Beware of being Brain-jacked!

We have all met people who get offended easily. Every one is having a good time and friendly banter when all of the sudden this friend will get extremely annoyed and subsequently angry and even rude. What gives?

The homo sapiens (wise men) are widely deluded. Delusional about their emotions, amongst other things. Cruising through life with confidence, trusting the 3 pounds of brain (apparently) in control. In this article we’ll explore the ways that the human brain determines (read: distorts) our reality and how in control (or not) we really are.

Let’s start with the human brain. It is a complex and magnificent organ. A sure sign of an Intelligence. 3 pounds of matter with more than 10 billion neurons firing in all directions. It has evolved over more than 500 million years to the shape it takes today. The brain has developed chronologically and what you and I have is divided into distinct parts. The first bit, covering the top of the spinal cord is the brain stem. This part is common with a majority of species and performs our basic functions like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and is also responsible for bodily reactions that are essential for survival. On top of the brain stem lies the limbic system. This bit enables us to learn and remember. Assessing our environment and decoding the eminence of pain or pleasure. Remembering that the last time we touched fire we felt pain and consequently saving us massive trouble. The limbic system is often called the emotional part of the brain. The top of the brain, the latest addition to the organ, is the neocortex. This is the part that makes us uniquely human. Here in lies the ability to imagine, rationalize, analyze and decide. Whatever we experience is sent to different parts of the brain for analysis — most rational decisions are processed in the neo cortex.

This very complex structure of the brain has helped the homo sapiens evolve and survive through countless challenges. One of the more important functions for survival was the ability to manage imminent threats. The limbic system played a pivotal role in this regard as it utilized its learning and memory to classify threats. It has been supremely successful in saving our lives because it is one of the first recipients of data from our senses — the limbic system can move us to action before the neo cortex has analyzed the data it receives.

Let’s imagine a few scenarios:

· When she was learning how to cook Saira had a pressure cooker accident. It resulted in slight burns to her hands and neck. The incidence was not only etched in her limbic system, but also in the immediate family’s. Whenever Saira or her sister saw a pressure cooker, they found it difficult to control their fear and were extra cautious.

At the sight of a pressure cooker the limbic system hijacks the brain and sends signals of fear to the body. There is no analysis of the situation except a match from memory. Rationally the context may be different, and there may not be any threat but the emotional centers of the brain spring into action and take control away from the rational seat.

· You’ve been mugged at a certain street. You have memory of the lights, the motorcycle, the violent knock on your cars’ window. This memory remains part of the limbic system. For a very long time, every time the limbic brain notices even the smallest matches from memory you feel the emotional centers taking over.

In an interview people who’ve been mugged multiple times mentioned how even before they could process what was happening they start complying because of perceived threat. As their brain was processing what was going on their limbic system had pushed their bodies to start removing their wallet, phone or watches to avoid any pain.

· Children who witness their parents or elders fighting in their early childhood have this memory etched in their limbic brains. Whenever they hear people shouting, the limbic brain responds by replicating the behavior that was used as a child. It may be that as a kid they reacted by running away or by shouting back.

The emotional centers will jump into action at the presence of 1 condition i.e. shouting. The children will grow up with the click-whirr response. It may be helpful or disastrous depending on the context.

This is brain jacking. The instance when your unconscious brain takes over your conscious processes. The results are seldom helpful. The same applies in social and work situations. Try and think of emotional patterns you have. Difficult conversations or instances where people have made you angry or frustrated. The seat of anger is a feeling of being threatened whether physically or even emotionally and spiritually. Alarm bells sound in your head as soon as the brain thinks your dignity or respect is at stake. These instances too are signs of your brain being hi-jacked or brain-jacking.

The next time you are angry, think of why this feeling exists and give the other person the benefit of good intent. You might be able to identify a negative trigger. Every time you identify and control/eliminate or let go of one of these triggers you are one step closer to a happier and simpler life.

For more information about brain hi-jacking, read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence.

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