“To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved strong tendencies toward fear, including an ongoing internal trickle of unease,” notes neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. “This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer worlds for signs of trouble.”
Hanson says that our brains’ default setting is great for surviving in the wild, but a crummy way to live day to day because it feeds anxiety, wears down well-being, and makes us act based on fear instead of strength. I’d add that it feeds interpersonal conflict, too, allowing our inner lizards to magnify unimportant day-to-day stuff into bigger events.
Hanson offers a simple and straightforward practice for pushing back against your inner lizard. He calls it “Notice You’re Alright Right Now” and I’ve found myself shortening it to the “Ok Right Now” mini-meditation.
[T]ake a close look at this moment, right now. You are probably alright: No one is attacking you, you are not drowning, no bombs are falling, there is no crisis. It’s not perfect, but you’re OK.
By “right now,” I really mean this instant. When we go into the future, we worry and plan. When we go into the past, we resent and regret. Threads of fear are woven into the mental tapestries of past and future. Look again at the thin slice of time that is the present. In this moment, are you basically OK? Is breathing OK? Is the heart beating? Is the mind working? The answers are almost certainly yes.
In daily life, it’s possible to access this fundamental sense of alrightness even while getting things done. You’re not ignoring real threats or issues, or pretending that everything is perfect. It’s not. But in the middle of everything, you can usually see that you’re actually alright right now.
I’ve tried it myself and have invited a few clients to try the approach over the past few weeks when they find their hackles rising in an interpersonal conflict. The result has been very positive…said one client, “It felt like fresh, strong blood flowing through my veins when I stopped and realized I was truly all right at that very second.” She had to repeat the practice several times during her difficult conversation, but emerged convinced that it had made a difference for her.
Learn the details of Hanson’s simple meditation for centering yourself during interpersonal conflict and taking a stand against the lizard here: Notice You’re Alright Right Now.