by Dawn Walton
There are three basic rules of survival used by your subconscious to keep you safe and alive. It is one or more of these rules that is usually the basis of you developing a Thing (or Things) that can get in the way of life when you are an adult. The reason that they can be so damaging and limiting is that these rules are based on the requirements to survive in the days when we were cavemen. Unfortunately it seems that they haven’t really been updated through evolution to fit in with our modern society.
Rule Number 1 – React First or You’ll Die!
This rule is about fear and how to respond when under threat. It is applied from the moment you are born. It is a fundamental and primitive principle, to already have the basic skills and capabilities necessary for survival at the moment of birth. As a result, this rule requires that when faced with something that will hurt you (these days emotionally or physically), then you must react instantly and instinctively. It is not conducive to survival to take time to think through various scenarios to find the optimum outcome.
Rule Number 2 – If Your Parents Don’t Love You, You Will Die!
This rule is about understanding the impact that your actions and behaviours have on the bond with your parents. The desire to care for our young is a primitive one, but you can see many examples in the animal world where the bond is broken, or is never established, and the young animal dies. This was the same in the caveman days. This rule begins to kick in when you are capable of understanding different emotions and are able to equate your behaviours to the effect they have on the emotions of your parents.
Rule Number 3 – If You Are Not Part of a Pack, You Will Die!
This rule is about how you define your self-worth based on the people around you, and the role you play in society. Survival on your own, when you had to hunt and gather to live, was almost impossible, so we evolved to work together – to follow the strongest and to remove the weakest. This rule begins to kick in around the age of puberty, when your role in the pack changes from being a dependent one to a responsible one.
During my years as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, when clients first come to see me, I have learnt to ask, “What’s that about?” as they start to describe how their problem is getting in the way of their life. We are all unique, and labels are really only useful when you need to diagnose and come up with a medical solution. In my world, it doesn’t really matter what the label for the problem is – anxiety, depression, overweight/underweight, self-esteem – whatever label the system would give them doesn’t tell me anything useful when it comes to helping them. The way they “do” their problem will be unique to them, and that’s what I need to work on. What I mean by “do” their problem is what thoughts and behaviours do they use to let them know they have a problem?
A fellow therapist once asked for ideas to help a client who was phobic of heights. The client was due to take a trip abroad, a journey which would require driving along high mountain roads. The thought of it terrified him. When my colleague tried to find the underlying cause of the phobia, she couldn’t find anything. The client struggled to even recall a feeling strong enough for my fellow therapist to work with. I asked her a simple question: “How does he know he is scared of heights if he can’t recall either an event or a feeling?” If the client could answer that question, then the therapist could find a route to a solution. In the end, the client knew he was scared of heights because of the physical anxiety he felt whenever he was high up. That was all she needed to help him change.
I approach each new client in the same way.
The first thing I need to do is to understand how you know you have a problem. This may sound like a weird thing to say, but there will be something about your behaviour that you want to lose. There will be something that motivated you to get in touch with me. You may have always had the problem, or it may be a recent thing, but at the end of the day you are unlikely to come to me just because you don’t feel right. You are going to come and see me because your problem has started limiting your life. At some point, the fear of contacting a stranger for help becomes easier to overcome than coping with a problem day in, day out.
The Caveman Rules of Survival - 3 simple rules used by our brains to keep us safe and well
Your brain needs a software upgrade. It’s still following rules for survival based on the caveman days. Discover why the rules are there and change your programming to live the life you want.
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