Strengths and Weaknesses 2

Welcome back! In this series, we are tackling the “greatest strengths is my greatest weakness” paradox. There are 4 main reasons why this may be true: ignorance, the strength is not developed into a true strength, emotional hijack, and character. Last week we dealt with ignorance and development. This week, let’s look at emotional hijacks and what you can do when your strength gets hijacked and turned into a weakness.

What is an emotional/amygdala hijack? Simply put, an amygdala hijack happens when we experience strong emotions that make it difficult, and in extreme cases impossible for us to think rationally. The amygdala is our most primitive part of our brain, sometimes referred to as our “reptilian brain.” This is where we experience emotions and it is the source of the fight/flight/freeze response. Since the amygdala is that part of the brain where we address threats, when we feel threatened the amygdala kicks into high gear and our rational brain is essentially short-circuited.

Guess what else happens during an amygdala hijack, your body is flooded with stress hormones, including adrenaline. Now, you have much less access to your pre-frontal cortex and rational thought so you aren’t thinking, you are just reacting with a lot of energy. I like to say that now, your talents are on steroids and they are controlling you, you aren’t controlling them. This is what is happening when we say that our greatest strengths is our greatest weakness. So yes, our strengths are actually in talent mode because we are so amped up we can’t control them. (Talent: something I naturally do without thinking about it. Strength: something I naturally do without thinking about it… with near perfect execution every time.

Rarely, do good things happen when we are thinking like a crocodile.

Likewise, a state of panic is not generally when we get our best ideas or behavior.

Speaking of panic. It is said that “people panic in their native language.” If you are an American drowning in Spain you are probably going to yell, “help!” Not “ayuda!” 

Your talents are your native language for behavior and how you go about life. Your talents/strengths are what you naturally do without thinking about it. Which is to say, your native behavioral language.

Triggering Event:

  • Something important to me is threatened: my body, relationships, dreams, people I care about, etc.
  • I get cut-off in traffic (fear of injury, or feeling disrespected)
  • Pandemic: fear of illness, death, loss of job, loss of freedom, etc.
  • Despite hours of practice you still slice when hitting with your driver in golf (that get’s me!)

Any of those events can cause an emotional hijack and cause our strengths to take over and ironically become weaknesses.

So, now what?!

Fortunately, over the past 30 years people have done A LOT of research and there are simple ways you can get out of an amygdala hijack, or better yet, avoid one altogether. Here are some simple things you can do to prevent or stop an emotional hijack and keep, or restore your Strengths.

  • Start journaling daily
  • Become familiar with the physical and emotional sensation, as well as the thoughts that accompany your emotional hijack. When you feel them you can:
    1. Take 10 deep breaths – this allows your stress hormones to dissipate
    2. Do meditation
    3. Talk to yourself – out loud
    4. Take a walk or do something that will change the situation/stimulus
    5. Become more emotional self-aware and name the emotion/s you are experiencing
  • Invest in developing your own emotional intelligence
  • Train yourself to respond to specific threats. This is how soldiers, police officers, firefighters, and really anyone who is in pursuit of excellence trains – teach your self to respond, not react to difficult and dangerous environments by practicing those scenarios
  • Invest in your mental fitness by learning *Positive intelligence (here is a link to the free positive intelligence assessment.)

Avoid the hijack. 

  • Grow your Emotional Intelligence
  • Grow your mental fitness so you can more easily overcome negative emotions and realities
  • Daily meditation practices
  • Learn stress management techniques

Both Emotional Intelligence and Positive Intelligence are very powerful ways you can increase your ability to respond thoughtfully to difficult situations.

The best way to keep a strength from being a weakness is to simply avoid getting hijacked. However, everybody gets hijacked sometime, and hopefully now you are better able to get over it and stop thinking like a crocodile and instead, think like a rational person!

Thanks for stopping by!

Additional Resources:

Positive Intelligence*

Positive Intelligence assessment*






*The PQ assessment is free and very powerful. I now offering Mental Fitness training through Positive Intelligence as part of my coaching. If you are interested in learning to control your brain so it doesn’t control you, ask me about new client pricing.

“CliftonStrengths” and the 34 CliftonStrengths theme names are registered trademarks of Gallup, Inc. The graphic elements copyright © CoreClarity, Inc.

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