Calming a Lawyer’s Warrior Brain

Calming a Lawyer’s Warrior Brain

 Practicing law can be both a thrilling and daunting endeavor, depending on your perspective. Millennia ago, our primitive reptilian brains were vastly different from their modern counterparts. Back then, they were little more than clusters of cells, driven by instincts and motor functions, lacking the capacity for higher-level thinking. They operated solely in reaction to threats in the environment, marking the dawn of our autonomic nervous system.

In my previous post, "The Warrior vs. The Guru," we delved into the inner workings of our brains, which process signals from our five senses, our skin, and other sensory inputs through our autonomic nervous system. These signals then travel through our limbic brain before reaching our frontal cortex. The journey from physical perception to conscious thought can take several seconds. However, our autonomic nervous system operates far more swiftly, enabling us to react almost instantaneously to threats. In warrior mode, this allows us to "act without thinking."

The Pitfalls of an Overactive Warrior Brain

Without conscious awareness and training, our autonomic nervous system tends to respond to perceived threats, whether they are genuinely life-threatening or simply unexpected. The sympathetic nervous system springs into action whenever it senses a threat, or sometimes, merely out of habit. If we continuously engage our warrior mindset by ruminating on threats or negative events, this state becomes the norm, and we grow accustomed to it.

Regrettably, once this becomes habitual, it feels uncomfortable when the threat subsides, and our sympathetic nervous system deactivates. At that point, we may unconsciously seek reasons to reactivate it, inadvertently creating chaos in our lives.

In essence, we inadvertently generate turmoil to rekindle our sympathetic nervous system.

Recognizing the Signs of an Overactive Warrior Mindset

Some telltale symptoms of an overactive warrior mentality in your psyche include:




Muscle pain and stiffness

High blood pressure

Weight gain


Compromised immune system

It's no coincidence that many lawyers experience these symptoms. Stress, anxiety, depression, and related physical ailments are often an integral part of the legal profession. The problem arises when other self-defense mechanisms within the brain begin to shut down, potentially leading to burnout. It's akin to a circuit breaker tripping to protect our brains from self-destruction, a phenomenon I personally experienced in 2004.

Taming the Warrior Brain

The good news is that techniques exist to deactivate the warrior mindset and activate the guru within. Paradoxically, you cannot simply think your way out of an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Instead, you must cease thinking and allow your brain to reset. Research by experts like Dr. Stephen Porges and other neuroscientists has demonstrated that stimulating the vagus nerve can deactivate the warrior brain and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the guru.

Here are five simple yet effective methods to swiftly quiet the warrior within:

Put on a Smile: Smiling engages facial muscles connected to the C7 cranial nerve, which links to the vagus nerve. This, in turn, triggers relaxation, producing that feel-good sensation associated with a smile.

Embrace Cold Water: Splashing cold water on your face or taking a cold shower works wonders for resetting your mind. When you're feeling anxious, tense, stressed, or down, the application of cold water or a cold towel on your face and head can provide instant relief.

Hum and Sing: Singing in the shower has its therapeutic effects because it activates the vocal cords, which are located near the vagus nerve. This activation promotes a sense of relaxation and calmness. Humming and singing can have a similarly soothing impact.

Explore Hakalau: Hakalau, a Hawaiian term for "expanded vision," is a technique developed by Huna healers in Hawaii to shift the focus of the mind and foster open-mindedness, enabling the creation of new neural pathways. It involves using peripheral vision to develop new thought patterns, and it's straightforward to practice. By following specific steps, you can quickly alleviate anxiety and stress.

Exercise Your Eye Movement: Moving your eyes from the far left to the far right activates nerves connected to the C7 cranial nerve. When performed correctly, this eye movement induces yawning, signaling the activation of the guru.

Embracing Life with the Guru

There are various methods to stimulate the vagus nerve, but these five techniques offer the simplest and quickest path to relaxation and overall well-being. Consider incorporating them into your daily routine, particularly when you sense the warrior mentality creeping in. This way, you can regain a sense of relaxation and once again relish your career in the legal field.

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