Keeping Your Balance
If people do or say things that upset us, that means we’re losing our balance. Inevitably what follows is that we are going to do or say something foolish that’s going to cost us in the end. So why do we lose control? Why allow emotions to take us over, cause us to do something ridiculous, and create a mess? Eventually, we’ll have to clean it up. So why do we do it?
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, provides an answer with his term Amygdala Hijack. The amygdala is a section of the brain that is responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events. According to Goleman, Amygdala Hijack is a term to describe 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. The amygdala overrides our Executive (logical) mind and we literally don’t think straight.
Examples can be seen everywhere in our daily lives. Bosses promise themselves they won’t get upset by things their employees do or say. Then before they know it, they lose control and are left with more issues to resolve. Or, employees who work in close proximity to one another and find it challenging to deal each other’s behavior/habits.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
First, as it is with all change efforts, we need to want to break this habitual pattern. So, two questions, 1. Are you willing 2. Are you ready?
It doesn’t mean we won’t get angry anymore or experience other emotions that throw us off balance. It just means we’ll have a tool to STOP the automatic reaction long enough to choose a saner response.
Believe it or not, a great example comes from the comedic movie Anger Management. Jack Nicholson plays a therapist who is tasked with teaching anger management skills to his patients, including the character played by Adam Sandler. He tells his patients that the very second they feel the anger they are to take a breath and say the words “Fooze Ba-Ba”. Of course, you can choose any silly words you like, but the suggestion is brilliant!
When you take a breath (old wisdom from my grandmother and probably yours) and then chant a phrase (if you’re in the middle of a business meeting, you may have to do this part silently to yourself, or it may appear strange), your Inner Wisdom (or Executive Mind) rebalances your perspective. I suggest you practice this when no one is around.
Clients have told me they cherish this technique, as crazy as it sounds. It’s helped them calm down and the fact that the words are funny reminds them not to take themselves and situations so seriously.
If we recognize and accept that reacting emotionally is part of the human condition; if we can learn to adjust our life so we are not always bogged down under the crushing wheels of chaos and dysfunction; if we can do that and “keep our wits about us when all around us others are losing theirs”, then maybe we’ve gained the power of balance and peace of mind.