Feeling Triggered? Stop Reacting and Start Healing in 6 Simple Steps.

Feeling triggered means something unresolved from the past has come calling. An invoice that is left unpaid from an earlier transaction. An old injury that aches whenever it rains. Loose ends that need tying up. A trigger always feels unpleasant, and always lingers. 

My latest triggered happened unexpectedly, and lasted a few days.

I have co-authored a book and what a project it’s been! It has been worthwhile, demanding, exciting, frustrating, exhausting, amazing, fun and now, I can add, disappointing. In writing these words, I realize this describes most things we encounter in life.

Life for me, is one big classroom, and what is most important is what we learn and how we grow. Do we make the same mistakes over and over, hanging around middle school like a relentless case of acne, or are we able to learn over time, moving on to college, even graduate school (this has nothing to do with book smarts or actual educational achievement, but what we set out to learn in this life). It would even seem, if we stopped judging ourself, in reality, our failures and challenges, along with our triggers are what helps us move forward, grow up, and graduate, or at least move on to the next level of life school.

When we move out of our comfort zone, get off the couch, write a book, start a new relationship, move to a different town, sell our business, we take risks. And unlike a romantic comedy, we never know how it will turn out. This discomfort zone of writing a book, has brought on many small successes and failures, and is also where my latest trigger occurred. 

In hopes of receiving a testimonial for our book, I had sent the manuscript off to a well- known spiritual teacher, one who enjoys a hefty following of devotees. Although I do not follow him as closely as I used to, his words can still bring my body to a state of blissful relaxation, and the rush of insights within my mind.

I received a “no” when it came to his testimonial. He was too busy to read the manuscript with his third book in the works, plus his hectic schedule of speaking engagements.

I got it. I did. But still, an unpleasant feeling emerged, and then lingered. I knew I was triggered.

I have grown accustomed to rejection, as it is part of the writing process. And a part of life. Yet, this felt different. It felt more personal. The feeling was unpleasant, and was not going away. I needed to resolve it.

In the past, I had always gone to my head when triggered. I would try to reason myself out of it, which would only lead to ruminating, lack of sleep and the repetition of the incident to anyone who would listen. It was like banging my head against the wall to get rid of a headache. It did nothing; in fact it makes it worse.

Breaking through old patterns, often feels like I am busting down thirty year-old kitchen back splash with a hammer. It’s gratifying, and hard work. Yet, it takes time, and effort. In the end, not only can we rewire our brain, but we have brand new tile as a reward. The more we admire and look at the new tile, the less we remember the old. But we must stay awake.

It appears, in dealing with this past trigger, I fell asleep, and went back to old patterns.

I told three people about the teacher’s “no” and each had a different response. One uttered, “What as ass!” Another said, “Oh well, keep in touch, you never know.” A third replied, “Maybe you can offer to endorse his book!”

I nodded. I pondered. I laughed.

We do need others to share our unhappy moments, to feel less alone. This can soften the blow, yet, this does not make a feeling go away. If we avoid the feeling when triggered, it will fester, and settle into our being, only to arise again at another moment. Feelings can even become stuck in our bodies leading to imbalances and dis-ease. Once I realized I did not want to lose sleep, to go another round in the ring, I stopped. I knew what I needed to do.

I knew the only way to resolve this feeling, was to get out of my head. I knew I had to let my heart win.

Once I stopped banging my head, I asked what I needed to feel better. These 6 steps emerged:

  1. Prepare or regroup. Since life is one big school, what better place to do that, then going back to Kindergarten. In this first step, I enjoy snacking, napping, getting my hands dirty. (and of course, binging on Netflix). Especially when we are in the throws of a higher education term paper. I not only feel it is necessary, but good for my soul. For me, it is the reward before the work. 
  2. Move. In order to get out of our head, it helps to move our body, change our state. We can go for a run, garden, walk, or go outside and get the mail. Do a load of laundry or go to the store. Create some distance so you can do the next four steps. We often need this space in order to work through a feeling.
  3. Locate the trigger. It may be obvious what triggered us. As in the case of the testimonial, the news, or if we are cut off in traffic. We also may need to search for what set us off. It could be an off-handed comment by our significant other or we may wake feeling irritated, having dreamt something unpleasant.
  4. Name the feeling. Knowing what we are feeling is not as easy as it sounds. For me, it can be obvious, but not always. Irritation can feel the same as anger, but with closer observation, irritation happens when I am not listening to myself and my needs. Anger occurs when I feel betrayed by another person. One feeling may even be a cover up for another. We can start feeling anger, and then realize underneath the anger is sadness. Be patient, you will know sooner or later.
  5. Pin Point where this feeling is in our body. Once you know what you are feeling, see if you can figure out where you are feeling it. Our hearts are inside our bodies, and a feeling can lodge itself many different areas of our body. I often feel fear in my gut, grief in my chest. Stress can give me stomachache, and change can result in a headache.
  6. Focus our attention on this area. When we put our attention on a feeling in our body, a number of things can happen. We help move it through, which may bring forth tears, insights, a memory, or all three. 

These steps may need to be done once through, or repeated, depending on how deep the trigger. You may be able to jump right in, or take a detour first. Do whatever you need to gather the courage, as this work is not easy. If it were, none of us would ever become lost in our minds.

Here is what happened with me, when I took on these 6 steps. 

  1. In preparation, I watched a few shows on Netflix (okay, maybe more like 10). Afterward, I felt ready to look at why I was triggered.

  2. I took my dog for a walk to get space.
  3. I knew the trigger was about the “no” I received for the testimonial, and didn’t need to linger on this step.
  4. As it turned out, the feeling of rejection, morphed into disappointment. 
  5. Surprisingly, I felt the disappointment in my throat, the feeling lodged itself there like a bad case of strep. No coincidence, I used to get Strep all the time as a child.
  6. When I focused my attention on it, I realized the disappointment came from an earlier time in my life when the adults were too busy, too wounded, too self involved to help me. To even see me. Over time, this stifled my voice.

As I moved through the steps, I became depressed momentarily, which is simply the space for healing, then felt sadness. I was now in the heat of the trigger, the fire that needed quenching. Here I stayed, until the feeling passed.

For every tear shed, we will enjoy a deeper moment of joy.

Don’t let your scars fool you. It seems if we ignore an old wound, it always comes back. Life always gives us another chance. Like a seed planted in the soil that innately moves towards the sun, we are always growing, moving towards healing.

All triggers are gifts, and all challenges, rejections or failures, are opportunities for healing. 

My co-authored book, Living Beyond Fear, will be available soon from amazon, and in fine book stores. These 37 letters, stories about life and death, will take you on a journey that is both healing and inspiring. Details to follow!

 

 

 

How Crying in a Bathroom Stall Can Change your Life.

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This story begins with a women’s experience, which turns out, is also mine. We are all connected, more than we realize. As you read this post, see if you can also see yourself in her. If not, perhaps your story is still unwritten.

This woman, on the very first day of her corporate job, one where had been given a six-figure salary, the task of overseeing a large department and managing multi-million dollar budgets, found herself hiding in a bathroom stall, crying. It seems the life she had been leading, all she had been working towards – the degrees, the promotions, the awards – came crashing down upon her. In that moment, she had no way of knowing that everything in her life was about to change for the better.

It would be a cool story, had she walked out of that New York high-rise that afternoon, but life isn’t about being cool, and neither is this blog. Change often takes time, and it took many more moments in the bathroom stall for her to find her voice.

How we had met was many years later, when she had asked me to write her a speech on Women Finding Their Voice. In preparation for my writing her speech, she told me her story, and how she had left her corporate job in order to pursue her passion – photographing women who life had beaten down. Women who didn’t look or feel good about themselves. Some were overweight, or fighting their way out of an abusive marriage, others had cancer. Through email, I learned how she had ignited her passion for photography, while also finding a way to make a difference for others. What seemed like an end, that moment in the stall, was actually a beginning. Along with her tears that morning, came a soothing ache of relief, a gift, a door opening. The first step she would take in a series of steps in finding her voice.

Due to unforeseen circumstance, she never did make it to that speech, but perhaps life had orchestrated our meeting just for me – and for you. To open my eyes to the path I was indeed walking in my own life, my own journey in finding my voice. Through her story, I had come to realize that finding my passion in writing, something that would lift me every day, while hoping to make a difference for someone else, began with many of my own moments in a bathroom stall.

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The steps she had taken that led her out of that bathroom stall, were ones I too had taken. Today, I share them with you. For sometimes we need to take the road less travelled, and other times, simply trace another’s footsteps in the sand.

As you read through these steps, please keep in mind that in finding our voice, our steps are fluid, as we can often skip or repeat steps along the way, moving forward and backward like a childhood game of hopscotch. Inevitably, whether we walk gracefully or clumsily stumble through these five steps, when we follow our hearts, we will find our voice.

The following five steps are simple, but not necessarily easy:

  1. Seek out your feelings. Our emotions always tell us the truth – sometimes whispering, often shouting at us. These are our bathroom stall moments. Take time to think about about your work, or your life. Does thinking about your day create feelings of joy or dread? When we begin to take notice of how we feel, we start to see the truth, to hear what is in our heart. When we follow our hearts, we find ourselves not at the end, but at the beginning of our story.
  2. Release Others’ Expectations. As we peel back the layers of our longings that linger beneath our skin, we often find a voice that is not our own. For many of us, our accomplishments have been driven by others’ expectations of us. Our stories of our higher education, financial success, the success of our children, can stem from a hidden need for approval. Releasing expectations is about not only releasing personal expectations about what we should do, but about what we think the world expects of us. It begins with the question, who am I doing this for and ends with what am I doing for myself? It continues with separating the voices of those we have known, from our own voice. We can meet every definition of the word success, except the one that matter to us. Success goes far beyond degrees, responsibilities and money.
  3. Find your passion. Unearthing your passion is not easy, but when you find it, it will feel like magic! Someday, you will be at the end of this wonderful life, and what will you find? Did you live your life for you? Did you follow your heart? Close your eyes, and think of something you love to do, that you would do for free. Start there. What makes you happy? As you take your last breath on this earth, what do you want to leave behind, and be proud of? This is the key to finding your passion. You will know you have stumbled upon it, by the excitement you feel, the joyful and peaceful feelings that emerge.
  4. Become courageous. This can be the most challenging step. Yet, when we reach deep within ourselves, finding the courage and taking a leap of faith with our passion, we are often rewarded. Give yourself a time limit, but don’t adhere to it. Set a goal but be willing to change it. Just begin doing what you love, and the rest will fall into place. Courage takes sacrifice, determination and pushing through adversity. As your courage grows, your passion grows, and this wonderful cycle continues.
  5. Share your Voice. Once you follow the other four steps, you will need to share your voice with the world. As you walk beyond the threshold of this fear, the life you have always wanted will begin to naturally unfold in front of your eyes. Resist the temptation to run back and hide. While many believe they have a fear of failure, it is often a fear of success. When everything you have been waiting for, that life you only imagined living, begins to take shape in front of your eyes, breath, say thank you. Remind yourself, you are worth it.

The first time I opened up to my voice, when Elephant Journal agreed to publish my article, I felt both disbelief and pride, joy and fear. Within twenty-four hours I had almost 50,000 views. My article had touched a chord about special needs children, and it was because it came from my truth, my voice. Not every article finds that success, but I have come to realize, the ones that I create from honesty and vulnerability, intimacy and truth, find their way more often into others’ hearts and Facebook pages.

I urge you to go out and find your voice. To listen to the gentle whispers of your heart, and follow it. To uncover and release any expectations that are not your own. To uncover your passion, reach for that courage and unleash your voice onto the world.

We can wake up each morning, and go through our days, never finding our voice, knowing the sun will continue to rise and fall. Or we can step out of our comfort zone, follow our hears and leave our mark on this world.

 

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is permanently on vacation.