written by
Taric Andrade

I kidnapped my amygdala.

Technology Psychology Corporate Executive Behavior 2 min read

A few years ago, I broke with my internal controls and reacted impulsively in the work environment, result: regret and nocturnal bruxism.

How many times in our work environments have we had impulsive reactions that we regret. Whether it's resigning after offensive feedback from a manager or an unproductive discussion, or those endless meetings where we don't know why we're there. It is in these moments that we identify the absence of our emotional intelligence.

There are several explanations for this aggressive behavior, but today I will take Daniel Goleman's knowledge as a basis.

There is a neurological explanation.

The aggressive behavior is stimulated by going through unpleasant situations. The formation of the human brain will take place from the bottom up; in other words, the brain structures start at the bottom and branch out, constituting the whole that we know as the brain.

The cavemen had only the bottom part formed. In this part, there is a small structure called the amygdala, where our good and destructive emotions are stored.

As soon as our ancestors heard or saw something, this information was sent to the amygdala that determined its reaction. If an animal appears, the amygdala gave the order: Escape or Attack it.

The amygdala gives an emotional order, on impulse, without much questioning the situation.

In addition to having the amygdala, the modern man also has a structure close to the forehead called the neocortex that commands our rational actions. It is the thinking part of the brain. That is it questions and thinks the best way to perform some task.

"A problem cannot be solved in the same emotional state that it was created or discovered." Einstein

The information first reaches the amygdala, and only then does it get the neocortex, which is the challenge. So if what is happening in the external environment is very intense, the amygdala will provoke the Escape or Attack command before the neocortex says:

"Easy, let's put together an action plan to solve this problem assertively."

This process is called amygdala hijacking, where it does not allow the neocortex to act.

And what can I do

The resilient person can negotiate the abduction of the amygdala, not allowing impulsive reactions. Many use different tools for this.

Some people just count to 10. For these people, it is enough time for the information to reach the neocortex, to be processed rationally, thus not allowing to commit excesses bound to be catastrophic.

After years of practice and a lot of associated meditation, I started counting to fifty, today my neocortex still needs me to count to 10.

After learning what the potential situations that my amygdala takes control of are, I reprogrammed myself to activate this process, using the following sentence:

Thanks for sharing with me. I don't have an opinion about it right now, and I will think about it and talk to you later.

A simple trigger like that could be the time it takes for your neocortex to kick in.

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