How to control the amygdala hijack?

Dr Antonio Damasio a leading neuroscientist who extensively studies feelings and what happens when we have a physiological response.

When you are under the gun of the fight or flight nervous system, being fueled by intoxicating chemicals (cortisol and adrenalin), you are programmed to only be concerned about surviving.

Your body’ sympathetic nervous system turns on the fight or flight response. Your limbic system gets hijacked and the body and brain lose communication. When the Pre frontal cortex is not talking to the limbic system (the emotional centre of the brain) the ‘amygdala hijack can be a huge concern, especially for business. We may be behaving emotionally without the intelligence or rationality of the brain.¹



David, a Sales Director of a leading digital marketing firm, receives a phone call from his client Electrolux saying that the deadline for the marketing proposal is now due this afternoon instead of next week.

How does David respond? How does his body respond? What physiological changes are happening? David may experience his heart rate increasing, his skin tone turning pale, his muscles tensing, and a knot in his stomach.

This emotional reaction occurs automatically and unconsciously, converting these physiological symptoms and emotions into a feeling. Ie Fear, anxiety, anger etc.

If David’s limbic system is overburdened and stressed, he may respond irrationally and say something to Electrolux in a momentary regrettable distraction.

Neurologists have taught us so many important lessons about the brain, and how to keep the mind calm, such as:


Mindful Living

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Positive Emotion

By introducing these practices into your routine, you can lessen the impact of the amygdala highjack and have a more enriched life. 

¹Damasio, A 2000, Descartes’ Error; The Feeling of What Happens, Mariner Books, London.