One of our biggest challenges without a doubt is having the ability to employ our emotions to assist us in making rational decisions. When we recognize that emotions guide all we do, we can use them to benefit us, avoiding any hijacks.
Anyone can become angry–that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy. – Aristotle
The Influence of Your Emotions
Developing our emotional intelligence, specifically our self-awareness, will inevitably change the way we conduct ourselves including our decision-making skills. This is not a simple task; it takes time and a great deal of effort to learn to effectively read our emotions and understand how they affect our decision making as well as our ability to empathize with others. Managing them comes next which requires considerable skill.
What is Emotional Hijacking?
An emotional hijacking is usually triggered by a situation that overwhelms your emotions and then takes control of your behaviour. Ordinarily it’s an explosion of overpowering and intense emotions that propel us to impulsively react to the situation, often to our detriment.
Emotional hijacking is not a new phenomenon, but it has become more popular over the last 20+ years. Psychologist and author, Daniel Goleman, coined the term “amygdala hijack” in 1995 in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Basically, the amygdala is the emotional part of the brain that regulates your fight or flight response (known as the acute stress response) to immediate threats. It sends a signal, a “red flag” to your body and your response depends upon your ability to manage your emotions.
Why we get hijacked?Our emotions can quickly sneak up on us. It can happen in a matter of seconds at work; you get emotionally hijacked when a colleague disappoints you and you lash out at them instead of taking the time to calmly share your feelings. After seeing the shock and hurt on your colleague’s face, you’re likely then embarrassed and you regret your actions and decision to act impulsively. You wish you behaved more rationally because you’re aware of the significant amount of time it will take to repair this relationship.
In your personal life, how many times have you purchased something that was a great deal! You were so excited about the opportunity and at that moment thought you needed or, perhaps couldn’t live without the item only to realize later, not only was the purchase not in the budget, you really didn’t need it after all.
All of these examples require appropriate emotional responses to assist us to rationally make decisions from daily budgeting to managing danger and stress in our environment.
Our ability to understand and manage our emotions will empower us and elevate our confidence. Believe it or not, your ability to breathe can save you from an emotional hijacking. It’s hard to imagine if you take the time to stop and “just breathe” it only takes 10 seconds or less for your brain to become calm and regain control of highly charged emotions. Once you regulate the emotion, you are be able to peacefully move forward and manage the situation.