The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure that sits in the front part of the temporal lobe of the brain, as part of the limbic system. It performs a primary role in processing of memory and emotional reactions. The reactions could be positive or negative emotions that can be instantaneous and overwhelming depending upon the stimuli and your associations to the stimuli.
There are few downsides to strong positive emotional reactions when leading people. Strong negative emotions could be anger or frustration or an inappropriate degree or expression of these emotions based on present circumstances. Obviously when leading people these kind of reactions can cause damage to your relationships.
When you have been “hijacked” by your amygdala you are in the full throws of an irrational emotional reaction which means your executive functioning has shut down. Your emotions are in control of you versus you managing them. “Amygdala hijack” is a term that Daniel Goldman coined in his book Emotional Intelligence.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent or minimize your reactions and/or recover more quickly once you realize you’ve been hijacked:
In the moment, to recover:
1. Work on your physiology. Take a deep breath in to the count of 8, hold your breath for 8, breath out for 8 and hold your breath out for 8.
2. Place your hands in front of your solar plexus with all your fingertips touching (thumb to thumb, pinky to pinky, etc.). Take a deep breath in at the count of 4 through your mouth like you are sucking on a cool mint. Hold your breath for 16 counts. Exhale through your nose at 8 counts. Do this for at least 3 cycles.
3. Laugh. At first it will be a forced laugh. Stick with it for 20 seconds and typically it will move to a genuine laugh with others joining you – and not knowing why! This breaks up your energy and re-orients you and those around you.
4. If none of the above work, then physically remove yourself from the situation, preferably going for a walk in fresh air. It will clear your mind and channel your physical energy.
For prevention: longer-term, start to notice what triggers intense reactions in you and work to minimize the associations and reactions.
1. Explore what memories they are associated to and reprogram yourself with positive associations.
2. Develop a strong positive mantra (statement of affirmation) that you repeat to yourself in the moment to thwart an attack.
3. Meditate – this can reset your neural set point.
Copyright 2012 Sage Leadership Strategies, LLC All rights Reserved.