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Here’s the “Reptilian Brain” Refresher That Your Relationships Deserve, Straight From Beau Clark’s Mom
Beau Clark's mom, Isa Clark, is a psychotherapist and, now that she's explained the reptilian brain, we'll never look at Stassi Schroeder's birthday freakouts the same way again.
And we thought Beau was the best. Nope. Beau’s mom is the best.
Beau Clark’s mom Isa Clark and Stassi Schroeder are quickly becoming BFF’s, which is amazing to watch unfold on Vanderpump Rules because Isa is basically a genius who likes to do a deep dive into the brain and how humans work. She’s a psychotherapist who has studied the “reptilian brain,” the part of the brain that controls the body's vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. It’s also responsible for the “fight or flight” response in humans.
“You know I can’t shut up about it,” Isa said on Stassi’s podcast, Straight Up With Stassi, in an episode titled, "Move over, Dr. Phil. Stassi's bf's mom is a Psychotherapist.”
Stassi became interested after she learned that this was the part of the brain that was possibly responsible for her “late night drunken freakouts outs at Beau or at [her] friends,” adding, “I don’t know where they come from and I wake up the next morning and I just feel like s--t about myself … what is wrong with me? And so the way you describe the reptilian brain, it made sense to me because I feel like that’s what happens to me late night when this happens.”
Here is how Isa explains it:
“OK so, I learned this after I’d been working as a psychotherapist for quite a long time, and when I first learned this … I just thought why doesn’t everyone know this? Because I got it. It explained what was going on with me as well, because I had this pattern of what my right hand would build, my left hand would destroy. So it’s like what is going on?
“So basically when I teach it, the reptilian brain is the old brain, the primary part of the brain. It’s sole function is to protect me if my life is being threatened right now. And its key is my life is being threatened right now, the reptilian brain ignites, it takes me over, my attention narrows, I am focusing on the threat coming at me, correct? And it reacts with fight, flight, or freeze to save my life OK? Once the threat has passed, it lets me go. The problem is that when we are emotionally triggered the reptilian brain ignites. So that means it takes me over, alright it’s a different, slower process, but I’m in the part of the brain that is reacting to a threat to my life and I’m thinking I’m trying to solve a problem with a loved one. And this is a big deal.”
Stassi understood, saying when she fights with Beau it “feels like life or death.” “If you don’t fix it right this second the world is going to end,” she added.
Isa goes on, explaining why that is:
“I saw it I thought I was just passionate … But you will never be able to solve a relationship problem in the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain, all it cares about is who lives and who dies. And that’s not really good for a relationship.”
So are we able to be aware of it? Train ourselves to understand it and take a step back?
“It’s not so much the recognition of the triggered state because we feel it. if you walked into your home and your significant other is triggered you feel it. We feel it but we just never knew what to do with it,” Isa said. “So, what I teach which is what I learned from it is a safety plan. When you recognized that you or the other person is triggered, you can have a code word, say ‘triggered’ - then you need to leave the physical space, because the reptilian brain is highly inductive. Meaning, that if it is ignited it will induct the people around you. This is life/death energy. Never underestimate the power of this part of our brain, And when its misfiring it can create great chaos.
“Say you walk in and your reptilian brain is ignited, right, it will induct the other person. Maybe you’re angry, the other person might go into shutting down. In fact, once I understood this concept I was aware watching myself that if I was working with a couple in martial counseling, once the reptilian brain ignited and they were emotionally triggered, I started watching as my own emotional ability to solve problems shut down. Usually what I notice myself doing, I would jump in and try to protect the one who I felt was being victimized. So just the understanding of what’s happening [helps.]
“What’s important to understand is, why can’t I get out of this state of mind, this bad mood? Why can’t I stop it? It’s taken you over, you’re inside of it and you’re thinking how can I get out of it … It was such a relief to understand that I do not get out of it, I have to wait until it spits me out, until it lets me go. All I can do is be aware what’s happened. My reptilian brain has ignited, taken over and I do damage control. With this awareness I can’t come out of it, but what I can control is I do not try to engage anyone, I do not try to solve any problems, I separate myself and do what I can to not fuel it by not feeding it with my thoughts and just sit and let it pass. If I still want to go out and destroy my life, I will, but let me take three minutes. You can’t underestimate the power of it. This is a human condition, we all share this. Understanding this also helps us forgive each other because we understand what’s happening.”