Been reading an interesting article about leadership written by some Landmark people and I thought some parts of it were interesting enough to excerpt. Here’s a section about what is often called the “Ego”.
Evolution has made perceived threats to survival include not only threats to our physical body and the opportunity for sex, but for human beings also include threats to our identity. These threats to identity include evidence to the contrary or challenges to what we believe to be true about ourselves, others, and the world, that is, what we “know” to be right. The threat is often simply something said by someone that is contrary to what we believe.
Threats to our identity also include the possibility of something we are consciously or unconsciously avoiding about ourselves or our lives even being touched on, or the possibility of something we are consciously or unconsciously hiding about ourselves or our lives being exposed
Rather than being physically painful, such threats are emotionally or psychically painful. Although these threats are in no way a threat to one’s physical being, the human brain reacts as though they are a physical threat, that is, reacts with fight (including defensiveness) or flight (avoidance).
Such threats cause the activity in the amygdala to hijack the brain, suppressing the rational functioning carried on in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. When our brain interprets something as a threat, the amygdala-triggered response is limited to only fight or flight. (Flight includes freeze as a form of flight.) Saying the same thing in another way, when we are gripped by an amygdala hijack, our opportunity set for being and action is reduced to some expression of fight or flight.
For human beings, threats to a person’s identity that generate an amygdala hijack that suppresses rational functioning include threats to anything with which that person identifies. For example, when a person identifies with an idea, belief or theory (like a religious or political belief, or a scientific theory), a challenge to that idea, belief or theory often triggers an amygdala hijack. Other examples include such things as something someone says that seems to make us wrong, or even something so simple as having someone offer to correct an error we made, or a challenge to what we “know” to be the right way of doing something, or a challenge to our worldview or one or more of our frames of reference, or the threat of losing, or a threat to our authority or position (dominance), or the threat of being dominated, or a challenge to our way of being, or a threat of the loss of admiration (losing face). In short, threats to a person’s identity, or to anything with which that person identifies, can and often do generate an amygdala hijack that suppresses rational functioning.