It happens now and then and please don’t pretend it doesn’t. You know; that irrational behavior that doesn’t sneak up on you but attacks you dead on?
Someone pushed that BIG RED BUTTON and it is full throttle, all engines go. Next thing you know you are a powerhouse of artillery sent into overdrive on that fight or flight juice your brain produces to quench that thirsty bitch called survival.
Please tell me I am not the only one that experiences such a horrid invasion of my mind and body. I mean, I know I am not; look at Mel Gibson’s verbal tirades, Tom Cruise’s over-reacted love confession on Oprah, or the dozens and dozens of other public celebrity meltdowns. Sure some of it is drama for the sake of drama and some of it is drug abuse but some of it is simply a chemical reaction to stress hormones taking over our rational processes.
It’s as if aliens land inside my brain, disconnect my amygdala from my prefrontal cortex, and proceed to steer me into a situation that will; most often, lead to regret. I picture these menacing little aliens steering me into the middle of a situation just so they can reattach my amygdala and laugh at my folly like little pranksters directing a “Jackass” movie.
Amygdala hijack – Emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat. ~ Daniel Goleman
Of course, this response comes in mighty handily if you are in the middle of a warzone, or if you are a cop on patrol, or an ER doctor. I believe many of the people who make it their career to put themselves in stressful situations have an abnormally high emotional IQ. Part of the training they go through slowly helps them label situations in a way that keeps them from flying the heck off the handle.
I had a friend who possessed a knack for finding my built-in fire alarm and pulling it. The closer we became and the more I trusted him, the more unstable my emotions became. I remember one instance, I felt rejected and we started to bicker. The bicker escalated until I decided to just leave. My button had been pushed so I was going to just walk home. It was going to be a REALLY long walk.
He walked out not to stop me but to scold me before turning around to walk away. I started screaming at the top of my lungs for him to come back. I was angry…irrationally angry. He was walking away and I didn’t care who thought I was crazy.
Hindsight… I was flipping crazy. The best part of the story is that I accidentally called his phone so he has a recording of me screaming “Don’t walk away”.
Sometimes, I will read something and the next thing I know:
My heart races
I can hear blood pulsing in my ears
I can’t breathe properly
I can’t work/think/focus
I need to do something/anything. Something HAS to be done.
I do something
I feel better for a second and start to calm down
Notice what I did
Freak out over what I did
Start crying about what I did
Feel shame and regret
Apologize and feel like an idiot
A few days ago I read a blog and immediately emailed my storm trooper blogging friend. He saw my crazy and he stood his ground just like any storm trooper worth his armor would. In reality I think he is one of the most empathetic people I know and he, I am guessing, noticed I had been hijacked.
I learned something about my emotional IQ though. I learned I am better than I once was. I recognized sooner what was happening; somehow part of my brain was trying harder to convey an SOS to my amygdala to stand down. I sent the email and I still regret it BUT this time the cycle was shorter and the depression didn’t last as long.
The first step to fighting this alien invasion is knowledge. The second step is harder and takes more time but is worth the effort, understanding your triggers. Armed with knowledge and understanding you can begin to build a stronger bond between the feeling part and the rational thinking part of your brain.
In the end we hope and strive for balance. When we lose balance, those things that can save us can also kill us. Education is key so here are some awesome links just for you!