Feeling overwhelmed or carried away by an emotion, not being able to control an impulse, excessive reactions, unclear and irrational thoughts and even physiological responses in the form of fever, tachycardia or anxiety. These are just some of the symptoms that are experienced when your amygdala hijacks you, when it literally takes over you.

Amygdala hijack is a term coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman that describes those immediate and overwhelming emotional responses that are not proportional to the actual stimulus. Goleman, as an expert in emotional intelligence, tells us that the secret of our becoming irrational has to do with the momentary and immediate lack of emotional control.because the amygdala takes over in our brain.

What is the amygdala

The amygdala, in this case, is a part of the brain located deep in the temporal lobes of the brain, and is part of the limbic system, responsible for all aspects of our psyche that have to do with the affective . Specifically, the amygdala plays a central role in the processing and storage of emotional information.
The Limbic System regulates physiological responses to certain stimuli, that is, all its structures are essential for the emotional control of human behavior. But what makes the amygdala stand out within the Limbic Systemis that it is key to survival, because its main function is to integrate emotions with the response patterns corresponding to them, either at the physiological level or at the behavioral level.
Usually, the amygdala receives part of the stimuli collected by the sensory organs through the thalamus, while the rest goes to the neocortex, the ‘rational brain’. At the same time, the hippocampus, which performs functions related to memory , records the experience and compares it with previous ones.
Broadly speaking, the key aspect has to do with the subtle differences in processing speed between the three structures, considering that the neocortex is the slowest. Thus, if the hippocampus tells the amygdala that the experience coincides with a previous ‘fight, flight or freeze’ experience, the amygdala activates the HPA axis and ‘hijacks’ the rational brain.
As the neocortex is slower, everything happens before it can respond to the stimulus, which can lead to the person being paralyzedor, in more extreme cases, reacting irrationally or out of control. This can happen in extreme situations of fear, anger, jealousy or other overwhelming emotions in which we are unable to react or do so excessively.
The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in milliseconds if threatened,” explains Goleman in this regard. Also, when this eventual brain process occurs, people are unable to attend to anything else, they react later or give it a meaning once the moment of trance has passed.

Why does it happen

The truth is that there is an evolutionary component in all of this. It is our brain responding to a question that it detects as survival and that translates into athreatens emotional stability. Consequently, the amygdala, in charge of the most primitive thought , hijacks the other brain areas.
“They make us pay attention right now, this is urgent, and it gives us an immediate plan of action without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: do I eat, or does it eat me ,
explains Goleman.
Thus, our logical thinking is subject to the control of our emotions. It is an automatic fight and flight mechanism that acts instinctively, without analysis. Currently, levels of stress, workloads or insecurity trigger this type of reaction through the release of adrenaline and cortisol., which alter our body during what is estimated to be about four hours of emotional hijacking.
At other times, the paralysis becomes an impulse and causes our primal instincts to lead us into an aggressive or violent situation.That is, the hijacking of the amygdala probably confers an evolutionary advantage by facilitating survival in certain situations. However, we must not forget that in other situations it can lead a person to act thoughtlessly, for example with an aggression.

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