Recently I attended friends' wedding on a hot summer evening and was nearly overwhelmed by nervousness and fear. My lizard brain decided to attend the wedding as an uninvited guest of mine, and it had the potential of diminishing my appreciation of my friends' special day.
The wedding took place at end of a very hot week. I was preoccupied with staying comfortable during the event, so I wore a plebeian-yet-presentable short sleeve buttoned shirts and slim slacks. I arrived early at the wedding and saw that a good amount of people were dressed up. Many men were adorned in sharp dress shirts and summer suits: they looked like Duchess catalog models! I suddenly felt out of place, like a dump truck at a fancy auto show. While everyone was dressed to the nines, it seemed, I was only dressed to the fives.
The amygdala then kicked in. All of sudden I was flooded with worries. My good friends whom I had expected to show up at the wedding were nowhere in sight. I would be attending a wedding without the comforts of familiar faces to talk with. My wrapping skills on the wedding gift were atrocious, and the wrapping paper that I used wasn't fancy enough. People would stare at me all evening long for being grossly under-dressed for the occasion. I took a seat out in the courtyard, clutched my iPhone, and tried to lose myself in trivial web surfing while waiting for the ceremony to start.
After few minutes, though, I realized that I was letting my lizard brain take over what seemed like a foreign and unfamiliar situation. I thought about how I had spent two weekends prior at the World Domination Summit, where nearly 3000 people showed up, dared greatly in company of strangers, and made human connections throughout the weekend. Some of the attendees whom I had met during the event knew not a single soul before making a long-distance trek to the summit. Had I not learned from that experience? I boldly pried my eyes away from the day's baseball scores and purposefully turned off my phone. I slid the mobile device into my pocket, where it remained the entire evening.
I focused on my surroundings--the verdant courtyard of the wedding space, the warm, basking light of early summer evening, and the thought about the soon-to-be-newlyweds. The lizard brain was about to be tamed. A group of guests who were seated nearby introduced themselves to me, and conversations ensued afterward. There were talks about great nearby eateries, our jobs (one of the fellow guests turned out to be a customer at my work), and travels. Other guests who were also casually dressed started arriving. My good friends, who were elegant in their attires, arrived nearly fashionably late. The lizard brain went into hiding the rest of the evening.
Identifying times when I allow the amygdala to take over and taking bold steps to stop the lizard brain in its tracks will become more natural with practice. Being myself allowed me to belong--the lizard brain wanted me to fit in. Once I had chased away the counter mind and the arena of fear, I was able to be present and enjoy the evening.