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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Knowing the Right Thing to Do 11 forbearers well, as they survived outdoors under threat of wild-animal attack and were at the mercy of weather extremes. The amygdala alerts our bodies that we are in immediate danger. If we encounter a snake in our path, we halt. If we see a child in danger, we rush in to help. The amygdala responds before we stop to think. Before we know it, our heart is pounding, breathing is shallow, and our mind is hyper- focused on stopping or escaping from the threat. At the command of our amygdala, adrenalin spurts through our system, making us feel “pumped” to do what we have to do in the crisis. Here’s the problem: the amygdala functions as it always did. If we are threatened, even if the threat is an interpersonal slight or a traf- fic jam, we can hit overdrive. The common term for this is “amygdala hijack” (Goleman, 1995). We shift into “fight-or-flight” response even if the danger is not real or substantial. To the amygdala, a threat is a threat: adrenalin is triggered. Road rage is an example of an overreacting amygdala. The trig- gered driver literally becomes combative, ready to fight. If you have been in a car with a driver having a road-rage attack, or if you have been that driver, you have witnessed or experienced an amygdala hijack. To complicate the experience, “coming down” from an amyg- dala hijack takes time. Meanwhile, we may say or do something we regret. Perhaps this is what judges are wary of: irrational decisions based in fear rather than in strength. One thing is clear: If at all possible, don’t make a decision when you feel threatened. In panicky times, your brain is only partially operative. The amygdala, a primitive force, blocks other brain functions. Wait until you can catch your breath and see through to the other side of the danger. When you feel like your professional self again, you will be able to make a decision that courts will uphold. Cozolino (2010) advises: “As we mature, our amygdala matures with us. It seems to be much more gentle with us and is much less acti- vated by anxiety.” Gladwell says we can teach ourselves to make better snap-decisions. Awareness of the amygdala’s power to overtake us is useful to our decision-making process. CODES OF ETHICS Given these complexities of making fair and wise decisions, keeping perspective is necessary. Early childhood professional organizations offer us guidance through codes of ethics. The gold standard is the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL