Here are the facts:
When you relapse into your negative feelings without seeking self-awareness and resolution, whether by choice or denial, the trigger and response, namely your pain, anger, resentment, the blame, etc. is ALWAYS, ALWAYS still there! Just because you sweep dirt under the rug doesn’t mean the dirt is gone. It’s just hidden from view. And so are your feelings. I call this reverting to your “knee-jerk” response. It’s your brain on by-pass.
As humans we are brilliant at being in denial and invoking our knee-jerk responses. They are survival skills, but not thriving skills. It likely feels overwhelming and scary to think about changing this. So how do you start?
Easy peasy first step.
Pay attention. Feelings and emotions are there for a reason. They are full of information. The information in and of itself is neither good nor bad unless you place a value on it (e.g., right or wrong, good or bad), otherwise it’s simply information. When you choose to remove the value and see your feelings as information, you gain some perspective that you don’t have when you are sucked in by the knee-jerk response. When you pay attention to the feelings and take custody of them you take the first step toward identifying what triggers your response. It’s important to find the trigger, so you can develop a new response to it instead of your debilitating knee-jerk response.
Paying attention is my mantra. You do this by starting to notice your feelings and acknowledging them as yours. Acknowledgment sounds something like this: “Ok, I’m really pissed off.” You are not judging it, only observing it. Once you feel comfortable acknowledging your feelings, ask yourself the following questions:
What’s underneath the _________________?
How do I feel when I’m ______________ or how do I act?
Here’s an example:
Acknowledging feeling angry.
Q. What’s underneath the anger?
Q. What’s underneath the frustration?
Q. What will you have if you have anger?
Q. What will you have if you have frustration?
A. Lack of control.
Q. How will you feel if you have lack of control?
Q. What’s underneath the fear?
A. I don’t know.
Think about it and keep asking. You can ask it a slightly different way, such as:
Q. How will you feel if you are fearful?
Q. What are you scared of?
A. Being hurt, rejected, feeling wrong, uncomfortable, in pain
Ok, you named it and acknowledged it.
Q. What baby step can you take to feel the pain, etc. and not freak out?
A. I can do my breathing exercises, I can journal, I can discuss it in therapy, I can reflect on it. I can exhibit compassion for myself.
AHA! Keep asking yourself until your cry, shift, break down or get an epiphany. Be patient and stick with it. This is likely an uncomfortable place. Stay there. You can do it. I know you can. The first time is the hardest. It get’s easier and the more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it because you’ll notice how light you feel.
What’s the benefit of taking custody of your triggered feelings when you can blame someone else for them? When you place the blame on someone else or emphatically state you have no choice, you eliminate all your possibilities for empowerment, movement, or healing. There is little room for love.
If you are like most humans you want to have choices. Isn’t this the very foundation of who we are and what we stand for? Blame, pride, resentment, anger and judgment are all stuck, stagnant, immovable feelings. When you take custody of your triggers and feelings you can then begin to change the way you look at something. Seeing things differently and choosing a new way to behave and respond means fewer and fewer knee-jerk responses. Better choices, fewer negative responses, more love and compassion.
Be patient with yourself and persevere. You can do it!