We’ve all been there. Someone has said something, we’ve seen something on social media or something happens that triggers us to feel fear, shame or anxiety and it sends us into an emotional tail spin. It’s not fun and surely not how we had hoped to spend our day but it happens. So rather than let it ‘get to you’ and hijack your day, let’s chat about what to do when you get emotionally triggered. Below I share my process and what I share with my patients:
Get Still & Go Inward
First and foremost when you find yourself in an emotional tailspin, it’s important to get still. Find a place where you can be alone and close your eyes, take a deep breath and just allow yourself to be and feel what it is you need to feel in the moment. Pay attention to your breath, and slow it down. Your mind may be racing and that’s okay, don’t resist it – be with it. Be in the moment and give yourself the grace and compassion to be as you are – no judgement.
Sit with your feet firmly planted on the ground, hands on your heart and breathe. Breathe in to the count of 4, hold for 4, then breathe out to the count of 4, then repeat. Allow yourself a few moments to feel whatever emotions have come up – don’t try to suppress them, allow them to come to the surface. You need to feel it to heal it. Remember there is no such thing as a negative emotion, except one that is not expressed. Take a few moments to sit quietly and breathe so that you feel more grounded and quiet.
Get Curious, Not Furious
Next, once you’ve had a few moments to be alone and calm your body, it’s important to do some reflection. When I get upset, I like to remind myself that there’s the part of me that is feeling the emotions and there’s another part of me that is observing me feeling the emotions. The best way to tap into the part of myself that isn’t caught up in the emotion is to evoke my curiosity about my experience. It may sound strange, but it works.
Instead of getting furious, get curious. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” “What has triggered this emotion?” Remember that no one or thing can make us feel anything. We choose to allow ourselves to feel certain things. That’s not to say you are to blame or to make you feel worse, but to empower you to know that you hold the power to feel how you want to feel.
I like to think of life like a game of spiritual bumper cars. Everyone is just driving around doing their thing and sometimes we bump up against one another and trigger emotions in each other. The reality is nothing other people do is because of us or has anything to do with us. Even when a situation appears to be personal, even if someone insults you directly, it has nothing to do with you.
Let me give you an example: Say I’m just walking down the street and someone comes up to me and yells, “Hey fatty, move out of the way!” I have a choice in that moment, I can take what they are saying personally and believe that it has something to do with me, allowing myself to be triggered to feel shame about my body or I can recognize that what they say, what they do and the opinions that they have are actually a reflection of their lack of self-love. Their opinion and perspective has nothing to do with me at all, rather it is a reflection of their internal programming and how they see the world.
The actions of others has nothing to do with us. It’s only when we believe there is some truth to their actions or words that we allow them to trigger us. For example, if I felt shame about my body then I would feel triggered by someone calling me ‘fatty’. But if I felt confident and happy with myself, then even if someone was to yell “Hey fatty!” at me, then I wouldn’t care and I would see their comment for what it was – a reflection of their lack of love – and continue on with my day.
People bump us against us and trigger us so that we can bring love and light to the parts of us that need it the most. Bless them and thank them for the opportunity to take more of your power back.
If you notice that you get triggered by something or someone, get curious about it, explore the emotions and ask yourself if there is some part of you that needs some love and healing.
Don’t React, Respond
Finally, once you’ve had some time to reflect on what you’re feeling and why, take your time to respond to the situation versus react. We all know what it’s like to fly off the handle and say something that maybe we didn’t mean in the moment. Taking the time to get still, then get curious allows us to gain some perspective about the situation and allows us to act from a place of compassion and wisdom versus pure unfiltered emotion.
Taking the time and space you need to respond in a way that is loving toward yourself and others, is a far healthier way to approach a situation than reacting out of emotion.
Remember that life is always giving us opportunities to gain self awareness, love ourselves and heal ourselves. You are wonderful and the more you cherish and are compassionate with yourself the happier, healthier and peaceful your life will be.