Originally published by Melanie Kennedy on KUTV.

(KUTV) Life Coach Trigena Halley visited Fresh Living with Emotional Hijacks to help you enjoy a positive 2017.

How to Keep Your Cool!

Daniel Goleman, a pioneer in the field of Emotional Intelligence coined the term Emotional Hijack. Emotional hijacking occurs when our thoughts and perceptions (cognitions) are overpowered by our emotions. Emotional hijacking is usually referred to in the context of aggression or fearfulness, and can cause us to lose our cool, explode with emotions and attack another person verbally.

Our brain processes information through labeling and ordering. The brain labels information coming in – pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Then the brain orders a behavioral response – approach, avoid, or ignore. These are continual processes to the stimuli in our world:

  • Am I safe or not?
  • What should I do?

If you are stressed, feel tension about something or have “under the surface” anger the chance of an emotional hijack during situations of stress or distress is high. Past or unresolved negativity can also build up and trigger a sudden emotional outburst.

Emotional hijacking follows a specific process in the brain. Our thoughts and perceptions in emotionally charged situations first go through a part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is the seat of all emotions in the brain, when activated the amygdala takes over the prefrontal cortex and basically stops its functioning. Activation of the amygdala triggers the autonomic and behavior responses of fight, flight or freeze.

The prefrontal cortex controls our executive functions – problem solving, decision-making, processing complex emotions, reasoning, personality expression, moderating social behavior, etc. When the prefrontal cortex becomes impaired and begins to shut down, it (literally) causes us to become less smart. This affects our interpretation of events and problem solving.

Our memories account for the different levels of hijacking among individuals. Memories (good or bad) dictate our emotional temperaments and reactions to negative information. For instance, you might get angry and begin to shout and insult others. Once you calm down, you feel horrible and look back at the situation and wonder what caused you to react so negatively.

Imagine having a poorly controlled, emotionally reactive, not very bright and paranoid leader giving direction to a team of individuals. This leader is responsible for the control room of a missile silo, he is watching radar screens and judging what to do next. Headquarters is three states away and viewing the same screens. Headquarters, however, gets the information after the leader does and the leader’s judgment affects what shows on screens to headquarters. The leader decides to “launch” the missiles, this directive arrives seconds before headquarters can signal a “stand down!” This is an example of the amygdala (leader) and the prefrontal cortex (headquarter) and how they work against each other during an emotional hijack.

So what can you do to diminish or stop an emotional hijack and save the holidays?

  • Be Intentional – determine how you want to show up when you might be in situations that could cause an emotional hijack. The more intentional you are about how you want to act in an emotionally hijacked situation the more likely you will act in accordance to your intention. Be specific about how you will show up and visualize yourself showing up in that manner.
  • Respond vs React – when communicating respond vs react. Meaning take a breath, gather your thoughts and respond in manner that supports how you want to show up. Every emotion or reaction doesn’t always need an immediate reaction. Filter your reactions so you can respond.
  • Take A Break – literally – remove yourself from the situation and buy time to calm down.
  • Distraction – listen to music, read a book, go for a run, watch a movie, bake a cake – anything that provides distraction and buys you time to calm down.
  • Deep Breathing – breathing deep helps with muscle relaxation and begins to change the body’s state of high anger arousal to a low arousal state. This also works as a distraction technique.
  • Challenge Your Thoughts – look for the sliver lining, view it from another’s viewpoint, consider what else might be causing the tension and wok to determine what is true and what is false.

Interested in learning more about Emotional Hijacking contact Trigena trigena@me.com or 801.915.4046.