Have you ever felt like your emotions were controlling you instead of the other way around? For example, maybe you were having a conversation with someone and felt as if your logic and reasoning skills suddenly flew out the window. Or perhaps you’ve felt so overwhelmed with emotion that it felt like it was taking over your life. If these scenarios sound familiar, you’ve experienced emotional hijacking.
What Is Emotional Hijacking?
Emotional hijacking is when an overwhelming surge of emotion takes over our mind and body, causing us to lose control of our thoughts and behaviors. This sudden shift can be triggered by external events such as a loud noise or intense argument but can also be caused by internal events such as fear or anxiety. During an episode of emotional hijacking, the body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that fuel the fight-or-flight response. This response causes a surge of energy in the body resulting in physical reactions such as increased heart rate, sweating, and difficulty concentrating. It also causes psychological reactions such as ruminative thoughts or irrational behavior.
How Does It Impact Our Ability to Reason?
Emotional hijacking impacts our ability to reason because it affects our prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and problem-solving. When we experience an episode of emotional hijacking, the prefrontal cortex is bypassed, resulting in impulsive behavior rather than rational choices. This means that during times of extreme stress or fear, we may make decisions based on instinct rather than logic which can lead to poor outcomes in both personal relationships and professional settings.
The Early Warning Signs
The warning signs of emotional hijacking will vary from person to person, but some common red flags include feeling overwhelmed or out of control, feeling angry or frustrated, having difficulty making decisions, becoming preoccupied with thoughts or worries, withdrawing from people and activities, and noticing changes in your sleep patterns or appetite.
To avoid this impulsive response, it’s important to develop an awareness of what triggers your emotional reactions. Identify specific situations where you feel your emotions beginning to take over – for example, feeling overwhelmed by work deadlines or anxious when interacting with people who intimidate you – as well as how those feelings manifest in your body (i.e., muscle tension, fast heart rate, shallow breathing). Once you’ve identified these triggers, you may want to keep track of them in a journal. This will help create a greater sense of awareness about how frequently these triggers occur and how they affect your behavior.
Mindset Shifts & Practices
Exposure to difficult situations can make us vulnerable to emotional hijacking. To avoid this, it's important to learn from our experiences and cultivate practices that help prevent these intense reactions in the future. Deep breathing is a powerful tool for calming down an overly-heightened emotion; focus on taking slow breaths until your heart rate steadies and the intensity fades away. Mindfulness meditation helps manage stress levels while allowing you to accept challenging circumstances - take 10 minutes each day, focusing solely on breathing and being present with no external or inner judgment or expectation attached.
Additionally, practicing gratitude can help shift negative thoughts into more positive ones; take time each day to write down three things you are grateful for – something simple like a cup of coffee or more complex like overcoming an obstacle at work. All these strategies will help strengthen your emotional intelligence and prevent you from being emotionally hijacked in the future!
Our emotions can carry us away to places we never intended to go if they are not managed in a healthy, mindful way with emotional intelligence. However, with the right tools and awareness of our triggers, it is possible for all of us to stay true masters of ourselves - no longer hijacked by reactive emotional outbursts but able instead live life freely on our own terms.