Amygdala Hijacking

January 29, 2012

Amygdala HijackingAmygdala hijacking occurs when a stimulus causes an unusual and excessive emotional reaction. The term was coined by Daniel Goleman, who wrote Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Neurologically speaking, rather than routing a stimulus through your neocortex (the “thinking brain”), this message goes directly from your thalamus to your amygdala (the “emotional brain”). You are driven toward fight or flight–which accounts for the excessive reaction–rather than using your full capacity of emotional and rational intelligence.

In fight, flight or freeze mode, you are not your usual thoughtful self, and you’re also not in a position to lead effectively. Your coworkers will be disappointed with your irrationality, decision-making, as well as your aggressive and defensive behaviors–and who can blame them?

Keep your head. All of it. At all times (or as much as possible). Learn what triggers your fight-or-flight reactions, so that you’re prepared for these stimulae and don’t react excessively. Increase your emotional intelligence (EQ), so that you can prevent amygdala hijacking.

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