Amygdala Hijack

It happens to the best of us. Someone says something, or does something that sets us off. We’re triggered and in the control of some part of ourselves that we’d rather not own up to.

Yes, that lovely little part of the brain called the Amygdala. Before you get riled up at your poor amygdala, remember that it’s not just about keeping you safe. Any strong emotion can trigger the amygdala. Love can. Any time your heart starts beating faster, your breath becomes louder, and you have the urge for action. That’s the amygdala.

An Amygdala hijack is that surge of fight or flight. The moment when you either want to punch someone or run from the room.

I did an experiment once; I counted, for one day, the number of times I had those reactions. It was about 40 – and here I was thinking I was a nice calm, can handle anything that life throws at me kinda gal. Ha! I’m just saying it was a bad day!

Our brains are cool; another part of the brain helps keep us from making personally catastrophic mistakes. It’s the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) and it helps us make decisions, looks for and finds patterns, and generally has the kind of demeanour that we’d like others to respect us for

Why should I care?

It would be so easy to ignore the leadership message that’s contained in knowing about the Amygdala. As a leader, I don’t get to just do what I want, or say what I think. I have to be constantly considering the impact of my actions on the outcome that I am seeking for whatever it is I am doing. I can’t consider much when my PFC is ‘off-line’.

Impact is inevitable, I just don’t think that in leadership, I really want to leave it up to chance.