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May 24, 2017

Feeling Triggered? Ask these 3 Questions to Break Through.

Sometimes intense emotions really swallow us whole.

Anger, sadness, frustration, jealousy, grief, loneliness—whatever it may be.

They can entirely consume us as we get lost in the drama or trauma of our experiences.

However, I’ve become aware that, even in the most extremely charged scenarios, we have a choice.

We can be devoured into the dark pit, overwhelmed by the way our lives are unfolding, or we can take a step back, regroup, regain our power, and restore clarity.

I find that asking myself three questions always helps me regroup. From minor triggers to intense, heart-pounding moments, they work without fail.

#1. What am I believing here that might not be true?

So this first question breaks our narratives.

It helps us become present and observe what we’re falsely believing about our experiences.

Now, depending on how charged we are, a few long deep breaths may be required before even asking the question.

Bottom line, this question stops us from being whisked away into the drama of our stories.

With our autopilot reactions temporarily suspended, there’s space to be aware of the meaning we’ve pinned on what’s happened to us.

It’s not complicated or difficult to do—we literally just have to listen to what we’re telling ourselves and weed out the dominant negative thoughts.

Once we become aware of what our beliefs are, ask, “Is this really true?”

Generally, those thoughts that really stir us up will either be a flat out “no,” or may have an element of truth to them paired with a sneaky judgement or conclusion hiding inside them.

To give an example, I do this with my nine year old daughter all the time.

She could be in the throws of a total tantrum after not getting her way, and I’ll say, “Hey—what are you believing right now that’s hurting and upsetting you?”

And sure enough, it wasn’t the actual occurrence that upset her, it’s what she made it mean.

She could say something like, “Mummy doesn’t love me,” “I hate being a kid,” and “My life is so unfair.”

Then I’ll ask her if those beliefs are really true.

And the moment, I mean literally the second, she admits to herself they’re not—things change.

She lightens up.

#2. What do I know here/what am I aware of?

With our initial reactions starting to settle, there’s a chance to experience clarity.

Our capacity to perceive information is radically heightened—particularly subtle information.

When we ask ourselves, “What do I know?” we’re giving ourselves space to tune into our intuition.

Parking the critical mind for a moment, we have a chance to perceive our inner whispers.

If we’re not practiced at this, it’s important to be attentive and aware of the subtle information we perceive, our inner knowing can speak through any of our senses.

It could come in the form of a sensation, an intensity in the body, a vision, a memory, words of our inner voice, or we may get an inspired impulse to act.

If it’s hazy or ambiguous, just ask for more clarity.

The key is learning how to translate these signals into useful information we can apply practically.

It takes practice to function this way and learn to trust it—however, when we do, it creates dramatic changes in our realities.

Recently, I found myself annoyed with someone in my life. I felt highly charged, though I didn’t express it directly to this person.

I eventually settled myself, asked my first question, and instantly the intensity eased when I realized what I was telling myself about this person wasn’t, in fact, true.

Then I asked what was really going on—what do I know? 

Suddenly, I perceived this person’s deeper loneliness and desire for connection.

It shocked me. It never occurred to me on a conscious level, but as soon as I perceived it I felt such a lightness. I softened entirely.

Soon afterwards, I contacted the person and arranged to meet up.

Well, holy moly! Talk about a different dynamic—this person lit up and totally shifted their demeanor toward me.

If I had kept believing the B.S. my mind was telling me, blaming and playing the victim, it would have just perpetuated suffering for both of us.

Taking on an expanded perspective relieved me of all my judgements, gave me new awareness, and helped me feel really good.

#3. If this was a dream, what would I want to happen?

So this question is a little cracker.

Initially, it can be the most challenging of the three.

Prying our attention off the issue and redirecting it toward a preferred outcome is unfamiliar territory for most of us.

There’s often a nagging tug to come back to the initial problem, and keep things “real.”

Persistence is worth it though, as this is such a powerful way to derail ourselves from recreating the same old looping patterns and repetitive experiences.

It opens us up to consider new choices and make room for something entirely different to unfold.

Also, as we think of our preferred scenarios playing out, we start to feel better instantly.

As we relax, things change so much faster.

A great place to start is going back to the initial moment that triggered us and identify what we felt we were being denied in that moment.

What was threatened? Love? Self-worth? Security? Our future?

Once we become aware of the underlying threat, reverse it as the foundation for envisioning a new, preferred outcome.

For instance, if we’re triggered because someone owes us money and they’re refusing to pay, our preferred outcome might be to have total financial ease.

As our attention is redirected in this way, we get a stream of new ideas, inspired choices, and things can present themselves in ways beyond what we could have imagined.

So, in summary:

#1 assists us in becoming present as we observe our story and what it is creating.

#2 creates space for us to tap into our intuition as the source of an all-encompassing perspective.

#3 helps us clarify our intentions and redirect or attention toward a preferred outcome.

In Buddhism, these three things are referred to as mindfulness, insight, and concentration.

When all three happening at once—boom—we venture into the realm of mind over matter!

This is the essence of true power and liberation.

So next time we find ourselves triggered, or in a bit of a rut, give these questions a go and see what unfolds.

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Author: Sarah Keane
Image: Pixabay
Editor: Danielle Beutell

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Sarah Keane