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Emotional Triggers - will they be a blessing or curse?

Every now and then something happens and for some reason it triggers me into a spiral of emotion – sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, arrggghhhh, WHYYY!

Sometimes emotions last for only a minute, other times it’s stuck in my head for hours and if I don’t catch it, it can turn a lovely day into a terrible one.

In those moments I’m generally quite attached to the stories that I tell myself. “He cut me off, bastard” or “she didn’t call me back, she doesn’t care” or “that’s so unfair, why did this have to happen to me”.

Before I started practicing mindfulness and meditation, I felt totally disempowered in moments like this, I had no control.

The spiral of emotion just took me in a spontaneous hurricane that I just had to wait out, until it spat me out the other side.

Now that I’m consistently aware of my thoughts and my emotional state, I notice the unhelpful story sooner and I can cut it off before it gets legs to run away.

It can be amusing to mindfully watch it play out; the things I can come up with in those triggering moments sometimes make me chuckle.

It’s a useful tool to be able to see what’s going on by training your awareness so that when something triggers you emotionally, you know what to do.

Tips for Letting Go When You’re Triggered

Learning to listen to your inner voice is one of the foundations of controlling your state which is important if you want to live a peaceful and positive life most of the time.

Having insight into your inner world opens up a doorway into a whole universe that’s inside you and has completely changed my life for the better.

  1. Breathe – take at least 1 deep breath and preferably more each time you’re triggered.
  2. Listen to your inner voice – observe what is going through your mind, this stops you from reacting and potentially aggravating the situation.
  3. Keep things in perspective – you don’t really know why the person did what they did or why a certain event happened, don’t be attached to being right or being a victim. I like to remind myself in these moments that life happens for me and not to me, I will not be a victim to circumstance.
  4. Observe your emotions – Our emotions are just clues as to what is going on – listen to yours and try to uncover what you are feeling and what they are telling you.
  5. Practice empathy, compassion and patience – whether it’s for yourself or someone else, these feelings are important to train to be able to cultivate peace and happiness as a natural state of being in your life.
  6. Move on – acknowledge the process you just went through and if you noticed a difference to how you usually handle situations take note. If the negative emotions return later in the day just repeat this process. This is also a good time to focus on what you want to want to feel in this moment.

After practicing this for a few years, the time in which this all takes place can be as little as a few seconds, although sometimes it takes a lot longer.

At the end of the process I like to ask myself what did I learn from this situation, everything that ever happens to us is an opportunity to grow and learn.

Never waste an opportunity to grow!

Dealing with Anger or Frustration

If you get so angry or frustrated that you can’t even go through the process, there’s an underlying issue of dealing with your anger which needs to take place first.

There are healthy ways to deal with your anger such as getting a boxing bag, yelling as loud as you can into a pillow or in the bush or play some tennis.

It’s important not to ignore or push down your anger. This just avoids the issue at hand and you’ll end up dealing with the same issues repeatedly.

I used to get frustrated with myself when I got sad, depressed or angry and I had a very legitimate reason for feeling that way.

It would sway between those emotions or feeling completely numb. Eventually I got sick of it and sought out help in learning how to deal with years of repressed emotion.

This is why I have dedicated myself to learning to control my emotional state and not letting external situations take me out of my peace.

There are times when emotions come up and it’s important, even healthy to experience them without needing to analyse them.

There is another blog post coming on my journey to unlocking repressed emotion, until then try the tips I’ve listed above.

Concluding remarks

The situations that cause emotional responses can be so small that we hardly notice them but when they add up after days, weeks or years, it’s a huge missed opportunity of experiencing peace of mind.

Everyone has the ability to change our emotional response so that external happenings don’t affect us as much, or at all.

It feels so empowering when a situation occurs that would usually spark an emotional melt down but after practicing mindfulness it becomes as simple as swatting away a fly.

If this is something that you struggle with in your life, it can’t hurt to try to retrain yourself.

The worst that can happen is that nothing changes and you’re the same as you are right now.

The best is that little things don’t phase you anymore and you experience more peace in your life.

Make sure you give it a few tries, retraining yourself takes time and if all else fails just remember: Hakuna Matata!

My last tip is to be aware of dragging other people into your story: It can be so easy to use something negative in our life as a means to communicate with the people around us. If there is a part of you that likes the attention and sympathy from sharing these kinds of things, make an extra note to find more positive things to share with your friends. You’ll find it creates deeper connections and as a collective we can shed negativity from the world and spread peace and happiness instead.

Starting to relate to the world in a different way takes time, patience and practice so don’t give up.

Let me know if this has been helpful for you.

Peace,

Adam

 

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