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Make it your own (DW#468)

One of the most inspiring and heart warming moments for me is when a reader takes a suggestion and makes it their own. 

A young lady wrote and shared that when she read about the six second pause, she realised that it was the perfect amount of time to remember God and His most beloved ones. 

She said that she will be using the six second pause to say this:
Allah, Mohammed, Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain (May the peace and Blessings of God be on all of them). 

It reminded me that when I am feeling angry, unforgiving and my heart is constricted, I remember the most beautiful names of God to ground myself: 

Ya Rahman, Ya Raheem, Ya Karim, Ya Salaam
O All Compassionate, O All Merciful, O Most Generous and Noble, O the Source of Peace

If we adapt the pause to something that is meaningful for us, we are MUCH more likely to use it. 

So go ahead and develop a mantra of your own. What helps you to calm down and get back on track? Practice using it frequently so that it...

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What can you do in six seconds? (DW#467)

Yesterday we talked about how an emotional overreaction or flooding lasts a mere 6 seconds. 

What you do during those six seconds can be either helpful or harmful in dealing with the situation that you are facing. 

What is NOT useful to do whilst you are pausing is to replay the situation in your mind, think about how the other person is wrong or to plot your revenge.

Instead try this:

  1. Ask yourself: What do you want from this situation and for yourself? 
  2. Remind yourself that you only have control over your own thoughts and behaviours. 
  3. Get in touch with your core values. What do you stand for? What can you say or do that comes from those values rather than in reaction to what the other person is doing. 

These steps will help you gain your composure, to focus on what is most important in the here and now and prepare you to continue the conversation minus the overreaction.

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The good news about flooding (DW#466)

Last week we started talking about flooding (aka emotional hijacking) and how it shuts down our thinking brain and can lead us to behave in ways that we later regret. 

Although it is very uncomfortable and a potentially destructive state of mind, there is one very good piece of news about flooding: It only lasts about 6 seconds. 

Yes. Six seconds. 

So when we encounter an event which is emotionally triggering for us, we can practice waiting six seconds before responding. 

Pausing for six seconds gives the rational brain a chance to process the sensory information.  It allows the thinking brain to put the breaks on the alarm set off by the amygdala reacting to an outside stressor. It allows us to respond based on our values rather than react based on our heated emotions at the time. 

So take a breath and start counting . . . 
1001 . . . 1002 . . .1003 . . . 1004 . . . 1005 . . . 1006

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How often do you get emotionally hijacked? (DW#465)

Even if we have high emotional intelligence, we can expect to feel triggered or flooded occasionally. The sign of having high EQ, in other words, is not that we never get triggered but that 

a)   We get triggered less often
b)   We don’t act on our emotions and 
c)   We are able to soothe ourselves quite quickly.

In her book Stop Overreacting: Effective Strategies for Calming Your Emotions, author Dr. Judith P. Siegel suggests asking yourself the following questions to assess whether you have a problem with overreacting. 

Do you often:

§  Regret things you say or do in the heat of emotion?

§  Lash out at loved ones?

§  Have to apologize to others for your actions or words?

§  Feel surprised at your seemingly uncontrollable reactions?

§  Assume the worst about people and situations?

§  Withdraw when things get emotionally...

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The signs of emotional hijacking (DW#464)

As we mentioned yesterday, an emotional hijack or flooding is an immediate and overwhelming emotional response out of proportion to what triggered the response. Flooding happens because the triggering event has triggered a more significant emotional threat.

The reason we do not behave rationally when we are flooded is because when the alarm system of the brain (the amgydala) perceives a threat, it sparks the brain into self-protective "fight or flight" survival mode with a stress hormone, epinephrine. 

In a fight, flight or freeze mode, the thinking component of our brain is shut down. We simply cannot think effectively and usually cannot speak with clarity or insight.

So how do we know that we are flooded? Experts explain that there are three hallmarks of emotional flooding: 

  1. A strong emotional reaction out of proportion to the stimulus or trigger
  2. A sudden onset – we are often blindsided and cannot understand where this strong reaction is coming...
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The anatomy of an emotional hijacking (DW#463)

Overreactions are often referred to as "flooding", "emotional hijackings" or "amygdala hijackings". 

The term hijackings is appropriate as the rational or thinking mind (the neocortex) is basically hijacked or flooded when we are emotionally overwhelmed. 

In order to prevent and deal with such flooding or hijacking, it can be very helpful to understand how our brain is designed to react to danger. 

To put it extremely simply, when our brain senses imminent danger, a whole system gets into action and blasts adrenaline into our bodies to cope with the perceived danger at hand. The thinking parts of our brain shut down and we react instantly. When there is an actual danger, this automatic and immediate response saves our lives. 

If we see what looks like a snake for example, it is much wiser to react instantly to protect ourselves rather than to look at the snake, consider the actual danger and plan a course of action. 

In situations like these, the brain...

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What does an emotional overreaction look like? (DW#462)

We have begun hinting at emotional overreactions for the last few days. Just to be clear, emotional overreactions do not only mean exploding or shouting in anger. 

Different people cope differently when they are emotionally triggered: some may explode and others may shut down and disengage from the other person. 

An external overreaction or explosion is visible. Others can see for example, if we lash out in anger, throw our hands up or have an angry expression. 

An internal overreaction (or "implosion") on the other hand is an emotional response that may be undetected by onlookers. We may appear to be calm on the outside even though an emotional storm is brewing inside. At this point we are so emotionally flooded that we cannot think straight. We may be replaying a situation over and over in our heads, wondering if we said or did the right thing, overanalyzing a comment made by a friend or loved one or we may be having a stream of negative thoughts and...

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Notice the ripples . . . (DW#461)

Have you ever witnessed a fight or aggression between two or more people? And if you have, did you notice how the tension between those who were involved in the conflict appeared to spread to everyone around even if they were in no way involved?

This is what we mean when we say that there is "tension in the air". Like the ripples created when you throw a stone in a pond, our emotions, and the behaviours resulting from those emotions appear to spread to everyone who witnessed the emotion in action. 

And it doesn’t stop at the witnesses either.

When people see others engaged in conflict, they disperse and take with them a feeling of anxiety and stress. They may in turn act out those feelings on others and so on it goes. . . 

So notice yourself catching a bad mood from others when it happens the next time. 

When we become mindful of our emotional unleashing on others, we are much more motivated to take action to begin to change things.

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Do you have feelings about your feelings? (DW#460)

emotions feelings Sep 28, 2018

Yesterday we talked about how it is more effective to notice and label emotions without adding our judgement to whether they are positive or negative – good or bad.

One way to look at this is that we can stop having feelings about our feelings. 

Here is how one author explains it (apologies as I cannot remember who it was!):

At least half of our negative emotions would disappear if we did just one thing: stop having feelings about our feelings.

For example, if we are sad about something, we become mad at ourselves on top of that, for being sad. So, now not only are we sad, we also are beating ourselves for it. So this becomes like a wounded person, who starts beating themselves for being wounded. 

When we do this, three things happen:
1) We never treat the wound itself. And what happens to a wound that isn't treated? It is more likely to get worse rather than go away. 

2) We cage the original emotion, rather than letting it take its course and flow away...

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Quit “shoulding” your emotions (DW#459)

emotions self development Sep 27, 2018

Once you start becoming aware of your emotions, it is very tempting to start labeling them as good or bad – positive or negative. You may be tempted to believe that sadness and anger for example are bad. And happiness or excitement are good. You then may begin to tell yourself "I should not feel anger or resentment". "I should feel happy at my success". 

We will later cover why it is not useful to treat emotions as good or bad. For now, please stay with the practice of noticing and naming the emotion itself without the judgement of good or bad. 

While becoming aware of emotions is helpful towards managing them effectively, labeling them as good or bad often has the effect of trying to get rid of the emotion without really understanding what it is trying to teach us. 

Suspending our judgement about particular emotions also allows them to run their course and dissipate. Labeling, judging and "shoulding" the emotion on the other hand, tends to feed the emotion and...

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