The seizure of the amygdala

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Joe Dispenza
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The seizure of the amygdala

Last update: February 13, 2017

Have you ever felt hopelessly carried away by a very powerful emotion that made you lose control? Have you ever been carried away and said things that you later regretted? Have you ever had the feeling that an emotion was directing your brain? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it means that you have sometimes been kidnapped by your amygdala.



Emotional kidnapping, or "Amygdala Hijack", is a term coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman to explain these uncontrolled emotional reactions. Goleman, as an expert in emotional intelligence, tells us that the reason we lose reasoning has to do with the momentary and immediate lack of emotional control, because the amygdala takes over the command of our brain.

The amygdala is a subcortical structure located in the inner part of the medial temporal lobe; it is usually easily recognized, as it has the shape of an almond. Together with the hippocampus, hypothalamus and orbitofrontal cortex, it is part of the complex known as the emotional brain or limbic system.

The limbic system regulates the physiological responses to certain stimuli, that is, all its structures are essential for the emotional control of the conduct of the human being. However, what makes the amygdala stand out within the limbic system is the fact that it is basic for survival, since its main function is to integrate emotions with the corresponding patterns of response to them, on a physiological or behavioral level.

To understand its capacity for emotional sequestration, therefore, it is necessary to understand that the amygdala does not only produce an emotional reaction, but rather, following its bond with the frontal lobe, it also allows the inhibition of certain ducts.



Consequently, if you start counting when an intense emotion caused by stress arises, you can distance yourself from it, give yourself space and understand what is happening at that precise moment. You will be able to regain the logical part of the brain to avoid the impulsive responses produced during the seizure by the amygdala.

Another strategy that usually works is to consciously focus on breathing, the typical Mindfulness breathing. When our attention is focused on breathing, every time we inhale, we transport ourselves into the present moment and keep us calm. Thus, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which inhibits the sympathetic nervous system, which is active during the experience of the seizure by the amygdala.


Ultimately, in order to escape the emotional abduction triggered by a strong source of stress, it is necessary to distance what has happened from the present moment. It is highly recommended to carry out activities that activate the logical part of the brain and others, such as Mindfulness, that allow us to focus on the present and teach us new ways to experience the emotion we are experiencing.


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