During a routine inspection of Bituminous road carpeting work in Vizag, I observed some thickness anomaly and asked the responsible civil engineer to stop the work. But, work was going on.
I asked him again and by the time the In-charge instructed the foremen to stop spreading bitumen mix, another load was laid. Suddenly, I found myself shouting at the top of my voice to the In-charge engineer and behaved in such a way that the engineer got stunned and told me…so much anger!
Within a few seconds, my anger diminished and I realized was it necessary?
Have you ever experienced such a type of outburst??
Whatever may be the situation, sometimes, we simply go out of our mind to behave with so much anger that something strange happened. Even, some murder also takes place because of sudden rage!
This is it!
This is called Amygdala Hijack!!
Mind it. We all should be aware of this Amygdala hijack.
Maybe it’s a new term for you or you may know about it.
But once you can make your concept clear about it, most of your emotional problems you can solve by yourself without visiting a counselor.
You can easily calm the Amygdala Hijack naturally!!
Before knowing more about the amygdala hijack, first, let us make it clear that different parts of our brain perform different activities.
The amygdala is a collection of cells near the base of the brain. These are located in each hemisphere or side of the brain. Amygdala is so important part because here in emotions are given meaning, remembered, and attached to associations and responses to them. In simple language, emotional memories are attached to the amygdala.
The amygdala is considered to be part of the brain’s limbic system. It’s key to how we process strong emotions like fear and pleasure.
The other part of the brain is known as frontal lobes.
The frontal lobes are the two large areas at the front of your brain. They’re part of the cerebral cortex, which is a newer, rational, and more advanced brain system. This is where thinking, reasoning, decision-making, and planning happen.
The frontal lobes allow you to process and think about your emotions. You can then manage these emotions and determine a logical response. Most important to note that unlike the automatic response of the amygdala, the response to fear from your frontal lobes is consciously controlled by you.
When you sense danger is present, your amygdala wants to automatically activate the fight-or-flight response immediately. However, at the same time, your frontal lobes are processing the information to determine if danger is really present and accordingly logically respond to it.
Interesting is, when the threat is mild or moderate, the frontal lobes override the amygdala, and you respond in the most rational, appropriate way.
However, when the threat is strong, the amygdala acts quickly. It may overpower the frontal lobes, automatically triggering the fight-or-flight response.
Fight or flight response??
It’s very very important to make your concept clear for this response if you really want to make yourself emotionally strong, which is now need of the hour! This response is evolved for our benefits only!
Our early human race was constantly exposed to the threat of being killed or injured by wild animals or other tribes. To improve the chances of survival, the fight-or-flight response evolved. It’s an automatic response to physical danger that allows you to react quickly without thinking.
When you feel threatened and afraid, the amygdala automatically activates the fight-or-flight response by sending out signals to release stress hormones that prepare your body to fight or run away.
This response is triggered by emotions like fear, anxiety, aggression, and anger.
As you learned, this fight-or-flight response was appropriate for early humans because of threats of physical harm.
But in the present scenario, there are far fewer physical threats, but there are a lot of psychological threats caused by the pressures and stresses of modern life.
When stress makes you feel strong, anger, aggression, or fear, the fight-or-flight response is activated. It often results in a sudden, illogical, and irrational overreaction to the situation. You may even regret your reaction later on!
Once your fight or response activated, the hero “Amygdala Hijack” comes into the picture.Once you know about it, you will find hope to control it on the face of this Pandemic.
It happens when a situation causes your amygdala to hijack “control of your response” to stress. Within milli seconds, the amygdala disables the frontal lobes and activates the fight-or-flight response.
As you already learn, without the frontal lobes, you can’t think clearly, make rational decisions, or control your responses. In simple words, control has been “hijacked” by the amygdala. That is the amygdala hijack!
To be precise, this phenomenon is an overreaction to stress.
A psychologist named Daniel Goleman termed this as “amygdala hijack” in his 1995 book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.”
Goleman also popularized the concept of emotional intelligence ( EI) and its use to help manage your emotions and guide your behavior and thinking. EI refers to recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions and recognizing, understanding, and influencing those of other people
The symptoms of the amygdala hijack are due to the effects of the two stress hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. I have given an acronym for these two hormones as CA. ( Chartered Accountant)
In a lighter sense, It’s like CA course. Almost Never ending. Maybe you know. CA is such a course which takes almost 8-9 years to complete. You will have to spend 3 years/4 years for graduation You are eligible to appear for the CA Intermediate Exam after 9 months of articles. Once you clear CA Intermediate, you are eligible to write CA Final after 2.5 years of article ship. Hopefully, you will clear all the exams in the first attempt. You clear CA in 3 (Graduation) + 3 (CA Intermediate, Articleship and CA Final) = 6 years.
However, that is only the average time. If you study well and clear the exams, you can do it in 4–5 years.
So is the case with CA-Cortisol and Adrenaline! Always remain for a longer period because of today’s digital era and fast modern life!!
Both hormones are released from your adrenal glands to prepare your body to flee or fight.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that affects many of your body’s functions, including preparing it for the fight-or-flight response. The main job of adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is to stimulant your body systems so they’re ready to respond to a threat.
Stress hormones, primarily adrenaline, do a number of things, which most of the time, are our conscious knowledge. This includes :
- relax your airways, opening them up so you can take in more oxygen
- increase the blood flow to your muscles for maximum speed and strength
- increase your blood sugar for more energy
- dilate your pupils to enhance your vision
Symptoms you may notice include:
- rapid heartbeat
- sweaty palms
- goosebumps on your skin
As you see above, these two villains CA–Cortisol and adrenaline will be there with you!!
An amygdala hijack refers to a personal, emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat
This amygdala hijack works like a direct goal by Ronaldo or Messy without passing to fellow footballers and once it happened, the whole environment got stunned!
Any output of sense from the outer environment is first received by our brain,s thalamus part. Some part of the thalamus’ stimuli goes directly to the amygdala or “emotional/irrational brain”, while other parts are sent to the Neocortex or “thinking/rational brain”.
This is in an ideal situation like an ongoing short passing football match.
But If the amygdala perceives a match to the stimulus like a threat, anger or a crisis situation which are recorded in the hippocampus part of the brain ( see below picture for proper understanding),it tells the amygdala that it is a fight, flight or freezes situation, then the amygdala triggers the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and hijacks the rational brain.
As Dr. Bruce Perry, Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy says that When people are terrorized, the smartest parts of our brain tend to shut down.
When the brain is under severe threat, it immediately changes the way it processes information and starts to prioritize rapid responses
This emotional brain activity processes information milliseconds earlier than the rational brain, so in case of a match, the amygdala acts before any possible direction from the neocortex can be received, and definitely your behavior will be like me. An outburst in anger!
If, however, the amygdala does not find any match to the stimulus received with its recorded threatening situations, then it acts according to the directions received from the neocortex.
Mind it, when the amygdala perceives a threat, it can lead that person to react irrationally and destructively! Like the pre mix bitumen incident happened with me!
Now, the million-dollar question is, how to control this Amygdala hijack episode?
Because, you know, in the present scenario. You cant avoid it completely. It may attack as those two villains CA- Cortisol and Adrenaline are always there to get activated.
The modern world is full of stress. We often feel this psychological stress when we see things on the news or social media, such as dangerous events and natural disasters. Now, you all know, the global crisis because of the Covid-19 pandemic!
Your amygdala can or may respond to this stress as if it’s a physical threat to you.
It can take control of your brain and trigger your fight-or-flight response.
In his book Emotional intelligence, Goleman emphasized that “self-control is crucial…when facing someone who is in the throes of an amygdala hijack ]so as to avoid a complementary hijacking—whether in work situations or in private life.
Thus for example ‘one key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings…nothing gets resolved positively when husband or wife is in the midst of emotional hijacking.
Now, your very close attention is sought to the fact that the chemicals that are released during the amygdala hijacking take about 6 seconds to dissipate.
Once it gets dissipate, your prefrontal cortex that is your logical brain takes over the situation and once the charge goes to your logical brain.
Once you are aware of this Amygdala hijack and its effect of six seconds, what you can do? You can do a lot!
Your job is to somehow pass this crucial six seconds to prevent your amygdala from taking control and causing an emotional reaction.
When you feel like you are on the verge of an amygdala Hijack, use this crucial six-second phase to focus on something pleasant.
Masterstroke. You can repeat this quote: Use evidence judiciously.
If you can’t, focus on your Breathe which will help you to regain confidence to overcome this impostor.
The first step in preventing an amygdala attack is to identify what triggers it. When you feel the symptoms of the amygdala hijack starting, try to pause for a moment to notice what triggered it.
Anything that causes emotional, physical, or mental stress can be a trigger. There are general categories of stressors that affect everyone to some degree, but specific triggers will be different for everyone.
It’s also helpful to identify other things that trigger the onset of the amygdala hijack for you. When you feel threatened or afraid, pause and look for behaviors, bodily changes, or warning signs that are happening at the same time.
A good way to do this is with mindfulness.
Mindfulness takes practice, but it can be done at almost any time. When you’re waiting in the car or going for a walk, take time to focus on what you’re thinking and feeling and what’s happening around you.
At first, your mind will quickly start to wander. With more practice, though, it’ll be easier to stay in the moment.
Once summarized, you will find these two main ways to prevent the amygdala hijack.
Using these techniques, you can stop the shutdown of your frontal lobes, override the automatic response of your amygdala, and consciously control your response.
- Reasoning. This means you use your frontal lobes to think the situation through, review the possible options, and choose the most rational and logical way to respond.
- Meditation. By relaxing your body and mind through meditation or deep breathing, you can change your brain’s focus from responding to a threat or stress to inner peace and calmness.
As you may be the victim of Amygdala Hijack at any time, the point is, know it to the deep of it.
Once your concept is clear and you are aware of it, your brain will act fast to calm the amygdala hijack naturally.
Always remember: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
For other interesting blog, you may click below :