Ever find yourself responding immediately in the moment to something or someone which has triggered an emotional reaction? I do! We all do sometimes, it's a pretty normal, human thing to do. We are emotional creatures after all. However, we're all trying to do our best and building relationships and connections are important. Sometimes these emotional reactions can get in the way of relationships and cause a lot of upset and emotional turmoil. We all tend to have patterns that we've developed as to how we respond to emotional triggers. Sometimes our friends, family and partners are more aware of our patterns then we are because they're on the receiving end and they can see it more clearly and because they are separate from ourselves. However, it is not easy when they point them out to us and it sometimes means we have to take a real big bite of humble pie in order to recognise and address these patterns.
How often do you later think about an emotional reaction you had and realize you probably could've responded better? That even though that trigger made you feel a certain way, you could've responded in a more open-minded, receptive way?
This happens to me a lot in my personal life as I am a very emotional and sensitive person when it comes to my personal relationships (although those of you I work with probably wouldn't realise this as I am very rational and open-minded in the work space). In my personal life, I can sometimes be over-sensitive to others comments or suggestions in the moment. I can often feel that that person is criticizing me or putting me down when they may actually just be sharing their opinion with me. It makes me feel I'm not good enough and my go-to emotional reaction is to get tearful. This further, makes the other person feel bad because they can see they've upset me. Later on, I tend to realize this and then I feel guilty about my emotional reaction which further triggers more upset and emotional turmoil. As you can see, this is a whole vicious cycle which tends to drain me until I take active steps to make amends.
I have to take a deep breath and then go and APOLOGIZE. Not apologize for my feelings or emotions but for my emotional response to something which probably could've been handled more rationally and less emotionally. This would be using what I like to call, 'The Wise Mind', which takes the emotional feeling into consideration but thinks rationally to diffuse any unnecessary emotional reactions. We need to actively engage the wise mind and practice using it on a daily basis if we want to see personal growth. We need to recognise when we are having overly emotional reactions and we need to try to understand where the emotional source is. Often it's not the trigger itself which calls upon our emotional reaction but rather the underlying feelings and beliefs we carry about ourselves, regardless of the trigger handed to us.
Do you ever tend to use your Emotional Mind more over your Rational Mind? Or perhaps you are a naturally more rational, logical thinker, then you may tend to favour your Rational mind and leave out your Emotional Mind. This also leads to emotional blockages and satisfaction.
Here are some suggestions as to how to engage your Wise Mind:
1) Think before you do or say
When feeling emotionally triggered, do not respond immediately. Give yourself time to think about it before responding passionately, in the moment. If it's within a conversation you can say to the other person; "okay, I hear what you're saying, I am just going to think about this and I'll get back to you".
2) Take a few deep breaths
Connecting with your breath is a powerful way of diffusing strong emotions and tapping into a more calm and rational state of mind.
3) Remove yourself from the triggering situation
Excuse yourself and take a brisk walk. Get your body moving and try and get some fresh air. By removing yourself, you can have the space you need to clear the emotional reaction and develop an alternative rational response. You can even go to the bathroom and wash your face, do some jumping jacks or (one of my favourites) silent SCREAM.
4) Focus on you
Instead of focusing on the other person involved and what they've done to trigger your emotional reaction, think about your own role in the situation and how you can respond in a way that will help the other person. By taking your attention away from what upset you, you are free to respond rationally by offering helpful suggestions and alternative actions.
5) Notice why you felt emotionally triggered
Ask yourself how the incident made you feel about yourself and why? Is it because the other person was being genuinely awful and thus your emotional response was warranted, or was it more to do with underlying self-beliefs you may have about yourself? If it's the latter, you need to try and explore that deeper and understand where it may come from. You can process this with someone you trust, a friend who will listen and hold space or a qualified therapist.
We ALL have emotional triggers. It is NORMAL. That is why I have shared something of my own here with you; to show you that it's okay to have these reactions sometimes. But should we be having them all the time? Absolutely not! It is not appropriate to have overly emotional reactions all the time, on a daily basis, with many people you interact with. If you are struggling with this, please consider reaching out for support from a therapist who can help you to understand your emotional responses better and support you in developing positive coping skills.