Recently, there has been some discussion going on between myself, Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way and Don at Candid Impressions. Its about what goes on when we are triggered and get annoyed. I thought I would share my perspective and 4 questions that can throw some light on might be going on.
When we experience discomfort, our basic human response is to look outside to see who is “doing it to us”. It is a part of being human. We react and make a judgment about the other person. We may blame them, ridicule them, put them down or attack them. We have labeled them “wrong” in our own minds. They are the “enemy”.
I believe that this is our ego’s instinctual way to defend itself and to maintain its vision of itself. The ego thrives in making itself look good to itself… and others.
Our ego’s role is to survive. Deflection and attack preserve the way things are. Preservation drives the ego. It’s always more comfortable being “right” than vulnerable!
When we react or feel triggered it isn’t really about the other person.
The actions or words of the other person have triggered something already inside of us.
If we want to grow and evolve, then we must take responsibility for our own feelings and become curious about what is going on within us.
It is our reaction. These are our feelings to explore.
I believe that if we ask ourselves the following questions, then we can get closer to our inner truth.
Taking a moment to pause and center yourself. Finding your middle ground and being present with what is alive in you, is the door to inner transformation.
Here is an example we can use to explore the 4 questions: You are in a group of people and you get triggered when someone hijacks the conversation and makes hurtful “humorous” remarks that puts an other person down.
1. How am I that?
This is the hardest and boldest question … as it makes us look honestly at ourselves. Is there a part of yourself that does this? Is this a blind spot you are unwilling to face?
Your ego may be shouting NEVER! I have never been critical or put others down! I have never grabbed attention! I would never use humor to bully someone else! I could never be like this! I am not that kind of person!
Is this really so…. With the wisdom of your years and perspectives on life … is this so…
Rather than denying this aspect of ourselves, be prepared to meet it. In doing so it’s hold on us will diminish. There may be real transformation, acceptance and freedom here.
2. How have I been hurt by that?
Have you been at the receiving end of this type of behavior. Perhaps you weren’t able to stand up for yourself back then. But you still feel the pain and injustice. If this painful experience is still alive in you, then give yourself empathy and compassion. Imagine you are like a loving grandmother comforting the young and vulnerable part of you. There may be some healing to be done.
3. What is the unmet need behind these judgments and feelings? What is missing for me?
When you react to this person, you wouldn’t want to be a person like that … but underneath it may reveal an unmet need that you have. Perhaps a part of you that isn’t being fully expressed. What could be missing for you? For example, an inability to speak up or assert yourself. Or a need for authentic expression. Or a need to be recognized by others?… There may be a valuable need of yours that yearns for attention.
4. How does this violate a core belief of mine?
You are witnessing something you wouldn’t tolerate within yourself. It goes against your own values and beliefs.
A word of caution here …. Note that option 4 is what your ego will always prefer. It stokes it and makes it feel good. It wants to be the champion and hero. Watch out for this one as a deflection strategy to protect itself from being vulnerable.
On the other hand, if it is a belief that comes from your inner heart and soul. Coming from love rather than fear. A core value that you live by every day. Then you are indeed seeing an injustice. Recognize it and choose what to do.
How can you channel this anger in a positive way? Transform it into powerful compassion. Use this emotion to make a difference and bring about what you deeply believe in.
So be mindful with all 4 questions … and listen to your inner wisdom and heart.
Be compassionate rather than righteous.
Be open rather than closed.
Hard questions. Valuable lessons! I’m glad you shared!
Thank you Kate!
I faced this very challenge at work this week with a new employee. The first words into my mind were braggart, name dropper, one-upper, conversation dominator, excluder by virtue of superiority. Then I went inside. He touched upon my feelings of unworthiness. I have always expressed my unworthiness by withdrawing and keeping silent….but it’s the SAME thing as continually trying to prove your worthiness by bragging. I found a connection….and now I approach him with compassion. Love your tips today!
Thank you ISWH! Noticing what is alive within us is powerful. When we do, we connect to our life energy and Presence. Thank you for sharing your exploring and learning and evolving!
I have the tips printed off next to my desk …
Excellent follow-up, Val. I’ll be interested to see where this conversation goes.
Our conversation helped clarify these questions in my own mind. I’ve never put them together before like this.
This is so true Val and often I dont want to answers those questions because I know I will find the reflection in myself. The more I understand the shadows in myself, the more compassion I have for those who come to teach me.
Thank you Karen for sharing here. There is a natural resistance to these questions … and for me it has taken years of practice to look inwards like this!
You have expressed it in such an adequate, practical and clear way, Val. Such good questions and comment. Thank you for this. I love the way you have dealt with the issue of core-beliefs. Again thank you for engaging and sharing. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Thank you Don! I like being able to apply my knowledge in a way that helps others .. and myself! I’ve enjoyed this too 🙂
An excellent article Val; and a very useful tool for life. If I may be allowed to add a thought, a slight variation on your take?
Another way of responding to attack, this time when directed at us personally, is to permit (in real time), the very distinct possibility that the attacker may be objecting to a character trait that s/he sub-consciously knows lies within themselves, and yet is unwilling to acknowledge overtly.
Here, the attackers’ observation of us is more or less accurate (your Point 1), but their observing it externally (in us), triggers strong negative feelings in themselves (an internal resonance), which they then project outwardly upon us as they are unable to accept responsibility for it within themselves.
This an inversion of the point you make when you say: ‘The actions or words of the other person have triggered something already inside of us.’ i.e. simply substitute the word ‘us’ with ‘them’.
Thank you so much Hariod for your thoughts. In situations like this people adopt different roles.There is rich learning when we look inwards, no matter which role we are playing. Whether we are the observer, attacker, or victim.
Love this insight.
A comment you made on a friend’s blog made me want to come and find if there was more wisdom to be found here and I was pleasantly surprised.
I needed this!
I have a feeling I will need to come back and read this a few times but I am so glad that I took the time to wander over here!
So good of you to stop by Diane. Thank you! I’m happy this post resonated with you.
I printed it off and keep it next to my computer. It’s a practical tool for living life fully and helping me to connect with my inner wisdom and Presence.
I have been in this space in my personal life of late in three different situations. The first are confrontational episodes with a certain person who is not quite out of my life and there is no right response that can be taken except no response. The second are episodes (with anyone) that may emerge within a week after the confrontational episodes and I over-react to the second episode where I am really responding to the first episode. The third is when I am in a stable ‘normal-me’ mode and I return to both my logical and compassionate self and I am able to make my own choices from a position of strength.
In the first situation, I apply freeze. In the second fright or flight (rarely fight) and only in the third can I apply my real values and the valuable lessons you have provided here. The interesting point is that the poor person in the second situation is having to take the brunt of my delayed reaction to the first situation (or my inability to deal with it, which ever way you look at it).
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PS. Great post and I will now follow up on the other two threads you sent and will say hello to them. Thanks for your sound advice on this issue and in particular showing self-compassion # 2. I needed that grandmotherly cuddle today. Thanks
Loving grandmothers are so comforting. Let yourself become that loving presence to your own inner child.
What wonderful insights into your behaviors and emotions Elizabeth.
May you continue to finding the “normal me” in your middle ground 🙂
Give yourself empathy and love as you continue to heal and grow strong.
Wise words full of compassion.
Thank you Fiona for your shining light. (pun intended)
Excellent post and great reminders!
Thank you Russ! I appreciate your support.
It is hard when you are in the middle of problems and upset with emotions to think and ponder the valuable questions you mentioned. I try really hard not to “react” Especially when my grown children know some of the “chains” to pull. I am sure that not having a partner to complain to about the kids doesn’t help. We could privately mutter (silly and laughing) “Those ungrateful kids!” I vhose to pick a word to focus on and this year it is “Openness.” Last year, in church I wrote down “Fullness” and it was a positive and full year. 🙂
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Thanks Robin for adding to the conversation and being here. Bringing awareness to when we are being triggered or are struggling isn’t easy … with or without a partner. xo