Emotional Hijacking and how you can overcome it
Like many of us, you can probably recall a time when you became so instantaneously enraged, that you said or did something completely out of your character, and once you had time to calm down and properly assess the situation were left feeling appalled at your behavior, wondering, “who was that person?”
A simple example is road rage. A person may suddenly cut you off in traffic, and before you know it you are chasing them in your car, shaking your fist, screaming profanities, and throwing some questionable hand gestures their way, but once the rush of rage has somewhat dissipated, you find yourself wondering what in the world was I thinking, and feeling horrified and embarrassed at your behavior.
As human beings, we are all prey to emotional hijacking. This is a fight or flight response, deeply programmed into us through evolution, and while it provides a better chance of surviving a life and death situation, it may wreak havoc in our lives when stressful daily situations in our demanding modern lifestyles become triggers. We should bear in mind that the triggers and emotional responses can be both positive and negative as they encompass any situation where our emotional state is in control of our actions and decisions.
Emotional hijacking is also referred to as Amygdala hijacking and is an emotional response that is usually overwhelming and decreases our ability to think clearly and make good decisions. During these episodes our IQ drops, which is a nice way of saying we become a bit stupid… we do not see things in perspective, and our memory is also compromised. Of course, this can lead to us behaving impulsively and in ways that can potentially damage our lives.
The good news is that when we understand the chemistry behind it and recognize that emotions are only temporary, we are already on the road to managing these situations better.
So what exactly happens in those moments?
Normally, when a trigger is received through any of our sensory organs, the information is relayed through the thalamus, an egg-shaped structure in the middle of our brains which is your body’s information relay station, which then directs the impulse to our cortex which is the rational thinking part of our brain. Once the signal has been interpreted, it is then sent to the amygdala, which is our emotional processor, and we react accordingly.
That all sounds great, but during an emotional hijack situation, the cortex is bypassed by a rush of adrenaline (fight or flight) or by emotional memory (similar to previous distressing events), which means the thinking part is disabled, hence the drop in IQ.
When we suffer from an episode or suspect we are suffering from one, the symptoms can be overwhelming, such as muscles tensing, heart beating faster, and breathing shallow, and it is in this moment that we need to immediately remind ourselves that now is not a good time to act or speak, and rather to focus on breathing so that the cortex can become engaged and we can react in a more rational manner.
SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE:
Once we understand that this is a physiological reaction, we can take steps to combat future episodes. This in turn will also increase our emotional intelligence, which is life-changing, especially since studies have shown that the most successful people in high positions are those with the highest emotional intelligence.
Just like when we exercise to improve our fitness, we can practice techniques to improve our emotional intelligence.
Here are a few hacks we can share to improve our quality of life:
Identify the emotion you are feeling. Say something to yourself such as, “well isn’t this interesting?” This will engage your cortex, the thinking part of your brain, by reintroducing rational thinking, and will thereby decrease the intensity of your situation. Once you recognise that you are experiencing an emotional hijack, you are better able to deal with the situation. If you are dealing with a person, tell them you are not in the space to make decisions right away and make an arrangement around that, instead of making a decision or saying and doing something you may regret.
Taking deep slow breaths is a great way to reset. It helps in almost any situation where anxiety sets in and helps to bring you back to the present and see the situation for what it is, as opposed to how it was emotionally perceived.
Take a break/change the setting/distract yourself
If you can, it will help to take a break and disengage from the trigger. Changing your setting helps to release from the emotions, or just getting up and walking around. If you are not in the position to do this, then try doing a quick math problem to engage your cortex and distract you from the emotional response.
Use the fuel
Think of the emotions as caffeine. When experiencing the intense rush of emotions, it is a physical charge which can be used as fuel to get on with something constructive.
Being aware of other people’s emotions and behavior will distract you from being so aware of your own, and immediately put you in a stronger position. It will help give a clearer perspective of the situation so you are not so vulnerable. Not only that, it may even be an opportunity to help somebody else.
Whether it be a friend, family member, co-worker, or professional, it always helps to share the load. This helps to get perspective, just by talking it out, and it never hurts to benefit from hearing someone else’s point of view. If your problem is severe or coupled with any kind of anxiety disorder, then seeking professional assistance can be life-changing!
Emotions are an important part of our existence and we would not function very well as people without them, but if you cannot control your emotions, you cannot really control anything, and so it is important to equip yourself with the tools you need to get the most positives out of the experience and use it to your advantage. This will not only improve your life experience but will help to improve the lives of others as well.
If you wish to learn more about how this is possible, then click here for information.