is a metaphor for a popular self-help concept.
The scene is set in a colorful frame, with greenery high on a cliff, seagulls in the sky, and waves hitting the rocks
On the clifftop, stands Alberto and Luca, two young sea monsters who have the ability to magically transform into young boys when they are on land.
They are getting ready to try out their DIY Vespa scooter by jumping off the cliff into the sea. Luca is scared for obvious reasons. His brave friend Alberto tells him a secret motto to overcome this fear.
“Silenzio Bruno” is that motto.
Bruno, according to Alberto, is that inner voice that is stopping Luca from doing fun things. Bruno is what we popularly call the lizard brain.
The ‘lizard brain’ or the ‘reptilian complex’ is a part of the brain that existed much before we evolved into what we are today
Thousands of years ago in a dark dense forest, when the caveman walked along the riverbank looking for prey to hunt, he heard a big roar. His reptilian complex quickly reacted by inducing fear and ordering him to run.
He runs far enough to make sure that he has escaped from whichever animal that roared. That’s one of the main purposes of the reptilian complex aka the lizard brain. It induces immediate warnings to keep us safe.
It is located right above our spinal cord, below all our brain regions, and re-acts faster than all other parts of the brain. The lizard brain is one of the most primitive parts of the animal brain.
It was in existence when lizards started evolving, hence the nickname.
Today, when we go for a morning walk in our neighborhood, we don’t have to be as vigilant as our cave-dwelling ancestors
Yet, the reptilian complex is still pro-actively giving us unnecessary warnings right before we give a presentation to a large crowd, when we take a test, or while we pitch in a deal with a new customer.
“You will fail”, “It won’t work”, “Don’t do it,”, it says.
One needs to silence it in order to move forward with confidence. We need to silence our lizard brain for the sake of our own self-esteem.
Heaps have been said and documented about silencing the lizard brain
The first step in doing so is identifying that the inner voice (that is criticizing you), isn’t you. Acknowledge its existence and consider it as someone else or something else.
The next step is to ask it to stop. There are numerous ways to do it. Writers might be most comfortable with writing a letter addressing the inner voice, acknowledging and explaining the positive side of things.
Many others prefer repeating the negative sentences with a mocked-up voice in that it becomes funny and silly. While that works in silencing the lizard brain, one might not be comfortable doing mimicry when there are others around.
For example, right before a performance, it's easier to shift focus from the lizard brain by listening to music. Each individual identifies themselves with some kind of music that can boost their mood.
It’s good to have your personal boost music handy in such situations. Athletes can be seen with headphones right before a major run, listening to their boost music.
Another popular technique is the power poses. I love these. Right before a presentation, rush to the washroom and stand in a power pose for two minutes or more.
It might sound strange, but it works.
You don’t have to do all of these to overpower your lizard brain. One of them will do. What you do will depend on what easily works for you and your situation.
Also, the more you practice silencing the reptilian complex, the easier it becomes in the long run.
Silencing the lizard brain is good for your mental health too
The level of cortisol, the stress hormone, goes down significantly once you master this art. One doesn’t need an explanation as to why low stress is good for mental health.
The lizard brain wakes up when you are about to do something adventurous like self-publishing an article, sky diving, or asking someone out for dinner.
When you overcome the reptilian-induced fear and negativity, you end up doing that thing that you initially hesitated to do, which in turn increases your dopamine level.
Dopamine is one of the four “happiness hormones” that boost mental health. Overall, it's a win-win.
In the end
In the end, Luca overcame his insecurities, participated in the big summer scooter race, and failed. He still ended up being happy because of other reasons. Yes, he failed at what he wanted to initially win.
Overcoming the lizard brain is no guarantee for immediate success. It’s just the first step towards doing something. One might win or lose.
It’s better to lose after trying out something instead of losing because one was scared. Once you have tried out that something that you were scared to do, it’s then a different story.
Consider joining the Medium Club. Get access to unlimited content that’s worth reading and en-route support thousands of writers like me.