Lesson 03 – Don’t be hijacked
How did you do at observing the triggers that produce your emotional responses this week?
I have to admit, I certainly observed a few, but I didn’t do so well at overcoming them. I have shared in hte past my idol of having to win at games. This week, I had several opportunities to overcome this idol. Robin and I play games together often, and this week was no exception. One particular game, I was thinking about these principles and trying to be aware of my emotions so that they didn’t overwhelm my thinking. But, even though I was aware of them, my emotions still got the better of me. I was really thinking about these concepts, and trying to not let me emotions hijack my thinking… but a couple of comments slipped out and I ended up hurting Robin by my attitude.
How did it go for you this week?
Last week we ended with these thoughts:
• In high stress situations, our emotions can overwhelm rational thinking, based on an immediate interpretation and assumption from past events. Instead of thinking through the situation, our emotions follow a rut that we have dug through repeated past experiences.
• Our intense emotions take control and trigger impulsive words or actions before we are able to rationally process the information.
That’s exactly what happened. Those little comments I make.. impulsive words… I was really thinking about it and trying to have a good attitude, but the words just oozed out of my mouth, showing my frustration. My thinking had been Hijacked!
Let’s pick up from there.
• We have all experienced the reality that in high stress situations, our emotions can overwhelm rational thinking, take control and trigger impulsive words or actions before we are able to rationally process the information.
• How / why do our emotions overwhelm our rational thinking?
Ken Sande describes this phenomena as “amygdala hijacking.” (rw360.org/hijacking)
Data enters the brain through the thalamus. The Thalamus is like the receptionist in a doctor’s office. It assesses the facts / situation, files things in the right place, then alerts the appropriate party of what they need to do.
This is how God designed us. It is what enables us to multitask. It is what helps us to learn languages, and it is what enables us to learn and develop in our skills.
Craig Groeschel in his book, “Winning the War in Your Minds describes it this way:
God created neural pathways to be a good thing. When you learned to drive, you were unsure of yourself; you fumbled through it, going too easy on the gas and slamming on the brakes, turning the wrong way when you drove in reverse. Today driving is simple for you.
Have you ever been driving on a long road trip, gone deep into thought, and then after several minutes went by, suddenly snapped out of it? Who was driving while you were momentarily checked out? Well, you were. How? By means of your developed neural pathways.
Repetition formed helpful ruts.
But because of our sin, neural pathways can also be a bad thing.
Amygdala hijacking occurs when we are faced with stressful situation. Before the information gets to the neocortex, the amygdala takes control with the fight, flight, freeze impulse. This fight, flight, freeze impulse often produces intense emotions that are difficult to control. They often trigger impulsive words or actions before we are able to rationally process the information.
This is really good in the case of a fire, or when someone cuts in front of you while you are driving, or when you come accross a snake on a jungle trail. Your adrenaline begins pumping, and you react instinctively. But, those strong emotions can also, at times, trigger impulsive reaction that are quickly regretted, especially when you are in stressful circumstances and relating to others.
When emotions go up, reasoning tends to go down. Someone also said, that when your emotions get involved, your IQ goes down and you become stupid! Thus, your emotions often act as an “invisible puppeteer,” jerking you around, provoking impulsive words and actions and damaging your relationships.
Often we aren’t able to recognize the source of overwhelming emotions, but we certainly see the problems they create, and we often recognize the rut we tend to fall into when certain events occur. (Like me with games… even as we were playing, I was thinking about this, and thinking about the rut I seem to always fall into. I remember thinking, I need to stay out of the rut… it’s only a game. It’s no big deal… but as it got closer to the end of the game, my emotions spilled over into words… not explosive words or anything like that, but just small comments that revealed that winning is far too important to me!)
So, how do we overcome this? How do we get out of the rut so that we can stop damaging our relationships?
There are 2 aspects to the process of growth; recognizing ruts, and digging “new ruts”. Ken Sande calls this Awareness and Engagement.
It starts by being aware of the ruts, being aware of the triggers, recognizing when our emotions are starting to hijack our thinking.
Once we are able to recognize it, we need to do something about it. Somehow we have to learn to push pause on our emotions in order to enable the cognitive part (neocortex) of our brain to process in healthy ways
This week, we’ll talk about Awareness… Next week we’ll talk about Engagement
In the first chapter of his book, “Winning the War in Your Mind,” Craig Groeschel said, “The battle for your life is always won or lost-in your mind. You cannot change what you do not confront. Satan is the Father of lies-He wants to rob you of everything God wants for you- How does he do it? Getting you to believe his lies.”
How does that strike you? Satan plays right into our pride, doesn’t he? He knows we cannot change what we will not confront. So he does all he can to keep us from seeing the truth.
Groeschel also said;
“Satan is your unseen enemy whose mission is to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), stop you (1 Thess. 2:18), and devour you (1 Peter 5:8). Satan despises you with more hatred than you can imagine. He wants to keep you from God and from the life God has for you. He wants to keep you from intimate relationships with those you love most. He wants to rob you of inner joy and abiding peace. He wants to strip you of the fulfillment you could have in knowing you are making a difference with your life. So how does he do this? Simple. He lies.
“The only thing Satan ever creates is a lie. Every day he is prowling around looking for where you might believe a lie.” 2 Peter 5:18.
What do you think about what Groeschel says here? Can you relate to those things? Groeschel also said, “A lie we believed as truth will affect your life as if it were true.”
What are some of Satan’s lies that we tend to believe as true? Read 1 John 2:15-17 and see if you can identify the lies talked about in those verses.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Paul Tripp identifies 3 principles that often undergird the lies we believe. Take a minute to read those verses and look for these principles:
- Everyone seeks some kind of treasure. (This is Christ’s operating assumption.)
- Your treasure will control your heart. (“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”)
- What controls your heart will control your behavior. (“No one can serve two masters.”)
Good goods but bad gods
In Seeing Through New Eyes, David Powlison said this: “Our desires deceive us because they present themselves as so plausible. Natural affections become warped and monstrous, and so blind us. Who wouldn’t want good health, financial comfort, a loving spouse, good kids, success on the job, kind parents, tasty food, a life without traffic jams, control over circumstances? Yet cravings for these things lead to every sort of evil.
“The things people desire are delightful as blessings received from God, but terrible as rulers. They make good goods but bad gods. They beguile, promising blessing, but delivering sin and death.
People usually don’t see their desires as lusts. I have yet to meet a couple locked in hostility (and the accompanying fear, self-pity, hurt, self-righteousness) who really understood and reckoned with their motives.”
“The things we set our hearts on never remain under our control. Instead, they capture, control, and enslave us. This is the danger of earth-bound treasure.
Every human being is a worshiper, in active pursuit of the thing that rules his heart. This worship shapes everything we do and say, who we are, and how we live. This is why the heart is always our target in personal ministry.” Paul David Tripp – Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
The things we set our hearts on never remain under control (Like winning for me) When we follow after the lust / desires of our flesh, the lust/desires of our eyes, and our selfish pride, it will be those desires that drive us. Jer 17:9 says our hearts are deceptive and desperately wicked. When our hearts are set on our own desires then it’s really hard to see the lies!
Take a few minutes to look up the verses below and think about what they say about our desires.
• James 1:13-15
• James 4:1-4
In Relational Wisdom 360 Ken Sande offers a helpful accrostic for us to identify these things and begin to overcome them. He encourages us to “READ” ourselves.
• Recognize and name your emotions. Ps. 42:5 | Matt. 14:30 | Phil. 4:6
• Evaluate their sources (desires (like we talked about above) thoughts, values, experiences, etc.). Ps. 73:2-3 | Prov. 20:5 | James 1:13-15 | see rw360.org/ccef-idols
• Anticipate the consequences of following them. Prov. 22:3; 15:18 | Col. 3:5-6
• Direct them on a constructive course. Prov. 15:1; 25:15 | John 12:27 | Col. 3:12-13
This week, begin to ask God to help you READ yourself better.
Next week we will look at how we can direct our emotions on a constructive course.