Control your emotions before they control you: Beware of the Amygdala Hijack

A couple of years ago, during a training session we conducted at Shradha HRD on Managing your Emotions, a participant stood up and narrated an interesting story. He said “last week I was under a lot of pressure due to a client dead line. A team member walked into my room and insisted that he wanted to speak to me about a project he was working on. I was aware that he was working on this project but I also knew that the project did not have an immediate dead line. At any other time, I would have answered, without losing my temper. I would have possibly given him a time later in the day to speak. Instead I ended up yelling at him and saying that he had no respect for another person’s time. He should send an email and request for a time to speak, as opposed to barging in unannounced and insisting that we have a conversation”

The participant said that he felt terrible about the way he had behaved. His team member began to send him emails, every time he wanted to speak. The easy & collaborative relationship they had shared earlier morphed into a formal exchange. One unpleasant interaction created a rift, which took months to heal. His questions were:

 1.Why does this happen?

 2.How do I prevent this from happening?

We explored why this had happened. Why is it that we behave irrationally when confronted with stressful situations? You can actually “Blame it on your Genes”.On your “Amygdala” that gets hijacked.

The term “Amygdala Hijack” was coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Goleman used the term to recognize that although we have evolved as humans, we retain an ancient structure in our brain (Amygdala)that is designed to respond swiftly to a threat.

In other words, if we are faced with a situation that we perceive as a threat, even though it may not be life threatening, our body will react in much the same way as if we were faced with an actual physical threat to our life. This is what is responsible for us “losing it” when faced with subtler threats at the workplace.

How do we deal with such a situation?

1. Build awareness of the Amygdala hijacking

2.Watch your emotion. Tell yourself, “I’m entering the danger zone. Beware”

3.You have 3 seconds to calm yourself, before the hormones flood your brain.Practice watching your emotions. Take control, before its too late

We might have mental wiring that is “defective” & cause us to “lose it”.  Simultaneously we also have the built in capacity to control our emotions before they spin out to control.

 Controlling your emotions takes Self Awareness and Practice!!!!!!!