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Tony explains the “amygdala hijack,” or why it feels like you quickly lose control of your emotions when trying to communicate, or sometimes be around, the narcissist in your life. Is there anything that you can do in the moment, or do you need to simply give yourself grace that it happened, review the “game film” afterward, and make a plan…or c) all of the above? Tony references the article “All About Amygdala Hijack,” by Traci Pedersen, medically reviewed by Bethany Juby, PsyD https://psychcentral.com/health/amygdala-hijack#takeaway
Tony mentioned his presentation in Monica Tanner's "Secrets of Happily Ever After," summit which brings 32 marriage therapists and life/relationship coaches together to provide a wealth of tips to strengthen your marriage. You can sign up for the summit for free using the following link: https://tonyoverbay--onthebrighterside.thrivecart.com/shea-summit-accelerator/
If you are interested in being coached in Tony's upcoming "Magnetic Marriage Podcast," please email him for more information. You will receive free marriage coaching and remain anonymous when the episode airs.
Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/workshop to sign up for Tony's "Magnetize Your Marriage" virtual workshop. The cost is only $19, and you'll learn the top 3 things you can do NOW to create a Magnetic Marriage.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.
Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ
[00:00:07] Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 44 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I'm your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, also host of the Virtual Couch podcast. And go take a look in the show notes. Maybe I'll just say that's where we'll take care of business today. But I would like to point you to the secrets of Happily Ever After. It's a summit workshop, a summit where there were 30 something of US marriage and family therapists or psychologists or marriage coaches or all sorts of people that gave a lot of tips to a healthier marriage. And again, I know that on this podcast there are a lot of people that are really struggling with their marriage. But something I think I mentioned this in last week's episode, something pretty phenomenal happened where the interviewer, Monica Tanner, who does an amazing job, asks me in the middle of a of an interview in this summit to talk about how do you work narcissism into your happily ever after? And I made a dramatic, I think, pause or joke and said you could hear the record scratch or the cue, the ominous music. [00:01:00] But the interview became really fascinating. So that interview is part of the happily ever after Summit, where I was talking about four pillars of a connected conversation and all of these wonderful things or things that I feel every couple should know about marriage. And then when she asked that question, I wasn't really prepared for that.
[00:01:16] I didn't know that was going to be part of the where she was heading in the interview. And so then I just feel like it's a great interview standing in my healthy ego there, because we start with here's all of these wonderful things that can help your marriage improve. But then here is what narcissism or narcissistic tendencies or emotional immaturity looks like in a relationship. And if people aren't familiar with that, they're the people that are not going to be very empathetic and or even sympathetic to those that are coming and saying, Hey, I'm struggling in my marriage. And so I really go find in the show notes, though, I have a link to go sign up that you get free access to. Everyone has this free content, all 30 something percenters do, and that is good content. And I think that there's an upsell to some bonus content. I think it might be 7080 [00:02:00] bucks to get access to all the bonus content for all 30 something people. So I really do think it's a good deal. So go check the show notes for that and you can always find Tony over eBay.com slash workshop if you're interested in a 90 minute workshop that I have that talks a lot about marriage, that sort of thing. And let's get to today's topic. I here's where today is. When I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was going to start talking more about the amygdala hijack sounds very, very psychobabble, technical, nerdy, but it's such a real concept that once you're aware of what the amygdala hijack is, I think you'll realize it not only in your relationships, but just in communicating with individuals in general.
[00:02:38] And it has to do with so many of the things we talk about on waking up. The narcissism, including the body, keeps the score that your body is trying to warn you or tell you that it is really looking out for you because ultimately your body wants to live forever. You know, that brain is a don't get killed device. And so at its simplest forms, a little bit of anxiety can be a good thing because it can keep you sharp, keep [00:03:00] you on your toes. And anger can oftentimes be the emotion that wells up in you when you feel like there's been an injustice. But it's when those emotions start getting bigger and bigger and they start happening more intense and quicker, that that's part of what happens with this amygdala hijack. So I'm going to talk a little bit about what the amygdala is, what that looks like, what the amygdala hijack is. And then I'm going to transition a little bit over into the world of emotionally focused therapy EFT, which is the basis behind my four pillars of a connected conversation. But we're going to talk about primary and secondary emotions today, and we're going to talk about how to sit with your primary emotion, which is what we're trying to tap into in order to hopefully avoid immediately going right into that amygdala hijack and jumping right into a secondary emotion.
[00:03:48] The simplest view of primary and secondary emotions that I like to give is I remember as a young father and having my kids go through a phase where they would just jump out from behind any [00:04:00] anywhere and scare me. And it was it's funny, but I would say, Oh, you guys knock it off. So that is a clear example of I went immediately to my secondary emotion of anger to cover up my primary emotion of embarrassment or of fear, because they literally would scare me. I would not be paying attention and they would scare me. And instead of being able to sit with that primary emotion of, Oh my gosh, that that scared me, I go, I would immediately go right to the man, Guys, hey, you knock it off. And then to watch their little faces where they were just trying to have fun. And I remember that was literally when I was working on understanding emotion and primary and secondary emotion. And so I'm so grateful that I was able to deal with that in that moment. But being able to sit with your primary emotion is a way to to be more vulnerable. And it's also a way to start trusting your your gut, trusting your senses. It's okay to be scared and afraid and embarrassed because that's part of the human experience.
[00:04:54] And if you learn to sit with that, then you can almost even I mean, you can really have a shared experience [00:05:00] with that with the kids. And then I got it got to the point where if they. Man, that was a good one. You got me good. And now I would sit there and. I could watch or feel the adrenaline pulse through my veins. Matter of fact, the clients that I work with, I've worked with most of them for quite a while. I've got a little fridge in my office and a lot of times I'll have whatever drink they like and I'm a pretty regular at the end of every session. I'm good with the boundaries and time and I'll usually hit the restroom because I like to stay well hydrated. We're definitely down to too much information path, but I love nothing more than my clients know that they can count on showing up a few minutes before the previous client will be gone. And I'm probably in the bathroom and they slip into my office and they grab something out of the fridge and they're there on the couch. And so many times, even though I know that I'll turn the corner because I'm caught up in thought I might be looking at my phone and there they are. And it's funny, I almost love nothing more than that.
[00:05:49] That's a quick way to get to feel the way that adrenaline works in the body because you turn the corner and there they are. I wasn't anticipating that, even though I've expressed that they can come on in my office and I'll be there soon, [00:06:00] but it startles you. And so I feel like that's one where, boy and the more emotionally immature days, it would be easy to say, well, hey, a little heads up would have been good. Instead, it's all man. Hey. All right. And now I'll sit here and wait 30, 45 seconds. And I can literally feel the adrenaline pulsate through my through my veins. It's amazing. So let's jump into amygdala hijack. I'm going to read a lot today from a Psych Central article. And the Psych Central article, I believe, is just put together o k medically reviewed by Bethany Duby, who has a doctorate in psychology and written by Tracy Peterson. And this is from October of 2021. I'll have a link to that as well. Traci says that the amygdala hijack occurs when strong emotions take over the thinking part of your brain. Now, I don't know if I even finished my thought earlier, but what I continually hear from people that are in emotionally abusive or emotionally immature, narcissistic relationships is their buttons get pushed and then they immediately go into this amygdala hijack. They get angry, they get impulsive, they yell, they scream, and that is not who they are as a person.
[00:06:56] So a lot of times they'll come in and say, Hey, today I've talked about the relationship. [00:07:00] I understand narcissism. I just want to be able to emotionally regulate or self regulate in the moment so that I don't fly off the handle. And I have what I used to think was quite a funny line that comes next where I would say, okay, the very best thing that you can do to be able to address the amygdala hijack is to find someone that's working on time travel and then travel back a couple of years and then start a daily meditative practice now. Hilarious, right? Absolutely invalidating, but absolutely true. Because what we'll find a little bit of a spoiler alert is when you start studying about the amygdala hijack and your body keeps the score and your brain is trained to warn you and keep you safe, then it is something that is going to happen unless you can remove yourself from that situation. And this is where I go back to one of the things I'm standing strong on with waking up to narcissism is there there are so many variables at play. If you have kids, if you have finances that are co-mingled, if you have if you're tight in your religious community, there are just so many things that I would love to tell you. [00:08:00] Oh, well, then don't put yourself in that position anymore and then you're amygdala will slowly learn to calm down.
[00:08:05] But that sounds great. Except for how about the reality of human existence in life and responsibilities. So just know that if you can start a meditative practice now. Go back and listen to some of the episodes, maybe Nate Christianson I have done about mindfulness and meditation. I think we talked about that in the neurology or neuroscience of narcissism, where toward the end we talked about really the cure to being able to stay present is to develop a meditative or mindful practice because you are training your brain and your body that when you start to get caught up in thought or emotions that you're going to and this has to be done in practice behind a closed door, sitting on a yoga mat ponytail extension around my bald head. But you have to be able to notice that I'm thinking and feeling, and it might start to get my heart rate elevated. And then when I notice that's happening, then I come right back to literally in through my nose, feel the breathing out [00:09:00] through my mouth and repeat because I'm not stopping thought. I'm just noticing that I was thinking and now I'm thinking about breathing in through my nose, out through my mouth. And in doing so, I'm lowering my heart rate, lowering my cortisol, which is we'll talk about that, the stress hormone. And the more you do that, remember, the brain is a don't get killed device. The brain wants to habituate every thought and behavior It can do so that you don't have to use much electrical activity.
[00:09:26] The brain wants you to not even remember that you tied your shoes. And as I'm saying this right now, I have no recollection of tying my shoes this morning. And I just checked and they are both tied. So your brain wants to get to this place where, oh, this person's heart rate is starting to elevate their cortisol or stress hormones about to spike. We know what to do. He's going to go ahead and square up his shoulders and start breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth. Let's go and get that role and we can save a little bit of electrical activity. So if you are this Zen master mindfulness guru, that's where somebody can emotionally dis regulate and push all of your buttons and you get to say, Man, I'm noticing that you are calling [00:10:00] me names. That's fascinating. Tell me more about that, which will only amplify the person that's angry even more. And it might sound like I'm being facetious, but boy, when you can just come from this place of calm, then they will continue to try to push the buttons to get you to emotionally dis regulate. But when you reach this nirvana of Zen, of becoming this mindfulness guru, then you can sit in and not worry about that amygdala hijack. But until then it's going to happen.
[00:10:27] And then when it happens, we need to process the I say, break down the game film. What am I pretending not to know? Okay, I thought I could handle that, but I was one on one with the narcissist. And then I opened up and I thought I could. I thought I could explain something to them this time and they would get it. And so I just have to give myself grace and acceptance, continue with my meditative practice, raise my emotional baseline of self care, and then just continue to move forward through life and learn how to deal with the trauma of the past and learn how to show up more, more differentiated, more mindful in the present. So back to this article. Tracy says, [00:11:00] We've all had that moment where we look back and think, Why in the world did I do that? She said. That amygdala hijack may happen when strong emotions such as anger or fear or even extreme excitement make it difficult or impossible to think straight. And the mechanism can cause you to act in ways that you later regret, she said. Have you ever experienced road rage or quit your job in the heat of a moment that is the amygdala hijack? She says. The amygdala, It's a collection of nuclei located deep in a part of the brain known as the temporal lobe. Now the term is Latin for almond. Referring to the Ullman like shape of the amygdala is most prominent section, and we often refer to it in the singular, the amygdala.
[00:11:36] But she said we actually have two amygdala, one in each hemisphere of the brain, but the amygdala is part of the limbic system. So it's a set of brain structures that help regulate our behavioral and emotional responses. And though it's probably best known for its role in the fight flight or freeze response, she said that the amygdala actually can serve a variety of purposes because it's also involved in the following functions detecting threat. So again, your amygdala can be your best friend, triggering a [00:12:00] bodily response, pulling your hand off of a hot stove, come straight from the amygdala fear conditioning, being afraid to drive after getting in a car wreck or being afraid to go on a walk after dark if you have been assaulted or processing positive emotions so the amygdala can fit in there too, or encoding emotional memories. So now let's talk about amygdala hijack. So that's a term that's been coined by a psychologist named Daniel Goleman in a 1995 book that he wrote called Emotional Intelligence. And it refers to an intense emotional reaction that is out of proportion to the circumstance. Now, we can debate that because I always want to put an asterisks and say asterisks, narcissism, asterisks, personality disorder, asterisks dealing with an emotionally immature person. Because in a perfect world, we're saying, oh, this is out. I'm overreacting because we're just having a conversation.
[00:12:47] But the reason we're over reacting in this conversation is because of a pattern of unhealthy conversations. You know, part of one of the many of the one of 1000 cuts, she says that essentially the rational [00:13:00] brain is bypassed and then signals go straight to the emotional brain. And I love that. That's why I like this article. There's a lot of articles about the amygdala hijack, but I like a few things here. In particular, though, that line of that your rational brain is bypassed so your brain thinks it's doing you a solid. It really does. And it goes right to the emotional brain. Now, later, the thinking party can take in that information. And that's where then people realize, oh, man, did I overreact? Now the problem is then if they go and present that information to the narcissist in their life, the narcissist just was handed the playbook. Oh, there you go. Overreacting again, which only then drives the person into more of an amygdala hijack state. So she also explains what happens in the brain. So the amygdala hijack occurs when any strong emotion, anger, fear, anxiety or again, even extreme excitement impairs the prefrontal cortex. That's the part of the brain in the frontal lobe that has rational thought, your logical thinking. And so what is what's interesting is I would imagine a lot of the [00:14:00] pathologically kind human beings that are listening to this podcast trying to figure out, what am I? Is it me? Am I the narcissist? Again, if you were asking yourself that.
[00:14:08] No, but we all have our emotionally immature. But you'll start to recognize that. Oh wow, the amygdala hijack. Isn't that happening with the narcissist in my life? And absolutely it is. Absolutely. It is. Because of that anger or the deep anxiety or deep insecurities where you are, even if you bring something up that is not they don't agree with. Well, now you've just criticized them and now they're going straight to shame and their brain. Oh, my gosh, you think I'm a horrible human being. You think I'm a bad husband, you think I'm a bad father. So now I will lash out and defend my fragile ego. So they're also experiencing an amygdala hijack. The big the cool part is that you're here listening and saying, Oh, wow, this I'm going to work on this. That's why you're listening to the podcast. So she pulls some research from 2016 that suggests an inverse relationship between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. So, [00:15:00] for example, when the amygdala is activated, when that fight or flight instinct is kicking in, when the people call it the reptilian brain, the Neanderthal brain, but when the amygdala is activated, the prefrontal cortex is less activated. It shuts down because why do we need to hit rational thought when we're in fight, flight or freeze? I like to give the example of if all of a sudden we turn a corner and there's a sabertooth tiger and it's ready to attack, the part of our brain is going to be like, Hey, hey, hold on a second.
[00:15:26] Can we talk this through? No, we're in this. I got to fight this thing or I have to fight or I have to just like fawn or freeze and hope that it doesn't see me. So when emotions run high, literally the blood and oxygen flow to the amygdala, they go to the amygdala rather than the prefrontal cortex, reducing our ability to think and solve problems when you if you happen to get a brain scan. I was going to say, when you get to look at brain scans, I've had a handful of clients now do literal functional brain scans. And it really is a situation where parts of the brain do not get blood or oxygen, so there isn't any [00:16:00] electrical activity happening there. As a matter of fact, I was talking with someone not too long ago that had had a traumatic brain injury and they had had a good old swap to the noggin in an area that is typically associated with empathy. So they were saying, Man, so is this not trying to make an excuse, but could this be a reason? Because we're not seeing any electrical activity light up in that part of the brain. The difference is this person is saying, all right, let's do this. Help me understand. I'm ready. Let's go to input.
[00:16:26] So while the process of this, the when the amygdala is activated, the prefrontal cortex is less activated. So while this can be helpful, she says in an actual life and death situation, the amygdala hijack also occurs. If your kid hits a baseball through the car window or somebody cuts you off in traffic, or if somebody even says to you you're a crummy mom. Now, if you know that you are a good mom, then okay, well, that's just them saying words. And I think that's the part that can be so difficult, especially in these relationships, is that it's a normal part of the human experience to question if I'm a [00:17:00] crummy dad or if I'm a crummy mom. So now the person that I'm relying on for emotional regulation and clarity and safety says you're a crummy mom. I feel like now all of a sudden, how dare they? What is that going to do to help? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So having all the blood run from the rational part of your brain won't help any situation. And she said it might cause you to then to act in ways that you later regret. Here's an example of she says, what's happening in the brain. So there is a sensory stimulus. In this case, it's a sound of a ball crashing through the window of your car. Now, that sensory stimulus, that sound travels through your auditory nerve, so literally through your ear canals and then converts from a sound wave to an electrical impulse in the brain.
[00:17:42] Now, that signal, the electrical impulse in the brain travels to it's called the thalamus, and that is this gray matter that helps relay sensory signals and then goes to the amygdala before it reaches the brain's cortex or the thinking brain. Now, the reason I'm I feel like I'm okay, we really want to understand [00:18:00] this because this is something that my my associate, Nate Christianson, talked about in an earlier podcast. And I think about this often. So the signal travels through the amygdala before it reaches the thinking brain. Why that survival mechanism allows us to react to danger. Before the rational brain has time to process it. So even before you fully process how the ball got through the window, you can feel your body gearing up for a dangerous situation. That's a miracle if you think about it. It was designed to be a very amazing thing as human beings and the way the brain works so simplified when something comes in, stimulus comes into the brain. Your brain first says, are we safe? Before it says, What do I do about it? So if you're continually in this checking to see if you're safe, and then the more that you're hanging in a conversation, the person is pushing your buttons, then you're not going to be able to get to that part of the rational brain to then process what we're talking about.
[00:18:56] Because what people are asking me, in essence, even when they hear the four pillars [00:19:00] or they've got these rules of ways to be more present in their in their relationships, but they can't get to the part of their brain that says this is gaslighting. This is ridiculous because they're so like, But I have to defend it. But no, I didn't say that. But you said, really, did I? So you can start to feel the energy that starts to lead to this amygdala, she said. Here's more examples of an amygdala hijack. Your boss criticizes you in front of your coworkers. You're so angry that you yell back and you quit your job, or a car swerves in your lane, nearly causing an accident. You go into road rage and throw your smoothie in their window. Let me pause right there, you know, knock on wood. But I feel and I've said this maybe on other podcasts as well or other episodes, so forgive me for the repetitive nature, but I feel like one of the times where I started to really realize the effects of mindfulness has been on the road. And I'm not a road rage person, but I feel like that's one of the places that your amygdala can get hijacked very quickly, because if somebody stops short or they cut in front of you or any of those things, that when that happens, then you can immediately go into this [00:20:00] protection mode.
[00:20:01] And so that is where I absolutely have noticed that the meditation and mindfulness over the months of the years works, because you notice that that car cut you off, or I'm noticing that that person stopped a little short. So that's where I just I believe it's my way of saying I want to testify to you, that it really does work. But mindfulness does take intentional effort and it takes a regular practice. She also said, You win the lottery and your excitement makes you scream and cause a scene in the convenience store. If you lose a tennis match in your anger, you throw your racket. I've played a lot of golf in my day, and I used to have a friend that would throw clubs and at one point and he's funny, he would bring old clubs. And then he had a couple that every now and again he would just throw one as far as he could into a lake or that sort of thing. Amygdala, hijack or you've been trying for 5 minutes to open a can and you're so angry and frustrated that you slam it on the counter. So symptoms of the amygdala hijack. She goes on to say the amygdala hijack involves involves an intense and sudden emotional reaction. [00:21:00] And when you reflect on it later, you wonder why you acted that way. Because in that moment you feel everything from shaking, increased blood pressure, racing, heart rate, fast breathing, tense muscles.
[00:21:09] And this is where people we've talked about this on earlier episodes. But if you've been in a long term emotionally abusive or emotionally unsupportive relationship with the narcissist in your life, nausea, stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, tummy troubles, all these things that come from just your body being so used to being in this fight or flight state. So here's where it gets interesting. Can amygdala hijack be stopped? She says it's difficult, but in amygdala attack can be stopped if you make a significant effort to be conscious about what's happening in the brain. It helps to prepare in advance by practicing what you would do in various scenarios or even think about potential consequences of losing control, like getting fired or losing a friend. I think at the sports realm I've got a son playing college basketball now and boy, they just do so many drills, drills, drills, drills. And if you really break it down, it's because in a game time situation where there's pressure, there's a crowd cheering or booing [00:22:00] or you've got some championship on the line or people that are getting paid to play or people that are on scholarship. And so they really need to show up so that they can keep their their scholarship and they can go to college. There are so many things that could be at play. You can see that the importance of just running drill after drill after drill, because then when you get in that intense situation, you're in that just muscle memory mode and that's that same vibe, that muscle memory of being able to show up and be present and avoid that amygdala hijack.
[00:22:28] So she said, and this is the part that I think is really difficult. She says the next time you feel a surge of anger, try talking to yourself through the situation instead of letting yourself automatically react to your intense emotions. Try paying close attention to your emotional and physical symptoms. It's the absolute right thing to do. But the problem is you may already be engaged in a conversation. So I often like to say that this is where we really do need to go to. When I'm laying out my five rules of interacting with narcissistic people, that fourth one is the healthy boundaries, and one of the best boundaries you can set is to know that you may need to leave [00:23:00] the room. Unfortunately. Also, what you've probably learned about narcissism or emotional immaturity is if you leave, then you are it will probably get a little bit worse before it gets better, because now you're they're going to then push the buttons to get you to stay because they're locked in and you're their narcissistic supply. So if you try to leave, then they say, Oh, there you go again. Always leaving, always running away. That may have been the case, but we had a new sheriff in town and that's you working on yourself.
[00:23:27] So in time, if you need to leave and then you want to be able to express yourself later and say, you know, I did, that's a boundary I'm setting. I did need to leave and here I am because this is where I start talking about when you start to feel more comfortable or confident in your ability to communicate more effectively and not get drawn into the the gaslighting frenzy, then you can come back and introduce some positive tension into the conversation. So if we go back to, Oh, let's talk about this conversation again. If you're dealing with an emotionally immature, narcissistic person, [00:24:00] they didn't have a lot of depth in whatever that argument was because that's why they engaged and got you into your amygdala hijack. The example I would give is is if you came to them and said, Hey, can we talk about the way that you've been talking to our teenage son? That's a real one that I had recently. And then if he starts immediately by saying, Oh, okay, this is perfect, why don't you tell me what I'm supposed to do? Amygdala hijack, Boom. I never said I was perfect. And yeah, I do. I do do things difficult or I do wrong things. But that's okay because. And now he's like, You're right, you do. And you know what? As a matter of fact, there's a lot of things that I want to tell you that you do that are wrong when we're talking to me, too.
[00:24:36] What are we doing now? We're not talking about how he interacts with the teenage son, are we? We're so far away from that because now he will not have to take ownership or accountability of the way that he's handling things because he just pushed the right buttons and got you into that amygdala hijack. So imagine a world where then if you then came back and said, All right, hey, I am back and I'm in a better place and I'd love to have that conversation. So let's go back to the [00:25:00] beginning. I'd love to talk to you about how you talk to our teenage son. I will almost guarantee that you're not going to get a response of him saying, you know, I was thinking about it, too. And you're right. I need to do a little bit of let me process some emotion with you in a very safe way. No, he's going to say, okay, really like this. You want this to go the same way it happened last time. So can that that it helps to remove yourself from the situation? It does. And if you don't feel safe enough to return back to that conversation, then that's where we're at right now. But I know that a lot of the people listening to this podcast want to be able to emotionally regulate, and I think we're learning right now that that is something that might be difficult to do.
[00:25:41] Absolutely. It's difficult to do in the moment. You're going to need some new tools and then now we'll see where you're at. We'll see where you're at after you do calm down, because a lot of times I feel like this is where I call them rule outs. You go back and try to have that conversation about the way that he treats your teenage son once or twice. And at that point then I've got all the data I need. So why on earth would I? Now this is boy, [00:26:00] we can just keep going down this path, having a conversation with the narcissist, right? Because then if you don't bring it up again, sometimes people feel okay. I don't want him to think, though, that he's right or that I'm on board with the way he handles talking to our son. Rather, what I'm saying is, okay, I'm going to have the tools to emotionally regulate, or if I do have to step out, I'm going to come back and try to introduce positive tension into the and use a tool, a framework. And now I get to see that, oh, he just can't play in the sandbox. He doesn't know how. I'm not going to have that conversation and I'm not going to worry about the need for external validation from him or him to say, you know, you're right, or I get it. You know, you're right. So now you can start acting with more impunity toward your teenage son and validating his experience instead of trying to buffer and make excuses for your narcissistic or emotionally immature partner.
[00:26:47] So Tracy goes on to say, In most cases in amygdala, hijack can be prevented if there are no underlying mental health disorders. However, if severe anger is being triggered by post-traumatic stress disorder, then it's important to seek professional help as treatment will be more complex. [00:27:00] And I think that's where we're at. And I'm not saying that is a negative thing. I'm saying it is. Let's I hope you feel heard. I hope you feel understood. So she says, can an amygdala hijack be prevented? You can practice long term prevention by engaging in regular calming practices, a regular meditation practice. She quotes a large brain scan study from 2018. Researchers discovered that long term meditators had reduced amygdala activation when they were shown images designed to invoke negative feelings. The findings also showed that after just eight weeks of meditation, training and the brains of participants who were new to meditation showed an increase in connectivity between the amygdala and this area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is a part of the brain that supports goal tracking and self regulation. Can you commit to eight weeks for me? Can I get an amen? So finally, practicing mindfulness, staying in the present moment without judgment is another way to prepare for that potential amygdala hijack. So if she says, What's next? We've all experienced the amygdala hijack at some point in our lives, but if you experience it more often [00:28:00] than there are ways to deter it.
[00:28:02] Start a meditation practice to help calm your fight flight or freeze response Practice mindfulness. Take up journaling on a daily basis. Talk to somebody, see a therapist. Don't talk to the friends that are going to tell you, Get over it. There's two sides to every story or don't worry about it because we know that that's not the case. When you're dealing with a severe emotional immaturity. Now, I talked about going to one other chapter of a book talking about primary and secondary. Let me just give you a little sneak preview on that, and we'll probably touch on that in a later episode because I really want to get this episode out. But in the book, Emotionally focused Couples Therapy for Dummies, right? Sounds like a very, very scholarly textbook that I'm quoting, but it's a really good book. Chapter four Identifying the Levels of Emotional Experience. Let me just read this part. When people talk about emotion, they usually oversimplify. They jam all emotion into one type box and they keep the lid on. And so it's common to hear that emotions get in the way of making rational decisions or you're reacting to emotionally or even worse, you need to take your emotions out of it. So for many years, psychologists emphasize thinking over feeling. And while that's still [00:29:00] largely the case today, they quote the in the field of affective neuroscience, it's pointing to a different reality, one in which emotional processing in your brain is central and rapid and actually sets the stage for the slower process of thinking.
[00:29:12] So why is the amygdala hijack happen? Because you actually feel before you think in this book, Emotionally focused Therapy for Dummies, they say modern neuroscience has charted the brain's response to situations and found that emotions fire two and a half times more rapidly in the brain than thoughts do. So they say that we're not saying that emotions are more important than thoughts. In fact, feeling and thinking should team up and work together to make you that much more aware and prepared to make the best decisions and to act in the most helpful of ways. But most people overthink and under feel, and that's where we start talking about how emotions occur within these layers Primary, secondary. And there's a concept called instrumental emotion. So why don't I just give you a little bit of a teaser and just say we're going to talk about that in the not too distant future about these primary, secondary and instrumental emotions? Because I think the most important thing to to end on today is just [00:30:00] to be aware that that amygdala hijack is real and in your body is trying to do you a favor. It's trying to keep you safe. And if you're trying to tell yourself, I just need to be able to figure out how to stay present and be there in that moment.
[00:30:12] Well, that's that could be really difficult, but it doesn't mean that it's hopeless. Start talking about it. Start a meditation practice, start mindfulness, start journaling, and do your best with this awareness to to not set yourself up for situations where the amygdala hijack may often occur. I've had people talk about the fact that they won't go have a conversation on a drive with the emotionally immature person in their life because they feel like they're captivated and they have. And just them knowing that they're a passenger literally in this car with somebody that's telling them all the things they do wrong, I won't do that. I'm going to set a boundary. So, yeah, we might be able to have this conversation, but I need to have it out in the backyard and I need to have it when there's daylight because that's a better chance for you to be able to stay emotionally regulated. So thank you so much for continuing to send the the emails, the suggestions for topics. If [00:31:00] you're interested in getting closer and closer to a group of guys who are starting to wake up to maybe some of that emotional immaturity in their own relationships or in their own lives. And guys, if you've made it this far and listen and that's me, that's why I started this whole podcast and I'm going to be leading a group soon.
[00:31:14] So reach out. My assistant, Naomi, will get back to you with some information about the group or maybe about a month away from setting up a group of four guys every couple of weeks that we'll have a we'll get on there and do a call. If you're a woman who's in an emotionally abusive or narcissistic relationship with the fill in the blank in your life, that's where I want you to know. It doesn't it's not just the spouse. It could be the parent. There's a lot of people in there that have narcissistic parents or if you're in a narcissistic company or a narcissistic religious institution, or if you're in a any type of situation where you're starting to wake up to that in your relationship, then reach out as well. If you're that Facebook group is getting really, really big and it's so powerful, it's amazing. And I just appreciate your support. If you haven't done this in a little while, I [00:32:00] wouldn't mind maybe jumping on there and saying, if you feel so inclined, go ahead and shoot a rating or review wherever you listen to your. It really does help get the message out of the podcast and then keep sending in your questions. We got a lot of Q&A episodes planned in the not too distant future. Naomi's done a really cool job of putting a lot of the Q&A questions together, so that gives me an opportunity to do the as the answering and I will see you next time. On waking up to narcissism.