What Does EQ Hijacking Mean?

What Does EQ Hijacking Mean

“EQ Hijacking,” also commonly known as “emotional hijacking” or an “amygdala hijack,” is a term that refers to a situation where an individual’s emotional response to a stimulus overrides their rational thinking. This concept is closely related to emotional intelligence (EQ) and was popularized by Daniel Goleman in his work on emotional intelligence.

The process involves the amygdala, a part of the brain that plays a key role in processing emotions. The amygdala can trigger an immediate and overwhelming emotional response before the rational part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) has a chance to intervene and assess the situation. This can lead to impulsive, and sometimes regrettable, actions or reactions.

Here are key aspects of EQ Hijacking…


  • Immediate Reaction: The emotional response is swift and can feel uncontrollable, occurring in milliseconds.
  • Intense Emotion: The emotions experienced are usually strong, such as fear, anger, or panic.
  • Override of Rational Thought: Rational thinking and decision-making processes are temporarily sidelined, making it difficult to consider long-term consequences or alternative responses.


  • Reacting with sudden anger in a work meeting when feeling criticized, rather than listening to feedback calmly.
  • Experiencing overwhelming fear or panic in a situation that is perceived as threatening, which might lead to fleeing or freezing even when it might not be the most rational response.

Managing EQ Hijacking:

  • Awareness: Recognizing the signs of an emotional hijack is the first step in managing it. Awareness allows you to realize when your emotions are beginning to override rational thought.
  • Breathing Techniques: Deep, controlled breathing can help calm the physiological arousal that accompanies an emotional hijack.
  • Pause and Reflect: Taking a moment to pause can give your rational brain a chance to catch up and take control of the situation, allowing for a more measured response.
  • Practice Stress Management: Regular practice of stress management techniques, such as meditation, exercise, or yoga, can reduce the frequency and intensity of emotional hijacks by lowering overall stress levels.

Understanding and managing EQ hijacking is an aspect of emotional intelligence. It involves recognizing the power of emotions, understanding how they can sometimes lead us astray, and developing strategies to ensure that our responses are thoughtful and aligned with our long-term goals and values.