Handling Emotional Reactions

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Are you someone who ever gets emotionally triggered or reactive when things don’t go your way and you then do or say something you later regret?

It can happens to all of us, especially when we are stressed.

So what can you actually do about it?

This might sound obvious, but the first thing you need to do is to notice when it happens. You probably won’t catch the moment right away. It might only be afterwards, and at the beginning it may only be a long time afterwards. The more you pay attention, the closer to the moment you will catch what happened, but it may take some practice to get there.

Now that you are paying attention, instead of beating up on yourself, let’s try something different. You can try being kind to yourself, in the face of having been caught out, once again. Not to excuse whatever it was you did or said that you are now regretting, but to recognise that this kind of thing happens to anyone when they get triggered. You can give yourself a break. You are not a bad person but you did something in the heat of the moment, that you didn’t intend. That’s all.

Let’s look at what happens in the midst of a triggering.

We all have needs, it’s healthy, and knowing your needs helps you to survive. Sometimes other people help us meet our needs, and sometimes we need to meet them in other ways, instead of relying on others. The problem is, we tend to have expectations that certain others should meet our needs – like the need for care and acceptance, for example. However, sometimes that favourite person is just not available in the way that we want in that moment. That’s one of the moments that a lot of people get reactive, and that’s perfectly normal.

Inside the brain, there is a lot going on in such moments… The emotional part of the brain takes over, which means it activates the Freeze-Fight-Flight response system. The problem is, that the emotional brain does not do a reality checking. This part of the brain jumps into action – or reaction. It doesn’t check to see if this thing it’s reacting to is actually happening now, in the present moment, or if it is reacting to something that happened a long time ago. For the emotional brain – there is no difference.  The fact that the emotional part of the brain can step in so fast is also a life-saver – for example it fuels your impulse to run into the road and to pull your child back from an approaching car.   It’s the same mechanism.

The problem is that this part of the brain doesn’t know the difference between a challenging situation that happened a long time ago and something that is happening right now.

Often when we get triggered into an emotional reaction its because the emotional brain is responding to a situation that happened a long time ago,and it’s behaving as if it were happening now. Here is an example: You are having a talk with someone and they appear not to hear you, they are just saying other things and not acknowledging you. Perhaps in the past, when you were a young child, this kind of thing happened a lot and now when it happens you get upset about it.  But you are not only upset for what is happening no but also for all the other times it happened before. Then if you don’t catch it in time, you end up being inappropriately angry with the person in front of you – but they are not responsible for all the other times before. That’s why its so important to catch these moments – as more awareness always brings more choice.

So what to do about it?

There’s a lot of information out there that tells us all you need to do is to Stop, notice what’s going on, calm yourself down, take some deep breaths and carry on. As the saying goes ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’. It works ……up to a point.

However as Besel van de Kolk points out in his books ‘ The Body Keeps the Score’ it isn’t that simple.https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18693771-the-body-keeps-the-score

‘When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signalling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it’.

In fact when the emotions and reason are in conflict – we can have a very visceral experience, and its worth paying attention to it, even though the natural inclination can be to run away or ignore it all.   It can feel like World War 3 breaking out in the gut, the heart, lungs and so on. It creates havoc to our system – all the long term projects of the body go on hold,  that’s things like building the immune system, growth, healing etc . And lets face it no-one enjoys being triggered.

This is when its important to turn towards the body and take note of the information held in the body. One of the methods that helps is Whole Body Focusing. This is a body centred enquiry process that helps you to learn from the body – when you can connect with the raw feelings in the trigger they can lead you back to the root cause of the problem.  Now that you are in contact with the root cause of the trigger, you can deal with it – by welcoming and accepting whatever you find there – and then you won’t get as reactive with people in the present.

I am giving a workshop on the subject on April 12th

More details over here https://www.meetup.com/Personal-Development-in-Brussels/events/247877792/

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In the meantime here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start paying attention to your triggers and get curious about them, as an investigative journalist trying to make sense of a situation.
  • Keep a trigger journal and write about the situation, to reflect on the trigger and what is causing it. It will get you pretty far just by noticing what is triggering you and how you are reacting.
  • When you catch it in the moment, try and bring yourself really present – notice your feet on the ground, the sounds around you, your breathing etc, and be aware of whatever bodily sensations you are experiencing. Feel your own sense of being a person who is bigger than this thing that is triggering you – it is a part of you that is triggered – you are so much bigger than that !

And be kind to yourself for having to deal with this challenging situation.

Have a Happy Easter, Spring, Passover and whatever else you are celebrating!

 

Please post your thoughts in the comments below – what gets you triggered and how do you handle it?

 

Stressed to Impress

stress woman

‘How focusing saved me when I met a person whom I terribly wanted to impress’

Guest article by Professional Coach Lenka Grackova. Lenka was one of my first clients and has also followed 3.5 days training in Whole Body Focusing

I sit down in my living room and look at the clock on the wall. Good, I still have enough time to get ready before I leave my home. For an unknown reason, I feel stressed. I have this strange feeling in my belly, telling me that I am anxious. I do not understand why. I am going out to meet a person whom I did not see for 9 years. I am looking forward to meeting him again. I am curious how he has changed. I really liked him at that time.

I am still sitting on the sofa and feel frozen. I do not feel like standing up and get myself moving. I look at the clock again. I still have some time, and I can not leave in such a state. I need to take some time to figure out what is happening.

I tune in and get aware of each part of my body. I notice my breath, my feelings, my appartment, my whole being. I ask my body to reveal what is happening.

The first idea that flashes in my head: „I am going to be late!“. My logical side totally disagrees and tries to push the idea out of the away. I focus again on my belly. I wish I could run away from that tense feeling. Instead I open up. I tune into the nervousness inside of me. I relax and focus on what is happening right now in my body. I feel weak. My arms and legs are without any power. I open up to that feeling as well.

I feel powerless. Suddenly I get a flash in my head. I feel I am not good enough. I would like the other person to enjoy being with me. I want him to be impressed. But I am worried that I might not be good enough. An emotional flood open up and I let the feeling pour out. I stay with my feelings of insufficiency. Another part of me starts calming me down or maybe complaining again that I do not feel confident. I open up to both parts. I give them as much space as possible. Until they can make peace. They become friends and my tense feeling in my belly goes away.

I thank my body for all that it revealed to me. I feel very much alive and energized. I look at the clock. Damn. Now I need to hurry up!

On the way to the restaurant, I start looking forward to the meeting. The curiousity takes over. I feel light.  When I arrive to the place, I am almost on time (only 5 mins late). But finding a parking place seems impossible. I start stressing a little bit. Sending him a couple of messages that I am not able to find a parking place. After turning in circles for 15 more mins, I find a convenient place. I arrive to the restaurant 25 mins late. That’s a bit of a world record for me.  I feel a little bit guilty, but the guy is extremely understanding.

I celebrate inside of me that I did my focusing session earlier on. If not, I would be feeling uncomfortable with such a bad start to the evening, and  I would not be able to be myself. Instead we  have a great evening together.

Before leaving the restaurant, I check myself in the mirror and smile. Oh no! A big piece of parsley is stuck in my teeth. I do a quick calculation, it has probably  been there for at least an hour. I regret I was laughing that much. Then we go out from the restaurant and my friend offers to walk me to the car. Oh my goodness. Where did I park it? After being confused for a couple of minutes, I finally find my way.

After we say good bye and I go off in my car, I have to laugh. I am so happy that I did my focusing session. In the past with such „bad“ impressions, I would probably be driving back home devastated. Now I just think: What a funny story to tell! I need to share it with my focusing guide and teacher, Ruth Friedman.  My body was right again. I was terribly late and I surely impressed the guy!

About Lenka: She creates motivation and passion at work by individual coaching. and she works to help people bring the passion back to their job. Thanks to her international experience in multinationals, she learned that the problem was not to be different, the problem was to be different while trying to do the things the same way like the others.   More about Lenka www.challenging-goals.com