Good Morning All!
I'm a bit bleary-eyed this morning after a quick weekend trip away to Brisbane. It's a bit hard coming back to cold, stormy weather after getting used to the warmer temperatures "over the ditch!"
This morning I thought I'd continue with our Singular Focus series. I believe that learning to understand "why we think the way we do" is incredibly important for our health - physically, emotionally and spiritually. So I figure the more we can cover in this area the better! Today I thought we could look at a helpful tool I sometimes use. It's a great bit of emotional first aid that you can use in - or after a triggering situation. I call it: Separating the Present from the Past.
So we've all been in those situations where something's majorly pushed our buttons eh? Maybe it's a person standing in front of us and we either want to strangle them; or crawl into a hole and hide! Or it's a situation that's left you feeling completely wiped out, anxious; or downright angry.
As we've learned from this Singular Focus series, there is often a lot more going on than just what's happening in the moment. It's not only the situation in front of us that's causing an emotional response - it's our interpretation of the situation (based on the beliefs that we have about ourselves, the world and others). Learning to separate the present from the past is incredibly helpful in a situation such as this.
Basically, this technique gives us a dual awareness: "I understand that there is a situation or person in front of me that needs dealing with. However, I also understand that my beliefs, rules, values and pain that I carry will all be affecting how I interpret and react to this situation. SO if I can somehow understand and acknowledge what's gone on in the past, I can then be a lot more objective in dealing with what's going on in the present."
Let me ask you a question: Think about the last time you were really triggered. Something or someone caused a huge emotional reaction within you. How old did you feel? Did you feel like an adult: in the moment, capable, able to articulate yourself well to get your needs met? Or did you feel like a small child: tongue tied, confused, scared, powerless, frustrated? I'll bet it was the latter - the small child. I'll tell you why.
When we are triggered, or when a person or situation is making us feel a certain way: "exposed, vulnerable, attacked, bullied" etc., we automatically regress back to the first time we felt that emotion. It's like we fall into a hole; or a 'time stop.' If we are holding onto pain - or if we have negative beliefs created from incidents in the past - we automatically internally regress to the time those beliefs were created. We feel very small and powerless; and we use the same coping strategies that we used back then: we run away (internally or externally), we shut down, we please people, we get angry and defensive / smart and sarcastic). Just a grown-up version of the small child trying to protect themselves. Make sense?
When we do this - when we react to a situation out of the pain of the past - it never ends well does it? We generally make poor decisions - decisions that leave us and everyone around us feeling bad; and that leave us reaping the same old consequences for our speech and behaviour. Not only this, but it just reinforces those negative beliefs - and makes them stronger! "See, I've done it again - I am a failure!"
If, when we are in a situation, we can Pause, Breathe, Calm ourselves down and Think, we are suddenly powerful to a) understand what is going on for ourselves and b) make a good choice in the moment. Have a read through the Separating the Present from the Past table. It's pretty simple - but very powerful. Basically, what it gets you to do is to think about the situation. What are the 'normal' or understandable things that I might be thinking or feeling? How can I stay in the moment and respond to the situation in the "Adult"? E.g.: I have a voice, I can use it in a calm, assertive way to express myself and communicate effectively. I can make a good choice that affirms both myself and anyone else involved. I can set clear boundaries and I know that even if I'm feeling strong emotion, I don't have to act on it. (It might be linked to those old beliefs}. I'll trust my wisdom and experience as adult instead in my decision making process. See how it works?
Think of the last time you were in a triggering situation. Have a look at the table and have a go at filling it out. See if it makes a difference. If you have any questions, just leave a comment or send me an email.
Look forward to hearing from you!