Have your emotions been hijacked?

Do you ever come down from an emotional outburst and think to yourself, “What was that about?  Why did I just do that?”  If that rings a bell with you, you are not alone.

Let’s get technical for a minute.  There is a place in your brain called the amygdala. Research tells us that it’s primary function is emotional reactions and it trains by memorizing emotions connected with certain stimuli.  Most often it is fear conditioning. If the amygdala perceives a match to the stimulus as a fight, flight or freeze situation, it triggers the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and hijacks the rational brain.  Ok, of all of that, just remember it hijacks the rational brain, so if you see someone that appears to have jumped off the deep end, it may not have been totally voluntary.

The amygdala hijack was described by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  They are the “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.”  Goleman states, “Emotions make us pay attention right now – this is urgent – and gives us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early:  Do I eat it, or does it eat me?”   The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened.”

So how do you handle it when your spouse, child, parent, coworker, friend, neighbor, teacher, student, etc., etc. is in the throes of an amygdala hijack?  “Self-control is crucial,” states Goleman. Avoid a complementary hijacking. “One key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings … nothing gets resolved positively when husband or wife is in the midst of an emotional hijacking … when our partner becomes, in effect, our enemy.”

At preschool, parents often become entrenched in making sure that their little one is receiving enough academics to try to push them ahead of others. At the same time, many subscribe to a narrow view of intelligence, arguing that IQ is predisposed by genetics that cannot be changed. One’s destiny in life, they believe, is largely fixed based upon these aptitudes.

“What can we change that will help our children fare better in life?  What factors are at play, for example, when people of high IQ flounder, while those of moderate IQ do surprisingly well?”  Goleman argues that answer quite often lies in emotional intelligence, “which includes self-control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself.”  Social and emotional learning is playing an ever increasing role in our schools and in our society. 


The most beautiful woman in the world … exposed.

Jessie woke up in a sack full of warm fluid. She tried to stretch some, pushing a leg out, a hand forward.  Though she has no memory of any other time waking up in here, her space has become increasingly more cramped. There is nothing to look at, as it is always dark. She smells nothing since she is not breathing air into her lungs.  There is a constant rhythm “thump-thump, thump-thump” and the occasional vibration of noise that is sometimes strong and irritating, but sometimes soothing.  There are other sounds, gurgling, release of gas, growlings, in fact sometimes it sounds like a factory in full progress.  And there are pressures placed against her, not like being actually touched, but pressure from somewhere outside this chamber that is the only existence she knows.

In a few days to a few weeks, Jessie will leave this chamber of existence never to return again. It will be a frightful experience that will shock her entire system.  It must feel like death.  Don’t worry, she will have no memory of it. For now, she fairly enjoys this place she is in, but then, it’s the only existence she knows.

There is a woman carrying this chamber and the life inside.  And everything that happens to this woman is experienced by the one inside.  What she eats, what she drinks, what she smokes, chemicals she introduces to her body, stresses she incurs, and all sorts of emotional states all create more or less discomfort to Jessie. For Jessie, cells are replicating and specializing and reacting to the environment from which she is drawing her existence.  It’s a miracle.

This woman, the one with the life inside, she is the most beautiful woman in the world.  Be aware that what happens to her happens to the child inside.  Every child is a gift from God. That includes the one soon to give birth.  That includes us all. That includes the little one soon to make an appearance.  How will you treat the ones you wake up with?

What does your child’s work look like?

Deep in my wife, Kim’s heart for her preschoolers is a desire for them to discover process rather than turning out a conventional product that fits someone else’s image.  This is a battle she fights with some of her teachers, especially those who are not as well educated as she is.

When Kim visits other preschools, it is one of the first things she looks for.  If children’s creations are being displayed, is the entire class displayed or only those deemed worthy?  Preschoolers should not be competing for attention at school.  Do the items displayed all fit a conventional form?  Are all the skies blue?  Do all the snowmen have two eyes, a carrot nose, a mouth, and a hat in proper placement?  If so, teachers are busy trying to turn out a pretty product for the parent, and miss the point of the lesson.

The point of artwork in preschool has very little to do with turning out a product worthy of display on the home refrigerator as much as it is about developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It’s about the drawing, the cutting, the pasting, the movements that connect the neurons in the child’s brain so that they can build on fundamental skills and develop more complex actions.

Children at that age have widely varying degrees of development, so one child may turn out a picture quickly and easily with integrated colors and schemes, while another of the same age may struggle just to get color on the page.  Preschool is all about meeting children at their level of development and helping them grow from there.

When a teacher leans over a child’s shoulder to tell them where and how to place the items in their picture, or worse still, actually “fixes” the child’s picture after she has collected it, she (or he) invades the child’s being.  The teacher has lost track of their place in this process.  Kim compares it to inviting someone into your home after you’ve decorated it only to have them tell you things you should have done differently.  I won’t be inviting that person back any time soon.  Teachers want to be invited in by their students to help with the process, not the product.