Safety And The Reptilian Brain: Learn To Keep Your Relationship Out Of The Mud
Your Big Wonderful Neocortex
The size of our neocortex in comparison to animals is what distinguishes human beings. The size of ours of course being much larger. It is sometimes referred to as the Primate Brain and controls our so-called Executive Function. In simple words, the neocortex is what allows the ability to think. When youre at your favorite coffee shop trying to decide whether to have a Vente Cappuccino or a Grande Latte, the neocortex is at work. It also allows you to navigate a traffic jam and find another route home. But perhaps its most important function is giving you the ability to suppress urges that would otherwise lead to an undesirable outcome. Your cortex remembers what is important to you, what you value, and helps you make decisions that are consistent with those values. So if one of your core values is stay married, or have a fulfilling relationship, it is your best friend.
But you are more than just a big neocortex walking around ordering cappuccinos and fulfilling your core values in life. This is good news since your neocortex, your very sense of you, couldnt survive without more primitive parts of your brain running on autopilot. And yet it is these primitive parts of the brain that I see causing the most mayhem and destruction when a couple walks into my office.
Getting to Know Your Lizard
Your Lizard is REACTIVE
Lizard Logic: SAFE or UNSAFE?
How the lizard decides between SAFE and UNSAFE
2) Your lizard over-reacts to threats
How To Reach The Reptilian Brain With Your Value Proposition
You dont necessarily need to threaten your audiences immediate survival to grab their attention .
There are specific marketing techniques you can use for captivation.
These include: tapping into your audiences pain points, appeal to their innate selfishness, demonstrate importance through contrast, emphasize value tangibility, focus on beginning and end, use a visual metaphor, and strike an emotional chord.
Well go over these in more detail below, with specific examples of each.
Reptilian Brain Trigger: Threat To Safety
As soon as you feel threatened, this acts as a trigger for your reptilian brain to activate your defense mode. I cant speak from personal experience because I dont have a drivers license myself , but a lot of people seem to become very aggressive when they are driving their car. This is called road rage. But why are normal people overreacting when they are driving their car? Well, thats because when one of their fellow car drivers are maneuvering very suddenly, they suddenly feel threatened. And this feeling of threat is what immediately activates their lizard brain. It feels like an invasion of their personal space. Without thinking logically about it, they react aggressively by beeping their horn or swearing. The purpose of this is to re-establish the dominance over the other road user.
So, your lizard brain is triggered as soon as you feel threatened. The big question is of course: Is this feeling corresponding to a real threat or not? Should you really feel threatened as soon as something unexpected is happening? Or are there hundreds of logical explanations why another driver is taking a certain maneuver while none of them has something to do with a threat towards you?
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Reptilian Brain Trigger: Sex
Sex sells as all sales people in the world know. But why is that, do you think? Well, sex sells because it stimulates our reptilian brain! I remember my father when he was researching his next car he wanted to buy. All those glossy magazines with the new car and beautiful models standing next to each car. My father always said: When I buy this car, do I get this model too?
Sex triggers have the ability to stimulate the following primal emotions in your reptile brain:
- wanting to seek a mate
So, placing a beautiful model next to a car, will automatically make the car more attractive, because it appeals to your reptilian brain. Sex is a very powerful trigger, and it will often bypass your critical thinking thereby making you more receptive to persuasion. And even when you are aware of it, like in my fathers case, you are still persuaded whether you like it or not. And thats because your lizard brain is already influenced by the sex trigger and your critical thinking brain can nothing do about it.This does not mean that you are always helpless when influenced by sex trigger of course. The first step to guard yourself against unwanted persuasion is acknowledging the existence and how it works. After that, you can think in advance about future situations where you will be influenced by the sex trigger and then weapon yourself against it.
Use Visual Metaphors To Captivate The Reptilian Brain Of Your Audience
As said earlier, human beings are visual creatures, because the optic nerve is directly connected to the reptilian brain. Therefore, visual input has the most impact . This is also a survival mechanism of the reptilian brain: it reacts far more quickly to visual input than any other input. So, now you know why a PowerPoint slide with only bullet points is destroying the attention of your audience, while a slide with just one picture can captivate the attention of your audience.
So, try at all costs, to use visual representations of your key messages in what you are presenting. As said earlier, if it would be a tangible visual than it is even more powerful. But in some cases, you are not able to use visuals. For example, when you speak to someone on the phone. Or when you have suddenly a meeting for which you could not prepare. Even in these cases, it is possible to involve the visual brain. Just picture the image in words. Start by saying: Picture this and then picture the visual you have in mind.
Your reptilian brain is the oldest of the three brains you have. The lizard brain serves primarily for the survival of your body and genes, and it has a very animalistic way of responding. There are a set of strong triggers that can activate your reptilian brain directly, and when this happens, your neocortex or thinking brain will be bypassed resulting in irrational behavior. Exposure to such a trigger can even completely change your personality.
Over to you
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This Happens When A Mans Reptilian Brain Is Completely Convinced That A Particular Woman Is A Source Of Pleasure And As A Result It Force Feeds Feelings Of Attraction Into A Mans System Which Urges Him To Actively Pursue That Woman
Similarly, when the reptilian brain concludes that being around a certain woman isnt pleasurable enough, it will naturally make a man feel that ugly knot of bitterness in his stomach, which will make him feel repulsed by that specific woman.
In short, if you know how to trigger a mans reptilian brain the right way, you can make him go absolutely crazy for you, but get it wrong, and he will dislike you and wont even know why.
Power Addicts And Low Emotional Control
Comparing a despot who is controlled by the personality of a three year old can sometimes be a pretty accurate metaphor. That is for a very simple reason: for their lack of self-control when it comes to managing their emotions. David McClelland, well known motivational psychologist and famous for his theory on needs explains that human beings are basically characterized by three goals: relationships, achievements, and power.
Exercising power corrupts, submitting to power degrades.
There is a need in every one of us that stands out. Some will value relationships more, those who aspire to reach certain goals, and those who simply have just one obsession: exercise their power wherever they can.
These will be the basic characteristics of a profile associated with this type of personality:
In conclusion, although we may each know someone who fits this profile, we need to keep one thing clear: the reptilian brain, without a doubt, guides many of our reactions and choices. However, we should not allow it to take control of all our behaviors.
The theory of the reptilian brain is vital in understanding the world of our emotions, and above all, to be conscious of the ultimate need to invest time and effort in proper emotional development. Just as we exercise our body and try to develop our intellect each day, we should be better at managing those urges, those primitive emotions that, although it may be hard to believe, rule a big part of our life.
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What Does The Reptilian Brain Control
The reptilian brain controls the body’s vital functions. It controls your breathing, your heart rate, body temperature, how the organs in your body function and so on. It is very reliable… it will always serve your body in the best possible way. However, it is also somewhat rigid and compulsive.
This part of your mind also controls your focus. Everything you see, hear, feel, taste or smell runs first through your reptilian brain. If it thinks something is not worth focusing on, it is neglected. Your mental filters are controlled by this part of your mind. This is also why you will want to use mental contrasting if you want to make sure you achieve your goals.
If you want to focus better, have more concentration, be less distracted…
your reptilian brain really is your best friend!
Emotional Control Or No Control
The influence of the emotional brain is most apparent when we do things that we know we shouldnt do and then later regret doing them. For example, many dieters struggle to stick to their diet because they give in to temptation and eat something that they said they would no longer eat.
This occurs primarily for two reasons. The first, is the natural pre-programmed response to food from the reptilian brain which readies the body to receive food. The second, and perhaps the most powerful, is the emotional association that has been linked to that food by the emotional brain.
If the food is perceived as being particularly tasty, and therefore pleasurable, the emotional brain strengthens the desire for food by activating memories associated with pleasure for that food. This can then result in real physiological bodily responses, such as salivation in the mouth.
Although your conscious thinking brain may be telling you not to eat it because it will make you fat , somehow you suddenly seem to change your mind and eating the food doesnt feel like such a bad idea anymore. After all, it wont hurt if you have just a little bit, right?
Before you know it, you have eaten the food you were trying to avoid, and later, when the food is gone , your conscious thinking brain logically analyzes your action leading to feelings of regret and guilt because you did something which you said you didnt want to do.
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Do Emotions Make You Blind
Another example of the overpowering effects that the emotional brain can have on the thinking brain, is love. Ever hear the expression madly in love or love is blind? Well, there is some truth behind these sayings.
Love, lust, a crush or even just physical attractiveness can stimulate reptilian sexual and mating responses. Some of which include the desire to have sex/seek a mate, the desire to own or possess and the desire to dominate.
Because sex is so important for keeping our genes alive in future generations, the drive for sex is incredibly powerful. This especially true when these desires are amplified by the emotional brain, which links feelings of pleasure and well-being to it.
The Reptilian Brain And Our Irrational Decisions
We have already discussed the fact that there is a very concrete personality type that is led exclusively by their reptilian brain: those who are addicted to territoriality, to control, domination or even aggression. Does this mean that everyone else has this deep, innate, and atavistic area of their brain?
Absolutely, and the experts in neuromarketing know a lot about this. The reptilian brain, that old and dark companion, also controls a lot of our basic functions, and our instincts. In fact, tasks such as breathing or the feeling of hunger and thirst are under its control, as well as the more primitive emotions of desire, sex, power, and even violence as a means of surviving.
The advertising industry knows that human beings are almost always ruled by the reptilian brain when deciding on one product or another.
For example, the smoker will keep buying tobacco knowing that they can die, and they will do it simply because they need to satisfy their addiction. In these cases, the neocortex, the logical part of the brain, does not have a voice nor a vote. So much so that the experts in neuromarketing know that the ability to make decisions in these instances does not reach 20%.
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Alternatives To Conversations About The Triune Brain
Instead of defaulting to a conversation about the reptilian brain heres a few neuroscientifically and evolutionary correct stories or explanations to use.
In the spirit of the positive lexicography project, if you have any other useful explanations of human brains or behaviour that you use leave a comment below.
- If youre describing brain anatomy, and want to distinguish the amygdala from the hypothalamus from the brainstem I recommend you use this online 3D brain anatomy tool.
What are emotions
- Just like a painter learns to see fine distinctions in colours, or a wine connoisseur develops their palette to experience tastes non-experts cant taste, you can practice naming emotions. With practice, you can become an expert namer and categoriser of emotions.
- Emotions such as sadness come in many shades of blue. Lets come up with five words to describe how you feel today.
Fear & autonomic responses
- Try to deconstruct the ingredients of your emotions especially your body sensations. e.g a fast-beating heart doesnt necessarily mean your brain has detected a threat or there is something to fear. Perhaps your heart is beating faster because youre excited, or youre getting ready to exercise.
- If someone is scared of, say, a spider, ask them to describe the spider using as many emotion words as possible, e.g. The spider in front of me makes me feel disgusting, nerve-wracking and jittery but is kind of intriguing.
Appeal To The Pain Points Of The Reptilian Brain
The reptilian brain is concerned with avoiding pain as a means to the survival of the body and the genes. Much more than it is with gaining pleasure. So, if you want to activate the lizard brain, appealing to pain is more effective than appealing to pleasure. This applies when you want to trigger your reptilian brain or the reptilian brain of your stakeholders. Start with talking about the pain you want to avoid first, to grab the attention of the lizard brain. If you have the attention, then you can start talking about the benefits of the solution you are presenting.
So, next time when you need to give a presentation of a project proposal for a group of stakeholders, first ask yourself what the pain points are they want to avoid. As soon as you have their attention, present how your value proposition will be alleviating that pain.
If I order a pizza with our local Dominos pizza service, then since a year or so, I can follow exactly when the pizza will be delivered at my door, via their online ordering system. I was curious why Dominos bothered to give me all that information, but it turned out that this was designed to alleviate the pain of most customers that they didnt know when the pizza would arrive. Alleviating this pain happened to give sales a tremendous boost for Dominos!
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Using The Reptilian Hot Button To Limbic Hot Button Technique
Once you have identified the brands Reptilian and Limbic Hot Buttons, you construct stories or get testimonials that begin with a short Reptilian Hot Button to get the target audiences attention and then you quickly move to Limbic Hot Button images and copy.
Here are some examples of TV commercials that use this technique. The same technique can be applied to any product, service or cause.
In this Embrel TV ad, a boy shares his worry about his moms painful rheumatoid arthritis, wondering if she will be able to do all the things she normally does. Notice how the ad starts with the boys worry about his Moms pain and ends showing loving scenes of Mom and the boy.
The Reptilian Hot Button gets Embrels target audiences attention. It is best to push the Reptilian Hot Button quickly before the fear reaction takes hold. Now that you have the target audiences attention, show Limbic Hot Button images to evoke higher level emotions like love and happiness.
Reptilian Brain Trigger: Money Power And Social Status
Greed and aggression are a few of the primal emotions of the reptilian brain. These are triggered by the prospect of gaining or losing money, power, or social status. These triggers are interconnected because money is often used to gain power and social status, and power is also used to obtain social status. At the same time, with the social status, you have more ability to gain power and money.
So, as soon as you see an ad on how you can save big money or get rich quick, your lizard brain will be triggered causing you to react irrationally and in a more automatic, subconscious way. Thats why it is wise to create a pattern interrupt for yourself upfront. Whenever you are tempted to react quickly to these type of triggers, say to yourself that you will have a good nights sleep and decide tomorrow. This will calm down your reptilian brain, and this will give your neocortex or critical thinking the chance to step in the process. The result of this, is most of the time, that you will think that it is wise not to buy the crap you first thought was fantastic.
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