My favorite part of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, is Appendix B that outlines the "Hallmarks of an Emotional Mind." Here is my own summary of his ideas. If you've had a reaction and wonder if your emotions have "hijacked" you, look to see if your reactions fit this list:
1. A quick but sloppy response: an accurate perception is sacrificed for speed. Speed is what makes our emotions so helpful at protecting us from danger, and so harmful (when the danger is imagined).
2. Feelings come first: then we realize what happened. Our feelings seem to happen to us. We can practice ways of intervening but strong feelings have biological pathways that will always precede thought.
3. Our emotions often have a childlike logic and can contain symbolic meanings. This is why it is impossible to argue with someone "possessed" by an emotion. It is also why deciphering the meaning of an emotion can be so difficult.
4. Strong feelings are often a reaction to past events-- not present realities. Taking time to understand these emotions can help us identify the unconscious thoughts (from the past) that are still driving our behavior (and reactions).
5. Our perception of reality is based on the emotion we are feeling. Even our memories can shift as we seek "proof" and "justification" for our reactions. Even though we may be very wrong in our assessments, strong feelings can persuade us.
We can't use willpower against our emotions but we can learn to work with both our thoughts and emotions to acheive healthier living.
How would you describe the experience of being overtaken by an emotion?