You know that moment when something sets you off and you want to figure out why/place blame? We all have several of those moments many times per day. In many cases we blame others for our irritation. However, if we step back and take in the big picture, we will find the problem is us. You see, our buttons cannot be pushed if our wounds are healed. Upsetting events merely inform us that we have more work to do on ourselves. Even in situations where an aggressive person is involved, our taking offense is a sign there is more work ahead for us. I do want to mention that we need to keep toxic people away as much as possible. However, we also need to realize that toxic people don’t interact with individuals who have healed their wounds.
Here are some tips for using uncomfortable situations as an Rx for growth:
- Take some deep breaths. It is okay to be triggered. Emotional reactions are like neural responses to a hot stove or a nail in the floor. Triggers are alarms that let us know our emotional side needs tending.
- Try not to act out. It is not always easy but you will not have to make amends/be embarrassed due to foolish behavior and you can derive an appropriate response when your brain returns to homeostasis.
- Later when the fight or flight chemicals have left your brain, talk/think through what happened before, during, and after the upsetting event. See if you can figure out why the event was troubling to you. It is likely the current event reminded you of a painful event from the past.
- When you have pinpointed the memory that triggered the reaction, check in with yourself to see how it feels in your body. Is your throat tight or does your tummy hurt? What other senses are triggered? What is your overall feeling? Shame, hurt, guilt, fear?
- See if you can make sense of your feelings. For example, my mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 6.5 years old. As a child I dreamt about going off a bridge in my car. In fact I was terrified of bridges for many years. Along with the fear of bridges my throat was tight, my stomach hurt, and I would hold my breath. I also felt completely helpless. It was not until adulthood that I realized the dreams and feelings I had about bridges were the way I coped with watching my mother deteriorate over a period of 2.5 years. We did not talk a lot about feelings at the time and the bridge imagery was an outlet for the horror of witnessing my mother’s slow death. Realizing these deeper issues helps us make sense of emotions, which makes it easier to work through our emotions. It is still yucky today to think on the vivid memories of my mother’s illness and subsequent death. However, having worked through the painful memories of my mother’s death has helped me cope better with endings and rejection.
- Congratulate yourself for being brave. It is difficult to work through triggers particularly if there are many. I promise as you work through more and more triggers, the remaining number of triggers will decrease.
- Love yourself triggers and all. None of us are perfect and we are not meant to be.
- Get plenty of rest and downtime. Life is tough. A tired body does not respond well to being triggered.
All the best!