At the entrance to the grocery store, I watched as a man became increasingly agitated with the woman who was simply enforcing the company’s COVID-19 policy. His anger was obvious. As he yelled at the woman the line-up became uncomfortably silent.
Much of how people are reacting during this pandemic has been driven by fear, an intense emotion that is driven by our biological impulses. These biological impulses are beyond our control, but the resulting emotions are not.
When emotions are running high, they cannot be ignored, but they can be carefully managed. This is self-regulation. It is the emotional intelligence quality that frees us from living like hostages to our impulses.
Without self-regulation we are unreasonable, unable to control our emotions. When we manage our emotions, we are people who can create and sustain, safe and fair environments. In these settings, the drama is low, and productivity is high. Top performers want to work in these organizations and are not apt to leave them.
Learning to self-regulate can also enhance our integrity. So much conflict is simply the result of impulsive behaviour. No one gets up in the morning and says today is my day to an (rhymes with grass). Often what happens is we lose control of our emotions in an “Amygdala Hijack”.
The amygdala is a collection of cells near the base of the brain. There are two, one in each hemisphere or side of the brain. It is part of the brain’s limbic system. The amygdala is key to how we process strong emotions like fear and pleasure and our fight or flight.
We can prevent or stop an amygdala hijack by breathing, slowing down, and trying to focus our thoughts. This allows our frontal cortex to regain control. We can then choose the most reasonable and appropriate way to respond to the situation.