Discussion of The Interview With Lyle The Cavebrain

Q1:  How is Lyle symbolic of Cavebrain? What ways is his protective behaviour OTT?

He sees danger on every corner. He gives his children weapons for their birthdays and has a fully stocked survival kit, which includes a bayonet!

Lyle sees his wife as naive for not being as hyper vigilant as he is. “I know best” is his attitude to her holiday. This is parallel to the way that Cavebrain will mistakenly see the pressure of a job interview as a life threatening event, or take the rejection of a small group of people (say the interview panel) as a signal that your place in the tribe is not secure and, depending on how disconnected you feel from those around you, that your personal security us at risk.

Q2: How are you like Lyle? How have you let your Cavebrain run amok in your life?

I thought this story was hilarious and initially had nothing but contempt for his over-zealous and patronising attitude to his wife.

But so many of us have lived in the grip of Cavebrain’s control for many many years. It is just that this control is often far more invisible than with Lyle.

Examples of how my Cavebrain (CB) ran roughshod over my life for many years:

Body hatred = CB expressing the cultural norm that to be acceptable, you must look like a Vogue cover star

Protective fat suit. CB knows that in nature, the bigger you are, the safer you are. I was on red alert 24/7 after several abusive experiences in my childhood, because CB had not processed them. The fat suit was protection from a threat that was long gone.

Compulsive eating - to both achieve the fat suit and numb me out

Ditto sugar addiction

People pleasing

Unhealthy (ie too weak) personal boundaries

Toxic shame

Really, I was another version of Lyle - without the bayonet - for most of my adult life.

What about you?

How has CB ruled your life? What has it stopped you doing?

Q3: If Lyle represents Cavebrain, then what does his wife symbolise?

I’m sure you will have laughed out loud at the trick that Lyle's unnamed wife played on her husband when he called her on holiday. She wanted to catch him enjoying the apparent disaster she is making up then knock down his fears.

The narrator ends this story thus:

All these years, he’d been living under the misconception that he was the one in charge; the man with the badge, worried and overprotective, laying down the rules. But in fact she is the one who takes care of him. Without mom at home to look after him, Dad was defenceless.’

Veronica’s mother is the perfect role model for managing your CB. She knows how ridiculous Lyle’s fears are and goes ahead regardless, having the time of her life in Mexico. It is time for you to start challenging your CB’s irrational fears.

You have a LOT more power over CB than you think.

Some ways I did this with the examples above:

Body Hatred
Some of the exercises in The BCP felt forced and artificial when I started them (and I created them! Go figure), but I knew that CB will accept anything once it knows that it does not represent danger for you.

Giving up sugar
When I got a craving, I would see it as part of a quest to reclaim my life, rather than a you-must-be-good test. I did whatever I could to walk away for just five minutes. That process, repeated over and over, leads to CB accepting that it is safe to walk away from the dessert aisle and it becomes much easier.

Toxic Shame
Shame is bound up with your position in a tribe. Once I had worked out that my world is composed of multiple small tribes, it became much easier to stand up to situations that used to trigger toxic shame in me, and strengthen my place in different tribes.


She calls Lyle out for his OTT protective plans and has a great laugh doing so. It is a really good idea to start identifying CB fears and shame as belonging to that part of your mind, not the truth about all of you.

I remember when I started to increase my exercise by walking in the woods near my home. One day as I entered the wood, a thought popped into my head: If you go any further, you’ll get murdered.

I said to myself: you are being ridiculous. I carried on.

30 seconds later, crazy thought number two: Ok, you won’t die - but you WILL find a dead body.

NO! I said to myself. I carried on, but I must admit I was a bit nervous. And why not? CB had been the invisible dictator in my head for decades.

Guess what? I didn’t die that day, nor did I find a dead body.

After a while doing these walks, CB shut up because it saw that there was no danger.

Of course, there can be danger in any situation. During this BCP, we will be learning about developing resilience rather than seeking 100% cast iron guarantees of safety for CB.
The point here is that CB had been confident that the woods represented certain danger. I challenged it with the very real possibility that on that day they were completely peril-free. And after a while, it believed me because reality backed me up.

While none of us will probably ever get to the awesome state of power this lady has over the fears of her husband, we can all try to emulate her when it comes to our CBs. We can even laugh about it!