4 ways to deal with triggers without reacting
Hi Friends, how are you all?
You know that feeling when someone says something and all of a sudden you feel your heart rate go up, your muscles get tight , your breathe gets faster , your eyes tear up ( that would be me) and you just want to get rid of this surge of energy .Cause it's so uncomfortable. How do we get rid of it? By unleashing it onto the person who said the words that triggered us. That is a recipe for disaster. We all know we have done this and the result is usually a fight or tension or a disconnection between you and your friend, spouse, child, ....fill in the blank.
It happens in a blinking of an eye. You can't stop it. Or can you? Yes you can.
Not without training and lots of practice though. . My mentor used to tell me : "This is an opportunity for you to grow." An opportunity? No no, that sounds wrong. Didn't she know I hated these moments? And didn't she know I wanted the other person to change, to say things differently , so I wouldn't get triggered? I wanted the easy way out.
Fact is : You can not ever change how another person speaks to you . Or how they show up in your life. I've tried the controlling thing, it doesn't work. The only thing it does , is make everyone miserable, including you. Cause after you leashed out, do you feel better? Maybe for a moment, but then you feel regret and you know deep inside of you, it wasn't right.
So this is what I learned and now teach to all my clients.
It's a simple but very difficult process. It's a skill that can be learned and as with any skill, the more you practice, the better you get at it.
I will walk you through quickly, so feel free to contact me if you need further help.
Detach : it's not about you. The other person probably didn't do or say this on purpose.
Observe: train yourself to step back literally and figuratively, and observe what's going on. Like you are a neutral bystander. Pause and think.
Validate: you can not be kind to others without first being kind to yourself. Validate who you are . If you are faith based, who you are in God. If not, who you are in your essence. You have a good heart and you are kind. Think how you would respond to a little child after they have done something wrong ( if you are an emotionally healthy mom) : would you say " You moron, how dare you? You are so stupid." No, you would show kindness, and grace. Grace is defined as unmerited favor. You can't earn it. You would realize your child has made a mistake , but who they are and what they struggle with is not the same. We often define ourselves by what we do. We get our identity by our behavior. Thats not healthy. So show grace and kindness to yourself. Let it sink in. Let it fill you up like a thirsty plant.
And the last step is
4.Trace it back to it's roots: The trigger is in you. It's not the other person. There's something deep inside you that reacted to what was spoken. You might think that's bad news, but its also good news. If it's you , then you can change it.
Here's a real life example to illustrate.
My oldest son had asked me not to park his car with the wheels turned , cause if he leaves tired, he backs right up and might scratch another car ( there are 4 cars in the driveway). So Friday night his car was parked with the wheels turned and not straightened out. Saturday morning , son walks up to me, controlled, but visibly aggravated. The Stephenson men have this thing with "I told you once, so now this shouldn't happen again". Aren't they lucky to have me for their many "learning opportunities?" :). Anyway. My oldest told me what I did, and I felt triggered. Instead of reacting, I detached. Sometimes, I literally leave the room. I observed , as if looking down on myself. I validated myself , knowing I did not do a vicious act and I needed to be kind to myself in order to show kindness to my son. Then I traced it back to an old belief I have from my childhood. I have more than one, we all have them. So mine was: "I can't do anything right". I can explain another time how this belief came to be.
It sure feels "uncomfortable" to say the least. So I didn't say anything at that moment. Tears welling up in my eyes and all. Later that day, my son came to me and apologized for how he spoke to me. I didn't need him to do that to feel better, but it sure was a beautiful thing for him to do. Now tell me: would he have done that had I unleashed everything that was welling up in me? Would he have had the freedom to think it through and approach me? Parenting experts call this "holding the space." It is not easy and takes practice. This totally applies to how we respond to our spouses, in laws, coworkers, friends , you name it. The beauty is, that the reaction can be turned into a response.
Let me close with a quote from Jennifer Rothschild , who learned to thrive in spite of a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa , which left her blind but didn't stop her from becoming an author, mother and speaker!
"It might not be well with my circumstances, but it is well with my soul."
You are loved. Deeply loved. Loved beyond measure.
Until next time,