So far this year, what has been your loudest and most troubling lizard tune or tunes? If the answer came to you straight away, that’s great – you might already be using self-awareness tools regularly. If your answer was “I have no idea” and “what’s a lizard tune?”, those are fair questions, so let’s jump straight it.
Question 1: What’s a lizard tune?
Answer: It’s a term coined by best-selling author and world-renowned life coach, Martha Beck, to describe a limiting belief or thought that’s stuck on repeat and holding you back. Like: “I don’t deserve to be happy” or “I’m just not good enough” or “I’ll never be good with numbers.”
Question 2: How do I know what my unique lizard tune is?
Answer: Is there something that the self-critical part of you is often telling yourself? If nothing comes to mind straight away, use one of the prompts below from Beck’s book, Steering by Starlight, to help get you going.
Oh, no! I don’t have enough ______________
If I don’t watch out, someone will __________
I can’t be perfectly happy until I get _________
Everybody pressures me to _______________
People will hurt me unless __________________
If only I had __________________
Somebody’s always out to __________________
I must hang on to __________________
In other words, a small step that some people might balk at (identifying and writing down a limiting thought) has led to a profound outcome (creating space between you and your thoughts).
Question 3: Now that I’ve identified some lizard tunes, what should I do next?
Answer: Give your lizard a name (mine is called Yertle – scroll down to meet him).
Question 4: What do I do once I’ve given it a name?
Answer: The next time you hear one of your lizard’s tunes, you tell it you’ve noticed it and you invite it – politely, and with kindness – to go back to sleep or wherever else you want to send it. Just remember to be kind: The lizard might seem annoying, but it thinks it’s trying its best to help you.
Okay so a quick theory break, and then a practical example.
Lizard theory and watching the reptile
“Lizard tune” is a term used to describe an untrue thought that comes from the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain is a really old and deep layer of the brain that first came about in early vertebrates. It’s the part of the brain that broadcasts survival fears. Like: “The world is out to get me” or “I will never have enough money”.
Beck writes: “By calling on the nonreptilian part of your neural complex to watch the reptile, you subtract neural energy from the survival fear and move it to a more highly evolved portion of the brain. The neuron pathways that carry lizard fears become weaker the more we observe them.”
And as the fear becomes weaker, so grows the clarity and creativity.
Meet my lizard, Yertle
My lizard is called Yertle (yes from Dr. Seuss, for those who recognize it). Recently I was thinking about the next steps my partner, Rav, and I should be taking with our business, when *surprise surprise* Yertle showed up. Here’s a little conversation:
Yertle (by the way, Yertle has an Australian accent): “Ryan, face it, you’re always almost a success, but you don’t have what it takes to properly make it.”
Me: Freeze, feel myself closing up. But then relax as I realise that it’s not me talking, it’s Yertle.
Me: “Oh, hi Yurtle. Thanks for sharing your opinion, which when I get really clear, is not actually my opinion. You’re free to go back to sleep.”
Sometimes there’s a cluster of tunes that all have the same theme, so for me, on deeper investigation, the cluster here looks like:
“You’re almost successful enough, you’re almost interesting enough, you’re almost clever enough, you’re almost a good Dad… You’re almost all of these things, but you just can’t quite figure out how to get over the finish line and you never will.”
Yip, Yertle can cut to the bone! But now that I know that it’s him, it causes less anxiety. And I can quickly acknowledge that Yertle’s in his “you’re almost good enough” cluster of tunes.
So in summary?
(1) Name your lizard; (2) Start to keep a list of lizard tunes; (3) Start to become aware of when the lizard is speaking; and (4) Thank the lizard and notice that the lizard’s voice is not your own.
That’s it for now. Just awareness. WATCH THAT REPTILE as Beck would say.
We’d love you to share the name of your lizard and, if you’re comfortable, some of your lizard tunes, in the comments below. And if you would like to be coached through this with Ryan, click here to book an appointment.