What is Emotional hijacking why it happens and Consequences and how to avoid

Emotional hijacking

Emotions have been an important part of our reality since the beginning of humanity. However, we are not always able to control the reactions they produce and that can even lead us to act disproportionately in certain circumstances. After this type of reaction, it is common to feel guilty or regret when we realize that we have acted in an exaggerated way. If this has happened to you, it is possible that you have experienced an emotional hijacking.

More about Emotional hijacking

Emotional hijacking is a limbic system response to any threatening situation that the person experiences. This system acts to limit the reasoning or logic ability of the neocortex. Thus, when feeling a warning signal, the body activates the amygdala to secrete hormones such as cortisol or adrenaline, in order to prepare the organism to flee or fight.

Therefore, emotional hijacking is the dominance of emotions over reasoning . This causes people to activate various defense mechanisms that include intuitive reactions and even momentary memory loss. The duration of an emotional hijack has to do with each person’s emotional intelligence and the control they have over their own emotions.

In this way, people who suffer from an emotional hijacking generally do not remember their attitudes clearly and may lose the ability to communicate logically and coherently, as the limbic system momentarily takes control, limiting the controlled, analyzed responses. or rational.

Why Emotional Hijackings Happen

What causes an emotional hijack? The American psychologist Daniel Goleman, introduces in his book “Emotional Intelligence” that this type of kidnapping manifests itself when the emotions themselves, generally negative ones such as, for example, fear, hatred, anger or rage, among others , they are able to “hijack” the amygdala of the brain, which is the part in charge of emotional control.

Therefore, when the brain detects imminent danger or certain stressors, it starts a discharge of adrenaline and other survival hormones to make the body face this supposed danger, momentarily blocking the capacity for analysis, logic and reflection.

This is why, during emotional hijacking, rational decisions are limited, as the brain’s upper cortex is deactivated and people tend to be more reactive than rational . Furthermore, all attention is centered on attending to the manifested emotion, as the analytical focus on the situation is lost.

Consequences of an emotional hijacking

How do people deal with an emotional hijack? Emotional hijacking disconnects logic and reasoning to activate primitive reactions housed in the subconscious brain. Therefore, some of the consequences of emotional hijacking are:

  • Uncontrolled nerves and alteration of blood circulation.
  • Overstimulation of the body due to uncontrolled production of reactive hormones.
  • Blockage of the cognitive and analytical part of the brain.
  • Increased levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Appearance of some somatic reactions : for example, difficulty breathing, accelerated heartbeat, dizziness, among others.
  • The mint is clouded and certain memories of the event are limited.
  • Momentary reactions occur , without thinking about future consequences.

During an emotional kidnapping, one acts from the irrational point of view and many times when the storm passes, regrets arise for actions committed.

How to avoid an emotional hijack

There are different strategies to avoid an emotional hijack. One of the most effective is to increase your emotional intelligence so that you learn to proactively address your own emotions or those of others. In addition, you can put the following recommendations into practice:

  • Acknowledge your emotions : instead of repressing what you feel, give yourself space to identify your sensations in order to tune in to them. In this way, you will be able to control them more assertively.
  • Change the setting immediately : one of the most effective techniques to control an emotional hijacking is to breathe counting to 10 or thinking about a simple mathematical problem, as this way your mind will focus on another point and not on the emotion that seeks to dominate you.
  • Share your load or seek help : if you feel overwhelmed, the best thing is to try to unburden yourself with someone you trust or seek help from a professional to help you overcome the situation.

Examples of emotional hijacking

As we’ve mentioned before, emotional hijacking is part of the fight-or-flight response that the human species has had forever. Therefore, there are a lot of examples of emotional hijacking that are experienced daily. We leave you some of them below:

  • If a wild animal attacks : in these cases, the person activates their survival system to flee or defend themselves. Because it blocks the rational or cognitive part of your brain.
  • When someone insults you : when a person who appreciates you very much insults you or speaks ill of you without warning, you will experience anger or annoyance for what happened.
  • If you are very jealous of your partner and cannot control these emotions, an emotional outburst occurs which can end in arguments. In this article you will find How to stop being jealous.
  • Find out that someone has cheated on you or have an argument with a family member and get into a heated argument.

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