You got hijacked.

Your breathing stopped. Your temperature skyrocketed. Your mind blanked.

You’d planned to handle this discussion rationally, but you fell into a dark rabbit hole of fear, panic, hurt.

It’s happened before, and you want better results in the future. Here’s how to understand what happened, and what to do about it.  

When you encounter a situation or person that sets off your internal threat-detection system, it can literally short-out your rational brain. Fear, anger, panic, upset create an adrenaline overload that floods your central nervous system, igniting your flight-or-fight response, and derailing your ability to handle the situation.

This emotional riptide takes hold of your body as well as your brain. You may have sensed your face flushing, your body trembling, or your fists or gut clenching.

Your instinctual battle reaction leaves you mule-headed, irrational, and ready to shout angry words or take unwise actions.  

How do you fight against the riptide?

  1. Breathe. Breathing processes your adrenaline, giving you control over yourself. Breathing connects both sides of your brain, the left hemisphere that enables you to problem-resolve and analyze, and your right hemisphere, providing you intuitive awareness of the other person and maintaining your emotional connection with your feelings and needs. Breathing re-engage the part of your brain that considers other viewpoints and realizes situations are more often gray than black and white/
  • Assess. What do you want to happen here? If you want a positive resolution, what action steps will enable you to attain it? If you want to stand up for yourself and not cave in, what do you want to have happen?
  • Take control. Ask the other person a question, because when you do so, you take control of the interaction and gain valuable understanding.
  • Speak. What do you want to say? Say it. Or, now that you’ve gained control of yourself, is it time to act?
  • Learn. Once the situation resolves or otherwise ends, what can you learn from the situation. What did you discover about yourself, the other person, or the situation you found yourself in? Learning lights the path you need to take.  

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p.s. You may have noticed I’m writing more articles about conflict as I’m working on my next book. Navigating Conflict. Managing for Accountability publishes 8/4, and the kindle edition is already posted on Amazon.  I’d love to know what conflict challenges you’d like me to focus on in the book. And, as always, thanks for enjoying

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2 thoughts on “Emotional Hijacking

  1. Breathe & learn from the experience are my biggest takeaways. Thanks for this insightful discussion, Lynne.

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