Your day might have started fairly ordinary. Only somewhere along the way, things blew up. Now you’re in the middle of a massive conflict with no clear idea just how you got there.
It’s normal to fall into conflict – we’re only human after all. Some conflict is even good for us! But did you know that by understanding just how these blow-ups come about, you can learn how to avoid many of these conflicts in the first place?
Conflict comes about because we’ve hit a point of disagreement with another person. While a difference of opinion doesn’t have to turn into conflict, every conflict has at its heart a difference of opinion. These difference typically manifest in these areas:
- A difference in values
- A difference in motivations
- A difference in what you perceive is true or necessary
- A difference in wants
- A difference in the understanding of various ideas or even ideals.
- How do these differences then turn into conflicts?
1. The difference has somehow become perceived as a threat. Whenever you feel threatened, there’s going to be trouble. Threats bring out that whole urge to fight to protect what’s important to you. Hence your disagreement escalates into the realm of conflict.
2. You’ve let that conflict fester. So, what might have felt like a minor threat at the beginning has become something much bigger in nature because of two factors. First, you neglected the conflict by not dealing with it right away. Second, the passage of time has given the conflict room to grow. So, now it’s blown up into something bigger than it ever was in the first place. How? Keep reading, and you’ll see.
3. By now your perception is off kilter. It might be that what you perceive to be a threat – was never a threat in the first place. How does this happen? Chances are you lost your objectivity in the situation. Especially if you feel threatened. Then add to it #4.
4. Your emotions got involved. Conflicts tend to attract strong emotions. But the stronger the emotion, the more likely you are to blow things out of proportion. Emotional reactions also make it a lot harder to deal with a conflict in the first place, so chances are if you got emotional, you’ve already let things get out of control.
What you need to remember then, is simple. You need to maintain your objectivity, keep your emotions in check, and realize that every conflict is an opportunity to grow. Conflicts are normal in life. But it’s the resolution of conflicts that draws us closer together and builds both trust and intimacy.
Neuro-nugget: The amygdala is the “fight or flight” and emotional memory part of the brain. Its job is to protect by comparing incoming data with emotional memories. An amygdala hijack occurs when we respond out of measure with the actual threat because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat. For instance, the amygdala will react similarly to the threat of being eaten by a tiger (physical threat) and the threat of an ego attack (emotional threat) by bringing on the fight or flight reaction.
When one experiences an amygdala hijack, the amygdala overtakes the cerebrum (the thinking part of the brain) and there’s little or no ability to rely on intelligence or reasoning. The effect is that energy is drawn exclusively into the hijack. The immediate result of a hijack is a decrease in working memory. Adrenaline is released and will be present and effective for 18 minutes, and other hormones are released into the bloodstream that will take 3 - 4 hours to clear.
So, what can I do?
Some simple steps to reduce the chance of an Amygdala hijack occurring are:
Stop whatever you’re doing.
Ask yourself what just happened. Replay the comments in your head. This step keeps the neo-cortex engaged and can prevent the Amygdala takeover. Oxygenate. Breathe deeply, with intention and purpose. This step also keeps the neo-cortex engaged. Strengthen appreciation. It’s difficult to have two emotional experiences at the same time, and appreciation counters the hijack. If you can’t appreciate the person who is the source of the conflict, appreciate parts of your own life, such as your family and friends.
Survey the landscape. After the hijack, spend some time exploring what happened and why. Recognizing the trigger will allow you to avoid being triggered in the future.