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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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The five domains of emotional intelligence (DW#456)

In Daniel Goleman's book "Emotional Intelligence", the author explains that there are five main domains of emotional intelligence: Self awareness, emotional regulation, internal motivation, recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships. 

So let’s begin to explore these domains one at a time. 

Self awareness:

This is the foundational basis of emotional intelligence.

Self awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your own emotions. As we mentioned last week, our emotions drive us to act. If we are unaware of our emotions, we will act in ways that don’t make sense to us or to others. Our unrecognized and unprocessed emotions may result in us acting against our own self interest and in ways that hurt other people.

Recognizing our emotions as they are happening also allows us to become aware of of the effect of our moods and behaviours on other people, both at work and at home.

Once we become aware of our emotions, we can begin to recognize the...

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What it means to stand with Hussain (DW#455)

Today's wisdom comes from my daughter Sara who wrote this piece on what it means to stand with Imam Hussain (as) 

As this year's azadari comes to a close, I've been thinking about what values this annual commemoration draws out of me: 

if I am with Hussain (as), I value and honor the significance of histories and herstories of oppression and of standing up against injustice, and I make a conscious effort to remember them in community. I believe in the power of storytelling. I do not dismiss these stories for being "so long ago" or of a different people or from a far away place. 

if I am with Hussain (as), I stand with the systematically oppressed, silenced, disenfranchised, abused, tortured, murdered, and imprisoned

if I am with Hussain (as), I work towards a level of commitment to justice for the aforementioned where I am willing to give up anything and everything - my comfort, my wealth, my ego, and my life - in pursuit of it

if I am with Hussain (as), I am of those...
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Remembering Hussain on Ashura (DW#454)

Today marks the Day of Ashura, the day when Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (saw) was martyred on the plains of Karbala (present day Iraq) in the year 680AD. 

Millions of people around the world commemorate this day with solemnity and a renewed commitment to stand for social justice.
 
In Islamic spirituality, there are many narrations from the Holy Prophet (saw) regarding the merits of remembering Hussain, his family and his companions. It can sometimes be challenging to understand the status that Hussain has with God and with people.

Here is a story which might help:

It is said that there was once a King who was fighting a battle and in the midst of the battle, a storm descended, and he came to be separated from the rest of his troops and found himself in a jungle.

Hungry and dishevelled, he was near panic when he saw a modest hut. He approached the hut and found that an old woman lived there.

He explained that he was lost and hungry and...

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I told you so (DW#430)

This phrase might just be in the running for the worst possible phrase or the least helpful thing that you can say if you want to build strong relationships. 

While yesterday’s phrase "If I were you" is usually said beforedisaster happens, "I told you so" is generally used after the advice is not heeded and ‘disaster’ ensues. 

"I told you so" can be said in many different ways, of course: 
I told you so. 
I knew this would happen. 
I could see this one coming
I could’ve told you this was coming. 
Can I tell you…I thought this might be the result?
I knew it!!
No surprise that this happened, is it? 

The reason it is so damaging to relationships is because we use it when the person on the receiving end is likely already feeling pretty bad about something that happened. And saying I told you so is guaranteed to make them feel worse even though it might make us feel superior and smug by reminding them how much they need our...

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If I were you . . . (DW#429)

Many of us love giving advice, thinking to ourselves: "I should really share the wealth of my knowledge, wisdom and experience – I am sure the recipient of my advice will be very grateful indeed". 

And then we get very confused when the advice is rejected or remains unheeded  . . .

Here’s the thing: one of the worst ways of giving advice is to start it with "If I were you  . . ." before we have finished this sentence, the person on the receiving end of this advice is saying to themselves:
But you are not me
My situation is different 
You just don’t understand 

And all that valuable advice that we so graciously shared has now gone to waste – sigh! Such a shame, no?

It turns out that of the many ways of giving advice, the most effective one is to simply share information about something. A study on this subject found that information advice was the most effective and the one most likely to be heeded. Information advice...

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Not this again! Can’t you just drop it... (DW#428)

Today’s phrase is another variation of blaming the other person for issues in the relationship. 

"Not this again!" can be said in many ways:
"Oh no, here we go again" - eye roll and heavy sigh included –
"You never let anything drop, do you?"
"Why do you make such a big deal about things that are not important?"
etc. etc. etc.

 

The message in each version is similar:

 

"Something is wrong with you that you cannot drop this issue – you have no grounds to be upset. I don’t see it as a big deal, I don’t respect what you have to say and I’m not willing to listen, communicate with you or change in any way. This issue is not important to me even though it matters to you. The problem is clearly you and not me".

 

As you can imagine, this message is more likely to damage the relationship rather than make the issue go away. It is likely to add fuel to the fire as when we are upset, we want to be listened to and heard, not told that we...
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Fine whatever (DW#426)

Have you ever felt completely exasperated in your efforts to reach someone? To get them to understand your point of view? 

Ever felt so exasperated that you say: "fine, whatever" as a signal that you are giving up on this argument? As a signal that you are metaphorically throwing up your arms in resignation? 

While it is not realistic to agree on everything or even understand where the other person is coming from, it is important to keep talking about issues that mean something to you (or them). In the absence of continuing communication on important matters, misunderstanding and resentment is likely to grow in the relationship in the place of love and connection. 

In other words, if we say "fine, whatever" enough times we will find ourselves quitting on the whole relationship rather than just the argument at hand.

 

So the next time we feel defeated in an effort to be understood, let us be brave and remind ourselves that if the relationship is important to us, we...
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