nervous system

Primal Instinct & Gratitude

TWS 30 | Primal Instinct


Every human being has this primal instinct that awakens whenever we need to protect our loved ones. But on the other side of this survival nature is the far opposite: the expression of gratitude. In this Thanksgiving message, Patrick Donohoe looks back on how he protected his wife and kids from a possible assault by tapping into his primal instinct in just a split second. He explains how this opened his eyes that there is more to life than simply fighting to live, but also mindfulness and vulnerability.

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Primal Instinct & Gratitude

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My wife and I went out to breakfast at a place that’s a mile from our house. The food was awesome. It was later in the morning, so there weren’t many people there for breakfast. I had this incredible plate. It had this thick piece of homemade bread with breakfast potatoes and scrambled eggs, and this gravy that they make which is incredible, and then this man walks in. He’s bigger. He’s was probably pushing 300 pounds. His pants and shirt were noticeably dirty and he had this facial expression. When I saw it, I knew instantly that something wasn’t right. Let me pause for a second.

TWS 30 | Primal Instinct

When Violence Is the Answer: Learning How to Do What It Takes When Your Life Is at Stake

I’m going to take you back to 2019. I attended this personal development event in Maui. The focus of the event was relationships, and my wife went with me. Part of the event had this self-defense component and it was conducted by a former Navy Seal and author of many books. He’s been in this space of hand-to-hand combat and self-defense. His name’s Tim Larkin. He wrote a couple of books. One is called When Violence Is the Answer. This part of the conference appealed to me as it would with most guys but specific to me, I realized that I didn’t have any formal fighting experience outside of my ice hockey days and the occasional brawl, which I wouldn’t consider self-defense.

I have three kids. Two of which are teenage girls. Outside of the guns that I own, I realized that I did not have the hand-to-hand combat skills to adequately protect my family. Now, the training wasn’t self-defense. It was ways to incapacitate someone, rupture their groin, pop out an eyeball, break an ankle or a knee, the trachea, and ways to hit a neck. In most cases, to make a person’s violent act completely halted or to also potentially kill someone. It was training so that if a violent situation was your fate or your family’s fate, that you at a minimum had a fighting chance. Most don’t.

These sessions are part of this conference. There are multi-hour sessions that strategically began with these disturbing video clips of violent crimes. It was intended to shock our nervous system to get us to realize that these things really happen. We got into partnerships and we sparred up for hours, but we sparred in slow motion. This slow-motion, the idea was to program our subconscious so that our bodies and our nervous system did not forget what we were learning. If we ever had to use it, it was one strike, then another, then another, then another.

Each partner took their turns and we went back and forth multiple times. A couple of months ago, I went to another event. Part of the event included similar training. This was an event that was put on by one of the show’s guests, Tim Reynolds. It was incredible to go through that because it had been a couple of years since I went through the initial training. It was like my mind knew what the stakes were, and my body almost innately knew what to do.

Wealth is experiencing life fully. You don't have any idea what's going to happen from one day to the next. Click To Tweet

Now, let’s get back to the story. This guy sat down and my wife was closer to him than I was. I slowly moved her to the other side of the table. It happened to be right by an exit door. We inconspicuously shifted around so we wouldn’t notice it, then it happened. It was like those fighting movies, I think Sherlock Holmes is one of them, when they see what happens in advance of it happening. In my mind, this guy stood up. He began assaulting one of the servers. I told my wife, “Get out to the exit.” I rushed her out. I then took a glass ketchup bottle that was next to me and I hurled it, hitting him square in the face. I took another ketchup bottle, went around the corner, and hit him again. I blindsided him, took him to the ground, hit his groin, hit his neck, and broke his ankle. This played out in my mind in a matter of seconds. It was crazy. This is in my mind. This is not what happened but I sat there and I stared at him.

There was a level of intensity that I hadn’t experienced often, but that intensity existed when we made eye contact. He stared back at me. It’s like he knew what I was thinking. I didn’t break eye contact. I leaned in and he checked his surroundings. He looked back at me, then he slowly got up and left. Why do I share this with you? I’ve talked a lot about all of us human beings are part animals, especially men. We’re part primal. Our limbic system is pure survival for ourselves and it’s protecting those that we love.

TWS 30 | Primal Instinct

Primal Instinct: All human beings are part animal. The limbic system is about pure survival. It’s to protect those that you love.


I believe that this vital part of us or one of the oldest parts of us is essential. It has a role. However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, this primal part of us is the enemy. I say that because the expression of gratitude is the diametric opposite. Gratitude requires mindfulness, centeredness, vulnerability, and presence. Gratitude leads us to what I believe are the experiences that we are ultimately striving for, which is connection.

This show covers all aspects of wealth. It’s important to define wealth. To me, wealth is experiencing life fully. We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen to us from one day to the next. We never have. This experience led me to re-evaluate who I am for my wife and my children. Although experiencing how primal I got, it was awesome at the moment but it caused me to reflect on the subtle ways I was going primal when the situation didn’t warrant that part of me. I’d like to share that with you and I’m going to share it on the next episode because what happened was humbling, to say the least. Until then, experience wealth with those that you love. Be present, be mindful and be grateful.

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