Life Mastery and the Amygdala Hijack: Shifting from being Victims to being Responsible 

December 19, 2018  |  Uncategorized

What if you lived in the paradigm where you believe that you chose and created every single life experience you are having now? Including catching a cold, losing your luggage, not getting that apartment you liked, missing a car-spot and at the same time all the good “fortune” and “lucky-breaks” that befall you? What if they didn’t “happen” to you, but you attracted them knowingly or perhaps subconsciously?

“You don’t get “hit” by feelings, you feel them based on your perceptions, and you perceive based on your beliefs, and you believe as you choose.” – Mike Dooley
What if we lived in the awareness that we really can choose how we respond to life? That life is not a sum total of all the automatic reactions where we “had no choice”?

Since Daniel Goleman coined the term “The Amygdala Hijack” 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, usually embedded in our limbic brains in our childhoods, we’ve heard a fair bit about these 2 almond-shaped glands that reside in our limbic system and their relationship to our automatic reactions.

According to one of my most respected authors, Dr. Joe Dispenza, “in a research from the HeartMath Institute, they pointed out that there are afferent nerve fibers that go directly from the heart to not just the brain, but they go directly to the amygdala. Why is this important? Because the research demonstrates that when you open your heart and feel love — really surrendering fully to love—the power of that profound love can create a new baseline in your brain and body’s survival systems.

This means that the heart, in fact, is also a command center of the body, as well as the brain.

When we truly open our hearts, let go of the past, and forgive, we reset our baseline into a more harmonious, more elevated state.

This in turn brings us into a state of homeostasis, and by returning to a state of homeostasis, we free ourselves from the past. And when we free ourselves from the past, we gain a new freedom to create our future.” — Dr. Joe Dispenza

To summarise simply:

1. Pause, take a long deep breath, then another. I first learnt about the Amygdala when doing a Yoga Teacher’s Training Course, we were taught that breathing is the ONLY function of the ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) that our Neocortex (thinking mind) can try to affect or control and at the same time control how we feel to an extent. By “controlling” our breath we can actually affect how we feel. Under stress, respiration becomes rapid, shallow and isolated in the upper chest. Shallow or rapid breathing reaffirms to the ANS that the body is in danger, leading to SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) activation (fight, flight or freeze). Conversely, slow, deep, diaphragmatic breath tells the ANS that the system is safe to relax and repair, leading to PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System)  activation (rest and digest). We can elicit parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activation by deepening and slowing down the breath.

2. Trick it – When you find yourself in the midst of an Amygdala Hijack, PAUSE, take deep breaths, and ask yourself a question that will:

a) re-engage the neocortex to think logically and rationally – (It’s been suggested that individuals can lose between 15 – 35 IQ points during these ‘hijacks’. *HOLZEL, B.K. et al , J. (2011))

b) re-connect you to your purpose, goal, what really matters

c) reframe – Provide a different perspective

3. Visualize what you want to experience rather than imagining all the catastrophic things that could happen – as “worrying is praying for what you don’t want” By vizualising the desired outcome, and declaring the intention, you give “it” a higher probability of coming to be. If you want to learn more about the power of vizualization look up the works of Mike Dooley.

4. The only difference between Mastering your life and being a Victim lies here in exercising your CHOICE to respond rather than to react. Responsibility implies the ability to respond – carefully, mindfully – what response will bring me closer to living my purpose, will this help me have the kind of relationship I so wish to have, will this response help me towards what I say I so desire, rather than to have a “knee-jerk” automatic reaction which will only keep me spiralling downwards into the very rut I so want to get out of. The proverbial viscious cycle?

5. Meditate twice a day – it will re-connect you with that Creative, intuitive and wise part of you and it increases that space between stimulus and response giving you more chances to choose how you respond to your various life situations.

Research has found that meditation practice boosts the left frontal activity of the brain, which is associated with positive mood, and decreases activity in the amygdala, the part related to stress and anxiety.*

The last few days of the year, the festivity, carols, lights and spirit of celebration always makes me a little reflective, hope you enjoyed this post and please share your experiences on reacting vs. responding.


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