I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my family over the last several weeks which meant a lot to me.
I live in South America and my return visits to the US tend to be a year or more apart. The last thing I want to bring into these visits is “my stuff”, and I almost made it through without incident, but alas…my work continues.
What I’m talking about is intense emotional reaction to something. In my case it was something said.
Words are just letters put together and opinions are just ideas or beliefs someone holds. Neither of these can make me do something if I choose not to, or make me into someone I don’t choose to be. Yet, my response to words and opinions was explosive.
I got triggered.
You can be certain that the issue was more about me than what was actually said.
Here is a clue how I know, and how you can too…when you find your heart beating fast, your body tense, or you raise your voice, or cry, or go silent, whatever the extreme emotion is for you, consider for a moment you are being triggered.
And guess what? The thing isn’t really “the thing”. You aren’t responding to what is in front of you, but it’s something much deeper.
So this is how my “thing” got triggered. A commentator on a cable news show and his guests were bashing other people, politicians. None of these people are politicians themselves, but they identify strongly with a political group that I do not.
On the surface it might seem it is the politics, the ideologies that caused me to lose it. It might seem this is the thing, but it wasn’t.
This group of adults were being extremely disrespectful in there language, their stories, and their characterizations of other people. They were sarcastic in hopes of being funny, yet I only found it childish, biting, and mean. And guess what?
I was a kid you had been on the receiving end of a group of kids who behaved exactly how I perceived these grown adults to be acting.
So that was the thing, my “thing”. It wasn’t for the sake of politics I chose to raise my voice and go insane for a few minutes. It was that part of me who deeply felt those cutting and cruel remarks when he was a kid.
Men, I’m 57 years old. I have been doing deep introspection work for more than 15 years now. As my son pointed out once on another issue, “For god sake dad, you’re a life coach”.
The things that are “the thing” run deep, and those things can come back and bite us in the ass at the strangest times and places. It doesn’t make us bad or broken when we get triggered, it just means we need to be committed to knowing ourselves, monitor what we are feeling, and keep working at it.
When I can identify what I am feeling, and I have done the work to know where it came from in my life, I have the ability to choose not to have an extreme response to “the thing”. I have the ability to NOT live in a feeling that belongs to the past and past events.
In my case, words are just letters strung together and another person’s opinion belongs to them, no one else. Because I am clear about who I am and what I am about, there is no reason for me to respond in an extreme emotional way to words or opinions, like I did when I was a kid.
The trick for us is to remember who we are now, and not be sucked into the black hole of past experience that tries to trap us emotionally in another time and place.
Does this make sense? When it does, it means you can choose to be free of the things that may have plagued you in life.
For me, my outburst reminded me of how far I have come, and also that the work I do to become a better man is never truly done.
How are you reminded to continue to do the work to become the best man you can be?