You are running late for an important meeting. As you head out the door, you reach for your keys and discover that they are missing. One of your kids must have taken them. You frantically search around the floor, flinging toys left and right, realizing that your house is a lot messier than you realized, making your search even more frustrating.
Suddenly, your inner witch take over: "Where are the f*@#$%^ keys?" Silence. Your kids are all at school. Feeling exasperated, angry, powerless, you let out a scream and throw a chair across the room. "This is all their fault! How could they take my keys?! My whole life is ruined now because of them!"
As human beings, we experience automatic emotional reactions to certain external situations. Although this is a normal part of being human, we actually have a lot more control over our reactions than we realize. And this all starts by being conscious, or aware, of what is going on inside us. Sadly, though, many people live their lives, tossed to and fro by their emotions, never stopping to ask themselves:
"What do these emotional reactions mean? What is this teaching me about myself? How is this giving me insight into an issue that I need to explore within myself?"
Let's look at triggers.
Triggers are certain situations that invoke in us an emotional reaction. This can be anything from a child hiding your keys, to being yelled at by a parent, to getting cut off in traffic, to finding out that a close family member has passed away.
When emotional responses happen, we have two choices.
A. We can let it consume us, wallow in the discomfort and pain, blaming whatever the trigger happened to be (a person, death, etc). This leads us to feel that our happiness is dependent on other people. We look at the person or situation triggering us, and feel that they are responsible for our mental and emotional well-being.
B. We can take a step back and observe our emotions from the outside, allowing ourselves to feel the pain, but realizing that all pain is temporary. When we become aware that this emotion is not going to last forever, we can pull back from the throes of the storm, stand up on our board, and begin to ride the wave. Only then, when we are in that quiet, focused mental state, can we ask what this pain is trying to tell us about ourselves:
"Why is this situation so emotionally triggering to me?"
The woman who lost her keys was attached to the idea that she wanted things to go a certain way: she wanted to get to her meeting on time. And when something prevented her from living the way she felt she should live, she became extremely frustrated and angry.
The reality is, MOST of us are attached to wanting things to go a certain way. However, this attachment can lead us to a lot more pain that we need to experience.
Pain= The feeling we experience when things don't go the way we think they should.
Ponder that for a moment.
By recognizing (aka becoming "conscious" of) her attachment to things lining up perfectly, she can start to let go. She can open herself up to embracing unexpected obstacles, using these opportunities to build her character instead of immediately morphing into her inner witch, which will eventually cause her to have a hard time differentiating between her true self, and this creature she has allowed to become such a common part of her personality.
For this woman, maybe this is an issue that carries over into her family, and affects her relationships with her kids. Maybe her son just came out as gay and she is struggling with a lot of anger and disappointment that he is not heterosexual like she had hoped he would be. And that by letting go of her attachment to this idea of her son being a certain way, she opens herself to a greater capacity to love and accept, not only her son, but herself as well.
It's also likely that this issue goes all the way back to her childhood. Maybe she was the unexpected obstacle. Maybe she wasn't wanted as a baby, being a product of rape. And her mother blamed her for ruining her life simply because she did not come at a time and in the way that her mother thought she should come. As a child she learned to resist unexpected and unwanted events, and grew up frequently feeling like she was a victim of situations out of her control.
By learning to let go of what's not in her control, by embracing all of life, in it's "as is" state, she can let go of frustration and anger and live more peacefully, and in harmony with her fellow humans.
When we become conscious of our emotional triggers, we recognize that our pain is not coming from others, but from our own unhealed wounds.
Here's another example.
A guy breaks up with his girlfriend. She is devastated. She did not have healthy self love when the relationship started, which caused her to rely on the love she received from her boyfriend to fill her need of feeling loved. Now that that love is gone, she feels empty and undeserving of love. This causes her to feel deep pain, humiliation, and unworthiness.
When we do not feel the true beauty of our own souls, we look to others to find clues of our worth.
In this case, she felt that she was being rejected not only as a girlfriend, but as a person. And without a healthy sense of her true self, this blow to her self-esteem is almost too much to bear. Not understanding the cause of her pain, she blames her ex. In her mind, he had destroyed her life, shattered her dreams of living forever with him. Over and over again she tells herself that his choices are causing her pain. This leaves her feeling helpless and miserable.
Many times we get so consumed with an emotion, blaming whoever triggered it in us, and fail to realize that it is actually an opportunity to reflect on our own selves and to grow.
Here is an example of how asking self-reflecting questions could cause this girl to move from a place of misery and anger, to a place of acceptance and healing.
Q: Why do I feel so hurt and angry?
A: Because I just got dumped by my boyfriend. It's all his fault.
Most people ask themselves this first question and stop there. They feel they are being logical and this justifies their blame of the other person.
But it's important to keep digging...
Q: Why is this so emotionally triggering to you?
A: Because it hurts being dumped.
Q: Why does it hurt so bad?
A: Because... I feel like they just rejected me. No one likes to feel rejected.
Q: Why does it hurt to be rejected by another person?
A: Because... I feel like thats a reflection of who I am inside. That I'm not worthy of love anymore.
Q: How could an imperfect human know who you really are inside?
A: Um, I guess they can't.
Q: So why does being rejected by someone who can't see inside your soul lead you to believe you are worthless as a person?
A: Huh. Good point. I guess it's because I always gauged my internal worth by being accepted by others.