Ep. 21 – When Your Mind is Hijacked

How many times have you caught yourself in the middle of yelling at your kid, suddenly thinking “who am I?? why am I acting like that?”

Be honest: I'm sure it happened more than once. It happens to everybody. But why? Why does it happen? You have all the right intentions, you want to be a positive parent. But every now and then something pushes a button inside of you and you become something else.

It's like your mind was hijacked.

In this episode I share with you why it happens and how can you use the knowledge of The Parenting MAP in order to get your mind back.

You'll Learn

  • Why your mind is hijacked
  • What your values have to do with it
  • How to use the SLOW method to get back to yourself

Click here to listen!

Resources Mentioned in The Episode

get the S.L.O.W Method Cheat sheet

Download your free SLOW sheet to help you remember what to do when your mind is hijacked.
I recommend printing it out and hanging it where you'll easily see it whenever you get stressed, such as on you refrigerator, front door, etc. Or use the small version and put it in your wallet.

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I've been calmly cruising with my ship on the warm sunny waters.

And then all of a sudden, without even a small warning, a cannonball fired towards me and sank into the water.
And then another one.
And another one.
And then a couple of grappling hooks attached to ropes lodged themselves to the side of my ship and a bunch of red-eyed angry pirates took over my entire ship.

And you know what? All of that happened while I was simply trying to get my kid to get dressed for school.

So what was that all about you wonder? This is all about how our minds are hijacked. And i'll tell you more after the intro.

Welcome to The Apparenlty Parent Podcast. My name is Eron Katz and I'm a clinical psychologist, a parenting counselor, and also a father. In this show, we combine the art of parenting with the science of psychology. So if you want to understand your children and yourself better, lead your family and into calmer waters and reach the end of the day with a smile on your face, you've come to the right place. I'm your host, Eran Katz.

Hi, and welcome to the 21st episode of the Apparently Parent Podcast. I am so happy that you are here with me today. I know that you have many options of things to listen to, podcasts and audiobooks, and Spotify and whatnot, but you chose to press play on this one. Which means a lot to me. And it means a lot to you because that means you want to make your parenting a little bit better.

And in today's episode, we're going to talk about what happens when we get angry or stressed and something is hijacking our mind and what we can do about it. But before we dive into that I just want to tell you about my new Facebook group, which is a free group that you can join right now. If you go to wwwapparentlyparent.com/facbook, the group is called “Navigating Parenting - Raising Secure and Confident Children”, and it's free group work and you can ask me questions, and share your own journey. And my whole goal here is to help you understand yourself and your children better and navigate those waters of parenting each and every day. So www.apparentlyparent.com/facebook, go there and I'll see you there.

Now to the topic of this episode. You heard me tell this story when I began this episode, of me cruising on calm waters, and then suddenly I had these pirates attack, pirates swarmed all over my ship and ran over my ship and took control of my ship. And of course, I was experiencing that as I was trying to get my child to get dressed for school.

So, of course, we don't live on a ship and we don't have pirates, but as you know, if you've listened to this podcasts before, I look at the parenting like navigating a ship, like running a ship, like I'm the captain of a ship sailing through the ocean of life and the seas of parenting. And sometimes when we sail, we encounter storms or sea monsters or turbulent waters, and sometimes even pirates. Now, pirates, they take control of your ship and they take all your good stuff. Right? So this is the analogy I like to use when people tell me about their anger and their stress, like taking control over them. And that's what happened to me. I was with my child in the morning and we had to leave the house in a couple of minutes for him to get to school on time and for me to get to work in time. And I was reminding him of the time and asking him to stop what he's doing and get dressed. And he was ignoring me, and he was postponing it and I was feeling myself getting stressed because I don't want him to be late for school. And I don't want myself to be late to work.

Now, maybe he doesn't care about not going to school in time (although inside I know he cares), but I care about getting to work in time because I have to meet people. They will be waiting for me. And I don't like to keep people waiting. So I got kind of angry. And I reminded him and reminded him and I used different techniques for making him, um, just get up and getting dressed. But none of those things worked that morning. I don't know why, but they didn't.

And then I lashed out. I don't even remember how I acted or what I said, but I know I was really angry and I shouted at him. I yelled at him “What's wrong with you? Why don't you listen to me? Why don't you care about yourself and your school and me and my work”, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And I was like stomping my feet because I was so angry. I was a different person. That's how I felt a second later as I watched my son who looked at me with this look, “Whoa, what's wrong with you, dad? I'm getting dressed. Okay. I'm doing that”. And at that moment I felt like shit. Because I knew I was right, because we had to go, but the way I reacted, I don't like, I don't want to be that parent.

I don't want to be the dad. It's not who I am. This is why I say it feels like your mind is hijacked in those moments. It's like you're not in control. Do you ever feel like that? If you do, let me know, because I want to know that I'm not alone with that feeling. And I have a feeling that I'm not along with that feeling.

So, because I like this metaphor of the ship, it works well for me because I can look at it as if there are those anger pirates or stress pirates or whatever that are taking over and moving the ship all the way around and taking all the good stuff from the ship. But what it really means is that sometimes we act out of disconnection from our values, from our purpose.

And if you remember The Parenting MAP, which is my compass, my guiding light in parenting, The Parenting MAP is comprised of three pillars and those are mindfulness, attachment, and purpose. Now, if you don't know what I'm talking about with the parenting map, go to www.apparentlyparent.com/1. That's the first episode of this podcast. And it will tell you all you need to know about The Parenting MAP.

But anyway, purpose is the third pillar, but it's the most important one when you are a being hijacked when your mind is being hijacked, because the purpose or the values that you hold as a person, and most specifically as a parent, are the guiding stars for you in those times, they are where you want to go.

Those are the indications of what parent do you want to be. No, I don't want to be the shouting parent. I don't want to be an authoritarian parent. I don't want to be the parent who speaks and everybody just jumps and does whatever he says, because they are afraid of him. I don't want to be that guy, not in parenting and not in everything else that I do in my life.

So this is why I feel that in those moments, I'm acting in a way that doesn't align with my values. So what do you do when it happens to you?

Let's say you are a sailor on a merchant ship during the 1700s and a bunch of pirates is attacking your ship. What can you do? Most likely you're going to fight them. You're going to grab your saber and your gun, and you're going to go high to the fight.

But the truth is that your mind is not really involved in any high seas piracy and Naval combats. And the truth is that you can leave that metaphor behind, and look at what's really going on. You really want to avoid being hijacked by those angry emotions (because they're not really pirates), they're just your emotions and your thoughts.

And if you don't want to get hijacked by them, You must distance yourself away from the fight. So the optimal thing would be seeing the pirate ship arriving in the horizon and maneuvering your ship and run away from that place and distance yourself from that pirate ship and get rid of them.

Right. So this is where you strive to be at the end. So you want to be the parent who notices that when anger is starting to come or even knows the triggers that may bring that anger towards you and avoid that in the first place. However, you can. But what do you do when you are already hijacked? What do you do when you already have those pirates on your ship?

So, luckily as I've said, your brain and yourself are not a ship stuck the ocean, so you can distance yourself without fighting. Because when we try to fight our emotions, usually it doesn't really work. Usually what happens is like trying to put fire with more fire, spilling oil on the fire, and it makes the fire bigger and larger and harder.

You have to step away. So as soon as you catch yourself being hijacked, what can you do? First and foremost, the first thing you have to do is to notice that it happens to you. So sometimes it happens to us like it happened to me and suddenly I sort of fell off my chair, looking at me when I was so angry and I felt the anger in my, in my body.

And I felt the voice straining in my throat because I'm shouting and I felt the energy of stomping on the ground. And I'm noticing that all of a sudden I’m mad, I'm kind of surprised by that.

You have to distance yourself from what you're feeling at that moment for a second, just recover, take the time, and notice that you're going through something and that your mind is being hijacked.

And sometimes you can even tell yourself that this is what is happening. “Well, I'm feeling myself being so angry. It's like my anger hijacked my mind. I'm disconnected from my values” or simply, “this is not who I want to be. This is not the father I want to be. This is not the mother I want to be”. This is the start of putting a distance between what's going on, that is hijacking you and your actions. And what you have to do in those moments is reconnect to your values because your values are the compass that will guide you through that storm and release you from the fight. Remind yourself. This is not who I want to be.

“I want to be a positive one. I want to be the positive parent who doesn't scare his child. Or instills confidence in his child by not scaring him to submission”, for example, and a couple of episodes ago, the one I talked about racism, and II did talk about the concept of slowing down and SLOW as an acronym. That can help you in those moments when you have to make some important conversation. For example, that was what I was talking about, but you can use it as well here. It's a really, really, really useful concept.

But you know, in the heat of the action, in the heat of the fight, in the heat of stress, in the heat of anger, you will probably not remember what SLOW means. So you can go to www.apparentlyparent.com/21, which again are the show notes of this episode, and I prepared for you a simple PDF sheet that you can download. And, you know, you can even put it in your wallet or put it on, on your, on your refrigerator if you want. And, and just remember that it's there for you. So you can always check what slow means and how to react, and it can help, you know, you know, cut their anger like that instantly like that.

So what does slow down mean? Okay. Again, slow S L O W is an acronym. S stands for stop. Again, all you have to do first and foremost is stop. There's no rush.

Yeah. I know I was late to work. So there is a little bit of rush, but we’re talking about stopping for a couple of seconds, not stopping for an hour. You don't have to react every single millisecond. You can allow yourself to stop a little bit and take a breath, a really good one like that.

Usually, you take like four seconds of an inhale through your nose and five or six seconds of an exhale through your mouth. Slowly. It relaxes your nervous system. Okay, because when you're so stressed and you're so angry, your body is flooded with adrenaline and your whole nervous system is activated from the sympathetic branch, which is the branch that is responsible for what is known as the fight or flight response.

So when, when we are angry and we have to push something away, or when we are stressed or afraid, we have to protect ourselves. These, this is the physical system that is activated. This is why it feels so energetic to be angry, but what you want to do, you want to cut that loop and move away from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system.

And the details are not really crucial here. All you need to understand is that you want to put the brakes down. You want to push the brakes down so that this engine of anger will stop and the breathtaking long breaths for five seconds through your nose inside. And. I dunno, six or seven seconds out for next sale, outside for your mouth.

It's shifting the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. And again, it doesn't really matter how it works, but it works. It will access you down. It relaxes your mind, your brain, you never system down. So first and foremost, stop. And breathe now, what does L mean L stands for lean in, so you have to lean into yourself at that moment, which means notice what you're feeling.

Notice the physical sensations. You can notice the, your heart racing. You can notice your fist clenching. You can notice the dryness in your throat because you just screamed your children for, I don't know, a minute or two. But also leaning emotionally notice that it's anger, hijacking your mind and just be with that, every emotion.

And that's my guarantee to you. Every emotion comes to an end, even if it doesn't feel like that when emotion is rising. So the anger will disappear state. It will fade away. You just have to give it time. And when you practice slowing down and breathing in mindful parenting techniques and everything around those areas, you will be quicker to fade away the emotions, but first and foremost, stop breathe, then lean into yourself.

And open up to what you feel all stands for. Open, open, up to what you feel. Just feel it, let yourself be angry. That's okay. You don't have to shout out your child when you were angry but jealous, but you don't have to deny the anger. Because dude, at that moment, I really needed my child to get dressed because I had to take him to school and then go to work.

And if he wants to be late for school, that's his business, but I don't want to be late to work because of him. So the anger is real and it's meaningful and it's legitimate. So I can open up to that. I don't have to try and change it. They don't have to, you know, be right myself and judge myself and tell myself, why are you angry?

Don't be angry with him. He's just a child. So what if he's just a child? He did something wrong and it angered me. That's fine. Anger is super natural, legitimate emotions. Okay, so open up means just let yourself feel what you feel. Let the emotion move through you in w you means warm-up, which in this case means warm-up to yourself.

Be compassionate about yourself. Again, don't judge yourself for being angry. You can also try to be compassionate towards your child, which probably may come easier for you. You can say for yourself, don't charge your child because he doesn't care about you late getting late to work. He doesn't understand that concept yet.

Okay. It doesn't mean he has to act like that or okay. But you can be compassionate for him as well, or her first talking about being compassionate towards yourself because that's one thing we parents tend to forget. We then not to do that. We tend to. Be really harsh with ourselves. And I do it as well.

When I was so angry with my childhood that morning, I really felt like shit. Like, who am I? Why am I acting like that? And how the hell am I hurting my child? Those were the thoughts that ran through my mind. And then I had to do something with these thoughts, but that's that's for another episode, maybe.

But I could warm up to that and tell myself, okay, your mind was hijacked for a little bit. Now you back. Okay. You're back in control and that's fine. That's the most important thing to do to get back in control. Remember your values now you've steering the ship. No pirates. It's you go on. Continue. So, as I've said, Slow seems pretty simple.

And it's not like it's not the formal life once they buy, buy another. Okay. It's not the one, two, three, four formula. It's just a way to remember where you have to go in your mind. So yeah, you start with stopping and everything. And then when you get cooler, you can lean into yourself, open up to what you feel and warm up to yourself.

And from that you can approach your child in a better way, a less angry way, a more conductive way. So why do they do after that? I actually went to another room. To call myself down. This is another way of distancing yourself from the anger pirates. I splashed some water on my face because they felt really hot from anger.

And when I called Don a little bit, I went back to the living room and I was feeling a little bit angry, but I was more in control. Okay. Again, it's not about not being angry. It's about being more in control of your ship. And I explained to them that you really have to go now I'm going to be late and you have to stop what you're doing and get dressed.

And he did. And he scalloped me and he wasn't happy with that because he was really eager to finish the YouTube movie, not movie clip that he watched. He doesn't have to be happy with me all the time. I'm his dad. I'm not his best fan. And he doesn't have to be happy with his best friend all the time as well.

That's part of life. But when I was able to break away from those anger para pirates, I felt better and more in control and more competent with him. And. You know, the anger went away and his, these approval of me asking him to get dressed, went away and we had a fun walk to his school. And he told me about you.

Um, he's adventure is in a game that he's playing, et cetera. And it was fine. It was fine because I was able to stop and to regret my mind from being hijacked. So does that make sense? I really hope that he does. This is what I wanted to share with you today. So I want you to do two things first, go to apparently parent.com faults there's 21 and download the slow chit-chat and.

You can either put it in your wallet or on your refrigerator or just memorize it. I don't know, do whatever you need to do. So in the heat of the moment, you will have this information right in front of you, and you will remember how to get your mind. On hijacked. Can you say on hijack that and I need to check it out and, and also come to the Facebook group, apparently parent.com/facebook.

I will put a link also from the show notes. So you'll just find everything over there and, and tell us about where your mind was hijacked then. What did you do about it? And that's it for today? I want to thank you so much for listening to the apparently parents podcast. Again, it really, really means a lot to me.

I'm not just saying that. Taking the time to listen to that means a lot to me because I really want to help you make your parenting smoother, better and help you build an enduring and meaningful and positive relationship with your children. And if you haven't done so yet, subscribe to this show on Apple podcasts or Spotify or Google podcasts or.

Whatever you like to listen on and I'll see you again next week with a fresh episode of the apparently parent podcast. See you there and try not to get hijacked. Bye. Bye .

About The Apparently Parent Podcast

On this show, I share with you my perspectives and experience of parenting and psychology.

Enhance your understanding of the relationship with your child and yourself by learning about attachment, mindful and playful parenting mindset and techniques.

Listen to me sharing my knowledge and experience both as a parent and a therapist, as well as interviews with parenting experts from around the world. 

Eran Katz - Clinical Psychologist and Parenting Counselor

Your Host

Eran Katz

First, I’m a father of two kiddos. But I’m also a Clinical Psychologist and Parenting Counselor specializing in Attachment Theory and Experiential, Emotional Focused Psychotherapy. I believe that parenting is one of the most important things we ever do in our lives. This is why I love talking about it and helping parenting just like you and I find their best-parenting-selves.

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