We all suffer from pressure in our lives in some way shape or form. The way we cope with it varies immensely. Whether pressure originates from home, work or even social requirements, the effects can have a dramatic influence on everything from how we respond to everyday stressors to our long-term physical health.
So, what do we have in common with Bruce Banner & The Incredible Hulk? At first glance, perhaps not that much, but there is much more to it. If we consider the Bruce vs Hulk metaphor; we can take Bruce as a logical thinker, a calm and content scientist. His mannerisms represent that of a well-thought-of member of society. On the other end of the spectrum, we have The Hulk. The very large, green and hot-headed individual, who is emotionally unstable, irrational and a more reckless member of society.
Psychologically, our Bruce has his brain fully engaged. Enabling him to think rationally and approach situations in a logical manner. The Hulk however has experienced a ‘brain hijack’. His thinking brain has been disengaged, and the classic ‘fight or flight’ response has been activated. Logical thinking and rational decisions have gone out the window.
Having an increased awareness of what these two characters look like for ourselves will improve our ability to understand the environmental triggers that may cause the movement from Bruce to Hulk.
What is a trigger?
A ‘Hulk-like’ response is highly desirable when you are in imminent danger e.g. needing to slam the brakes on as a car pulls out in front of you. However, the same response and hijack will be engaged in other non-life-threatening situations e.g. someone challenging our authority or a presentation to senior colleagues. In these tasks where our thinking brain is essential, a hijack from our survival mechanism is not particularly useful. Your physiological response may not be turning green, but your muscles tense, heart rate rises, and your palms begin to sweat. You no longer think rationally and act without any logical thought process.
It is important to acknowledge that not everyone has the same trigger, nor does everyone respond in the same way. One individuals ‘Hulk-like’ response may be much worse than yours. You may not even notice this emotional variance with certain people. It can be an internal response for some, as they may become quieter and introverted, whereas others may be louder and more explosive.
How to recover from a 'brain hijack'?
You cannot necessarily stop a brain hijack from happening. However, your thinking brain has not disappeared, it just takes time to catch up. Here are some ways to speed up that process:
1. Mindful Breathing – breathing in to a count of 4 and out to a count of 6 will calm your physiology down and engage your thinking brain due to the conscious awareness required to breathe in this way.
2. Do a Math Sum – 2+2 is not good enough because you can answer that automatically (hopefully!). However, something like 17 x 8 will require your thinking brain to answer.
3. Finally, ‘borrowing a brain’ – talking a problem through with a colleague/loved one/friend can help provide perspective because they are not hijacked and can help you gain some perspective. A quick, simple but effective form of gaining self-control.
So, next time you get a frustrating email or an unwanted phone call, control your breathing whilst doing some multiplication and wait until your logic returns. This will help stabilise your triggers and only engage your body’s ‘Hulk-like’ survival mode when it is most necessary.