You know the feeling you get when someone says something that upsets you? Well, that is a “trigger”. A trigger is something that is said or done by an outside source, that elicits an emotional response in you. (We toss the word around like confetti and it can be a trigger in itself!) When the trigger occurs, we immediately have thoughts about it. This is your brain trying to distract you from the uncomfortable feelings and emotions happening in your body! Our sweet, sweet brains try so hard to avoid discomfort, they skip straight into thoughts and action – when the focus really needs to be in our physical body and emotional state.
Emotions live in the body. Get in touch with your emotions. Let them move through your body. There really is nothing to fear. Ask yourself some questions and get comfy with your answers. If the physical feeling in your body had a voice, what would it ask for? If you allowed your emotion to speak up, what does it need from you? Give yourself what you need, and the negative feelings will calm down.
Sounds simple, right? So, why don’t we do it all the time? Well, the truth is, it is hard. It takes energy and focus. Turning thoughts inward is challenging. Shining a light on our deep desires is frightening – we fear we may not like ourselves! We don’t want to dwell on unpleasant thoughts – we want to take fast action! Insight sparks discomfort – we want to avoid pain! Reflection requires honesty – we hate thinking of ourselves in a negative way! We convince ourselves it is much “easier” to avoid these tasks, and we skip over the processing required for true insight, opting to leap straight into activity.
If you pay any sort of attention to the goings on in the world, you are sure to be triggered. War is raging in the Ukraine. People are fighting and dying for basic rights around the globe. Strangers attack others based on nothing more than a difference of opinions. It is enough to drive anyone to action. How can you sit back and watch without wanting to DO something, anything to help?!
But we must slow down. Without the simple process of insight, we are TOO quick to act, too quick to anger, and too quick to hurt others with our words or actions.
Let me offer a timely example:
You open your mailbox and pull out a handful of flyers for local candidates in the upcoming election. You read Flyer A that claims Pundit A will solve Problem A. Flyer B claims Pundit B will solve Problem B. They are diametrically opposed and laden with intense, fear-based language.
You walk into the house and tell your spouse/partner/friend/pet that A/B is right and the other is crazy, possibly dangerous. Their rhetoric can feel like a direct threat to your own belief system and values. You work yourself into a lather over the seemingly wild claims and misinformation you are ingesting. You must act now! You decide to vote for candidate A/B in an effort to DO SOMETHING and now you feel like you have an answer to this issue. It can be put to rest, you’ve done your part, and you can now rest easy.
Great. What is wrong with that? Well, you have not addressed the feelings you experienced. You have skipped over a vital part of information processing, ignored deep motivations, and took action based on an unprocessed emotion. It is in this way that we can make poor, misinformed choices, make critical mistakes, and unfairly splash our emotions all over unsuspecting innocents in our path.
Open the mailbox, shuffle through the flyers. RECOGNIZE that the content is filled with strong words and fearful jargon. RECOGNIZE that those words might trigger you (that is specifically why those particular words were chosen). RECOGNIZE that there is something uncomfortable happening inside of you and you are motivated to leap into thought/action mode. RECOGNIZE that a little voice inside is calling out for something. RECOGNIZE that this emotion needs exploration.
HOW TO EXPLORE YOUR EMOTIONS
1. Close your eyes
2. Place your hand on your chest or stomach
3. Take a deep breath
4. Be quiet
That’s it. Just let it be. Sit with it for a moment. Meditate on the feelings occurring inside of your body. Where is it located? What does it feel like? Maybe even ask, what color do you associate with it? Be honest with yourself.
Back to our example:
Did the word CRIME emblazoned on both Flyer A & B trigger a feeling of fear? I’m here to say, that is the point of using such words and media/marketing/advertising strategically uses words, phrases and pictures to elicit desired responses. In a commercial currently being aired on our local stations, one candidate’s ad boldly used the words, ‘crime’, ‘rape’ and ‘crisis’ – those words made ME flinch, do they do the same for you? Did they make you sit up and take notice? Did you fall for it? Will your FEAR now fuel your actions?
Please understand, it is OK if it does, but it is important that you don’t skip the vital step of honest reflection. It is how we learn and grow and make informed decisions. Rather than simply REACTING to the fear without processing it, we have to give ourselves a chance to RECOGNIZE and soothe our fear before we act. When we take the time to feel our feelings, to assess our internal state, we give ourselves the space needed to react in a healthy way.
Emotional responses are human responses – we all have them. The challenge lies in making sure that those reactions are mindful and cause as little harm possible. It is through this practice that we truly can make the world a kinder place – no matter who you vote for.