Have you ever wondered why, in certain moments, we just seem to lose control? One minute everything's fine, and the next we're overwhelmed by emotions.
I was hot-headed as a child. I remember one day, completely snapping and losing control. Someone had parked their car blocking mine. I had to go somewhere. The driver returned 45 minutes later, nonchalant about what had happened. I snapped.
Complete disrespect for me, I said to myself in my head. Had others not stopped me, I could have accidentally killed him, ending his life, but also destroying mine in the process. What happened? Why did I snap and lose control? It's a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists and psychologists for years. Last year, Will Smith, the American actor, lost his cool at the Oscars. The outcome personally and professionally was devastating to him. Yet, for that snap second, we simply lose it.
Why do we snap?
Imagine you're juggling tasks at work, and suddenly, one small setback makes you want to throw your computer out the window. Sound familiar? According to a study this "lose-shift" behavior is a default strategy in our brains. When we're overwhelmed, our brain tends to reflexively change its behavior after a negative outcome. It's like our brain's way of saying, "This isn't working; let's try something else! But sometimes, that "something else" isn't the most rational choice. The trouble is that these decisions are taken in milliseconds, much before your rational brain can kick in.
Moreover, our emotional responses can be heightened when life throws curveballs that challenge our beliefs and desires for control. As research seems to suggests, these challenges can sometimes be too much to handle, leading us to snap.
The Amygdala: The Brain's Emotional Epicenter
Nestled deep within our brain is the amygdala, an almond-shaped cluster that's central to our emotional world. Here's what the research says about this fascinating structure:
- Emotional Responses to Threats: The amygdala plays a significant role in how we respond to threats. It's like our brain's alarm system, alerting us when something's amiss
- Memory and Emotion: Emotional responses in turn are created by schema's, patterns of recognition in our brains of what "ought to happen." When something occurs that is at dissonance to the schema, we can snap.
- The Impact of Stress: Naturally, if you are already stressed, the chances that you will have less restraint is lower. Your mind and body, already are at war, and even a little bit can send you over the bend.
So, the next time you feel like you're about to snap, remember: it's not just "you. It's a complex interplay of cognitive processes, emotional challenges, and the workings of the amygdala. By understanding our brain's intricacies, and more importantly training our brains to respond more calmly, perhaps we can avoid making the same mistakes as Will Smith did or I did.