You know how sometimes it feels that your mind is full of contradictory thoughts? (Not just me I hope). Part of you wants to go to the gym, and part wants to stay in bed. Part of you is furious with your partner, and part of you recognises that they’re just having a hard day?
This is perfectly normal because different parts of your brain really do work in different ways and have different agendas.
The chimp mind
Deep inside the brain we find the most primitive part, the amygdala. This is the part of the brain responsible for fight-flight-freeze type reactions. Its job is to protect us and it reacts super fast in potentially threatening situations…like someone moving your writing deadline forward or giving you an extra class.
In fact, this part of the brain, sometimes referred to as the chimp mind or the lizard brain, can’t differentiate between the kind of stressful situations we encounter daily in the modern world and a life-threatening emergency, so it will always tend to over-react.
This can leave us angry, defensive or anxious.
Because the chimp mind wants to protect us it will always prioritise being safe over being happy. So if you struggle with anxiety, it will tell you it isn’t safe to go out to that party, or take that job, or whatever else it sees as a threat.
The Inner Troll
The Inner Troll has a lot in common with the chimp mind. In fact, it’s kind of like a Venn diagram, and they cross over a lot. The big difference though is that the Inner Troll does NOT have your best interests at heart.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your Inner Troll hates and despises you. It’s the part of you that tells you you’re stupid, or that you look gross in those trousers (it has a lot in common with the Inner Critic too). It absolutely loves a bit of conflict and drama. And it will self-sabotage your attempts to become more mindful or to ‘wake up’, in order to make sure that you never manage to get rid of it.
Some people’s Inner Trolls are relatively quiet and only pop up occasionally, others rage around most of the time.
All of them can be tamed over time.
Taming your Inner Troll
The process for taming your Inner Troll is the same as for managing your chimp (or Inner Critic). You simply need to start noticing what it’s up to, and refusing to attach to it, or believe the nonsense it’s spouting.
Mindfulness and meditation can be very helpful in this process because they develop the connections between the pre-frontal cortex (which is the bit that recognises what nonsense the Inner Troll is up to) and the amygdala.
It’s like building a muscle at the gym. The more often you notice what the Inner Troll is up to (and other people’s Inner Trolls as well), the stronger the connection becomes and the less you are ruled by it. The Inner Troll will try and fight back– but once you’re really onto it, its days are numbered.