Self-Sabotage, Lizard Brain, Rat Park Experiment

“It’s not like I’m shooting myself in the foot,” said Whitney. “It’s more like I’m using my entire body for target practice. With guns in both hands.”

-Martha Beck

We have fears- fear not getting a job, fear of not doing well in job, fear of losing job, fear of uncertain future etc. This fear is due to limbic system of brain, also called “Lizard Brain”, since in case of lizards limbic system is the brain. Limbic system is the seat of emotions, addictions, moods, anxiety etc. In case of fear it has only two responses – fight or flight.

During evolution human brain also became complex and it is capable of doing things beyond Lizard Brain.


But we still listen to our lizard brain resulting in self sabotage. Two self-sabotage techniques are

  1. Fear of losing/ failing in _________ ( you can fill in the blank)
  2. Procrastination, we use procrastination as façade to hide our fears. Lizard brain argument is- currently situation is not favourable to do new things, I will do it when things become perfect i.e. I have plenty of money/time/education etc. By delaying decisions/avoiding risk we confine ourselves to world with which we are familiar, soon safety becomes addiction ( feature of lizard brain) and we refuse to come out of it.

Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander conducted an experiment on rats. He came with a hypothesis that addiction is not due to drugs (which refutes the existing belief, that if person starts taking drugs, he becomes addicted to it). He claimed that addiction was due to living conditions and not due to addictive property of drug itself.

Initially he put rats in small cages with poor living conditions, when given option between plain water and water with morphine mixed in it, the rats went for morphine.


Then he built a rat park (rat equivalent of Disney Land), with plenty of space, food, toys etc. Now given option between drugged water and plain water, the rats went for plain water; they were not interested in drugs. Addiction was due to living conditions.

“Hopeful thinking can get you out of your fear zone and into your appreciation zone”

-Martha Beck

Our self-sabotage mindset is like cage, we get addicted to failure, but once we broaden our mind with plenty of ideas and possibilities (Rat Park) we can get rid of failure mindset.



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