Q. What Is An Amygdala Hijack?
We cannot control our 500 million year ago reptilian brain any more than we can control our digestion or heartbeat. Unfortunately this means that, whether we realize it or not, we are often in what amounts to a low-grade amygdala hijack much of the time. The faster we can learn to recognize when we are in the midst of an amygdala hijack the easier it will be for us to minimize its damaging effects.
Whenever change occurs the amygdala “hijacks” our consciousness making it difficult for us to concentrate. During these anxiety attacks the amygdala floods our body with the hormones cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) that usually causes us to go into fight, flight, freeze or submit mode. When this happens we immediately revert to our habits, attitudes and beliefs. This often causes us to overreact in ways we later regret. These hijacks can last for seconds, minutes, hours, days or even weeks.
The brain’s reticular activation system (RAS), psycho-cybernetic mechanism (PCM) and amygdala work jointly in the pursuit of our safety. The job of the RAS is to filter out anything that does not match our self-image (lifestyle, business success, health and fitness). The amygdala is constantly searching our sensory inputs for any real or potential danger. Our PCM ensures we stay in our comfort zone (habits, beliefs and behaviors). It keeps us within the limits of our self-image.
Every time a change moves us out of our comfort zone we feel discomfort. Usually this takes the form increased fear or anxiety which often presents itself as anger. We see the unfortunate results of these hijacks every day. The development of emotional intelligence reduces the damaging effects of these amygdala driven hijacks while enabling us to embrace change.