I am triggered right now.
To me being triggered means something has upset me, it has rocked me off centre far enough that I am likely functioning from an altered state of perception.
In this state interpreting the world can be unreliable as my thoughts will be revolving around and playing out some form of deep inner wounding. I may misunderstand actions by those around me and if I am not careful I could easily say or do something I would later regret.
A lot of small things that I never thought would bother me have compounded into this big intensity of sensation within me. I am observing myself having all kinds of strange thoughts and experiencing weird cravings and urges. Urges to hide, retreat and give up everything I have been working so hard on. Simultaneously, I am feeling a need to find someone who I can tell everything to, someone who will take it all away and make me feel better.
My body is tense, I keep catching myself clenching my jaw and my motivation to engage in my commitments is extremely low.
Fortunately, I have practiced a lot with emotional discomfort and whilst it has not relieved me from getting triggered, and I doubt it ever will—I am much more able to work with and through it. Through dedication to holding space for myself to have and be with this internal distress, I have discovered myself far less susceptible to falling into reactive behavioural patterns.
What follows are several steps I have found immensely helpful in growing my emotional maturity.
The first thing to go when we are uncomfortable, as all you amazing yogis will know, is our breath. Our breath is likely to become irregular, shallow and held high up in the chest.
Breathe! Deep, all the way down.
If in the middle of a conflict and we notice ourselves becoming triggered take a moment, whoever they are they will wait, and breath again. Breathe deeply and continuously. Let the inhale naturally become an exhale at its peak, let the exhale create a vacuum that naturally sucks in air. Leave no pause. Humans, besides aquatic mammals, are the only animals that hold our breath. Watch your pet dog or cat, see how their breath is constant. In-out, in-out.
If we have the time and opportunity a great practice is to sit quietly for 5-15 minutes and breathe in this consciously connected manner.
Once we are breathing again, the initial spike of intensity is falling we can look inwardly. Here we tune into our inner space and notice what it is like in there. What are we feeling in our body? Where are the sensations located? What do they feel like? What are the subtle qualities…is there a colour, texture, movement associated with the feeling?
Our bodies are amazing things and it seems as if they remember and store every experience within our tissues. Likely the incident that just occurred is causing us to recall some event in our life that was unpleasant in some way and in that moment we probably closed ourselves a little bit to love.
Feel it to heal it!
3) Indulge the mental story
Ah good, we are breathing and feeling! Now it is time to let our critical mind have its chance to be involved. The experience we are in likely has a whole big story associated with it. By taking the time to first calm and orient ourselves internally we will be in a place where we can look much more objectively at this story we seem to be carrying.
For example, in my case the events that have transpired are bringing up a story within me that says deep down I am really unlovable and that the people I care most about actually don’t care about me.
Let the story come and if we feel up to it we can even enhance it repeating what we have discovered like a mantra. While we do this at the same time we keep our awareness in our body and notice if anything changes or shifts. Does the feeling grow, expand, collapse, tighten, move or are there any new ones appearing?
4) Optional deep search
Like a garden if we have weeds growing we can pull off the part that appears above ground and it will grow back. If we are vigilant and return to check often and continue to keep our weeding habit eventually it will stop growing. Or, if we feel motivated, we can get our hands dirty and dig in to find the root and pull the whole thing out.
This step involves asking the question “when was the last time I felt this way?” When we do a memory of another prior situation may arise. We can continue to ask until it seems we are as far back as this particular story plays out.
In some ways, what we experience as emotional disturbances are just patterns played out in a repeating cycle waving in and out through our whole life.
To continue my example if I chase this feeling I am having back I discover a time when I was very young and was let down by a friend that I trusted. It hurt and as a result my subconscious has gone to great pains to find ways to reconstruct this story playing out in my own life, which is really a reflection of my inner emotional state.
5) Drop the story
Now that we have discovered the stories associated with this feeling that has been triggered we can let go of them.
We may be just seeing the story in this moment or we may have decided to chase it back to some past time, either way the story itself is not really that important. In fact buying into the story can be dangerous and give it weight as something we now have to carry and live out in our lives.
It may put us into a victim role and give us new excuse to self-deprecate. The feeling is what is truly important and this feeling is a cry from our inner selves to be held and loved. So let go of the story, completely…
6) Nurture our inner self
We now tune back into the feeling, the fullness of it as it is occurring right now. We let go of any need or desire to change it and instead simply be with it, for as long as it takes. It may be that this feeling sits within us for hours or even days and if so, we let it.
We might notice the urges to get rid of it by telling others, or to sedate it through activities like TV, food, sex, drugs and alcohol, etc.
Instead we embrace our inner world with all of our love. This is true unconditional love, this is us loving ourselves completely. Be.
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Assistant Editor: Melissa Petty/Editor: Bryonie Wise