Emotional Triggers − Friend or Foe

Whether emotional triggers are friend or foe depends on what you do when you’re triggered by something that someone says or does. Commonly, people blame the “triggerer” and, unfortunately, miss a golden opportunity to learn something valuable about themselves that’s currently unknown. For example, you overhear a derogatory comment about women with careers being “bad mothers.” You happen to be the mother of two small children and also have a satisfying career. You immediately want to give that person a piece of your mind along the lines of “Who do you think you are; what do you know about it anyway?” Some version of that is the usual response.

Something very important to know before you lash out at that person is that if you weren’t feeling somewhere inside yourself that that maybe you are a “bad mother” (perhaps even feeling guilty that you’re away from your children many hours during the week),  you would have no emotional reaction to what was said. For a triggering comment or action to elicit a reaction, there has to be a “hook,” basically what you’re already feeling about it although nearly always unconsciously.

Panache Desai expresses it beautifully in his book Discovering Your Soul Signature (© Panache Desai, 2014):

“If we have anger, we can be sure we will encounter someone who will piss us off. If we’re sad, we’ll come across a person who will set off our sorrow. Ultimately, what these encounters do is to provide us with opportunities to feel whatever it is that is unresolved within ourselves.”

So, in reality, that person is giving you a priceless gift although s/he may be unaware of it. That person is mirroring back to you what you haven’t allowed yourself to see or feel about yourself — an unresolved issue (almost always from the past), a belief you have about how something should be, i.e. “women with small children shouldn’t have a career” or “I’m being selfish.” If you were consciously aware of what you’re feeling in this area, you wouldn’t need a mirror, would you?

All too often, we judge ourselves harshly for what we think we should or should not be thinking, feeling or doing. Those “shoulds” and “should nots” are almost always rooted in conditioning we’ve received primarily from family, school, church and peers. It’s someone’s else’s idea of how life should be, how we should be. We are all prisoners of this conditioning to some extent. We’ve internalized it as the “truth” about us rather than what it really is: someone else’s view of us. We have a choice to believe or not believe this conditioning as the truth — and that does require allowing ourselves to be aware of and experience our emotions as they arise.

It’s not as difficult as you may think or fear. Trust me on this — I’ve been there. Just try it and see what happens.

Impact of Unacknowledged and Unexpressed Emotions

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced some pretty unpleasant effects related to being unaware of and not experiencing or expressing my shadow emotions. (If you’re not familiar with that term, I encourage you to read my previous  posts.)

We make the common and understandable mistake of thinking that if we don’t allow ourselves awareness and expression of these emotions, they will not affect us in any way. Not true. I learned that the hard way – pretty much how I seem to learn a lot of things. If we don’t yet even know what those emotions are, a REALLY good clue is to pay attention to what events and people “trigger” us, to which we have a strong emotional reaction. That could be anything from bursting into tears, flying into a rage or milder form of anger, experiencing fear, etc. – all without knowing the cause.

These unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions can also cause damage to our health, relationships, and pretty much every other area of our lives. In terms of relationships, how many of you have felt you’re having the “same relationship” over and over again – like “Ground Hog Day”? ALL our important unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions from the past carry over into the future until such time as we are able and willing to address and heal them – without exception.

The same thing in the area of health. We’re not made up of three separate “parts:” body, mind and soul (heart and emotions). All these aspects interact “wholistically.” Probably the most familiar example of this is how stress affects us. The stressor may be emotional in nature; however, we often experience physical symptoms such as tension headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, etc. And the converse is also true: the stressor may be physical symptoms of an illness and we experience worry, anxiety, fear, helplessness, etc.

A theme I’ll be revisiting in my posts from time to time is that this work isn’t as scary as we think or believe. When the events occurred that triggered such intense emotions, many of us were very young – so young we couldn’t handle them, and stuffed them as deep into our unconscious as we possibly could. As adults, when those emotions start to surface, along with them comes that “I can’t handle it” feeling and belief. The truth is, we CAN handle it now. We may need help at times. For some, a good life coach may be all that’s needed; for others, a counselor or therapist may be the best choice.

This is an exhilarating journey toward experiencing the love, joy and wholeness that is our birthright.  If you would like more information or have questions, please use the form below to contact me or visit http://www.futuresbydesign9.wix.com/shadowdancer.

Our Conditioning Can Block Possibility

Almost from birth, the conditioning process begins wherein our brains “download” what is presented to us – both consciously and unconsciously. Professionals who study how the human brain works – notably Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., a molecular biologist and former professor of medicine at Stanford University – know that from birth to about age 6, our brains are absorbing information like a sponge – mostly unconsciously. According to Dr. Lipton (from The Biology of Belief):

“. . . the child’s sensory systems are fully engaged, downloading massive amounts of information about the world and how it works. . . . By observing the behavioral patterns of people in their immediate environment— primarily parents, siblings, and relatives—children learn to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable social behaviors. It’s important to realize that perceptions acquired before the age of six become the fundamental subconscious programs that shape the character of an individual’s life. . . during this time of accelerated learning, Nature facilitates the enculturation process by developmentally enhancing the subconscious mind’s ability to download massive amounts of information.”

The statement I want to emphasize from Dr. Lipton’s words is: “fundamental subconscious programs that shape the character of an individual’s life.” In other words, much – if not all – of this information resides in our subconscious/unconscious mind and is only accessible if we consciously focus on retrieving it. Many don’t because that part of our mind doesn’t only contain information – it also stores traumatic experiences and the emotions accompanying them – most of which we don’t want to re-experience and/or feel.

In addition, many of our beliefs can become so deeply ingrained and “automatic” that we’re not consciously aware of them – we just accept them as “that’s the way life is.” Some are “ancestral” in nature. By that, I mean they’ve been handed down from generation to generation. Beliefs about money, love, and other expressions of “how life is” are examples.

At this point, you may be asking what all this has to do with possibility. Conditioning by its very nature is “fixed” or rigid, again as demonstrated by our belief that certain things in our lives are “just the way they are.” That statement doesn’t allow for life to be any other way than what we believe it to be. There is absolutely no flexibility, no possibility that life can be any other way when we cling to what we’ve been conditioned to believe without question – whether consciously or unconsciously.

The Fifth Agreement (written by don Miguel Ruiz and his son, don Jose Ruiz) talks about the “power of doubt.” The exact wording of the fifth agreement is “Be skeptical but learn to listen.” In the context of this post, the skepticism needs to be directed toward our belief systems, to “question everything” with respect to them. If they ever were true, they may not be now. As adults, we can scrutinize our conditioning that was automatically “downloaded” when we were too young to do anything but accept it, and determine whether continuing to do so serves us now. If not, we have the power to change it.

If you want to live a life of possibility – instead of inevitability and rigidity – you MUST be willing to explore what disempowering beliefs and emotions are living in your unconscious mind. Why? Because the unconscious mind “runs the show.” According to Dr. Lipton, “The subconscious mind cannot move outside its fixed programs – it automatically reacts to situations with its previously stored behavior responses. AND (here’s the rub), it works without the knowledge or control of the conscious mind. This is why we are generally unaware of our behavior, in fact most of the time we are not even aware that we are acting unconsciously.”

I’ll leave you with a very powerful quote from Joseph Campbell: “The cave you fear to enter contains the treasure you seek.” I personally know this to be true. Entering the “cave” of my unconscious mind and transforming the beliefs and emotions that previously held me prisoner (and sometimes still do) and stifled my creativity has given me immeasurable freedom to create a life I love. And YOU can do that – everyone can. Believe it or not, this process can be exhilarating and fun!

The Tyranny of Perfectionism

How many of you have burdened yourselves with unrealistic expectations of perfection? First, what is perfectionism? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “[a] disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.” Excelling in our endeavors is something we all want; however, a problem arises when we receive messages from our parents – verbally or nonverbally – that our efforts aren’t “good enough.” I don’t think parents realize how damaging those message can be to the self-confidence of their children. Time after time in my coaching practice I hear from my clients about the often devastating emotional effects of these messages and unrealistic expectations of perfection – that some are still struggling with 30, 40, 50 years later. Below is an excerpt from a Psychology Today article, describing some of those effects and their impact. “Concern with mistakes is a reflection of what Frost [Randy O. Frost, psychologist and professor at Smith College] calls the core issue in perfectionism, the unspoken belief or doubt that arises in a child’s mind: ‘I’m incompetent or unworthy.’ It leads to hypercriticalness and the rigid adherence to strict standards of performance under all conditions. It is the element of perfectionism most linked to psychopathology. And it comes about because a child has been made to feel that approval is contingent on performance.” “Pitfalls of Perfectionism,” Psychology Today, publ. March 1, 2008. Children who have grown up in this type of environment – where only an “acceptable” level of performance was “rewarded” with approval – grow into adults who are driven to perform by an internalized “acceptable level” at great cost to health, relationships, inner peace and satisfaction. In most cases, no other standard is used to measure a successful life. How many of you suffer from the effects of this early childhood conditioning? And how is it affecting your life to this day? Do you become anxious if you don’t measure up to some internalized standard of performance and/or perfection? Are your relationships negatively impacted by your own unrealistic expectations of perfection of yourself and others in your life? Answering these questions will require your willingness to explore your suppressed and/or repressed emotions that are keeping you trapped in perfectionism. Are you ready?

Impact of Unacknowledged and Unexpressed Emotions

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced some pretty unpleasant effects related to being unaware of and not experiencing or expressing my shadow emotions. (If you’re not familiar with that term, I encourage you to read my previous  posts.)

We make the common and understandable mistake of thinking that if we don’t allow ourselves awareness and expression of these emotions, they will not affect us in any way. Not true. I learned that the hard way – pretty much how I seem to learn a lot of things. If we don’t yet even know what those emotions are, a REALLY good clue is to pay attention to what events and people “trigger” us, to which we have a strong emotional reaction. That could be anything from bursting into tears, flying into a rage or milder form of anger, experiencing fear, etc. – all without knowing the cause.

These unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions can also cause damage to our health, relationships, and pretty much every other area of our lives. In terms of relationships, how many of you have felt you’re having the “same relationship” over and over again – like “Ground Hog Day”? ALL our important unacknowledged and unexpressed emotions from the past carry over into the future until such time as we are able and willing to address and heal them – without exception.

The same thing in the area of health. We’re not made up of three separate “parts:” body, mind and soul (heart and emotions). All these aspects interact “wholistically.” Probably the most familiar example of this is how stress affects us. The stressor may be emotional in nature; however, we often experience physical symptoms such as tension headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, etc. And the converse is also true: the stressor may be physical symptoms of an illness and we experience worry, anxiety, fear, helplessness, etc.

A theme I’ll be revisiting in my posts from time to time is that this work isn’t as scary as we think or believe. When the events occurred that triggered such intense emotions, many of us were very young – so young we couldn’t handle them, and stuffed them as deep into our unconscious as we possibly could. As adults, when those emotions start to surface, along with them comes that “I can’t handle it” feeling and belief. The truth is, we CAN handle it now. We may need help at times. For some, a good life coach may be all that’s needed; for others, a counselor or therapist may be the best choice.

This is an exhilarating journey toward experiencing the love, joy and wholeness that is our birthright.  If you would like more information or have questions, please use the form below to contact me or visit http://www.futuresbydesign9.wix.com/shadowdancer.

Emotional Triggers − Friend or Foe

Whether emotional triggers are friend or foe depends on what you do when you’re triggered by something that someone says or does. Commonly, people blame the “triggerer” and, unfortunately, miss a golden opportunity to learn something valuable about themselves that’s currently unknown. For example, you overhear a derogatory comment about women with careers being “bad mothers.” You happen to be the mother of two small children and also have a satisfying career. You immediately want to give that person a piece of your mind along the lines of “Who do you think you are; what do you know about it anyway?” Some version of that is the usual response.

Something very important to know before you lash out at that person is that if you weren’t feeling somewhere inside yourself that that maybe you are a “bad mother” (perhaps even feeling guilty that you’re away from your children many hours during the week),  you would have no emotional reaction to what was said. For a triggering comment or action to elicit a reaction, there has to be a “hook,” basically what you’re already feeling about it although nearly always unconsciously.

Panache Desai expresses it beautifully in his book Discovering Your Soul Signature (© Panache Desai, 2014):

“If we have anger, we can be sure we will encounter someone who will piss us off. If we’re sad, we’ll come across a person who will set off our sorrow. Ultimately, what these encounters do is to provide us with opportunities to feel whatever it is that is unresolved within ourselves.”

So, in reality, that person is giving you a priceless gift although s/he may be unaware of it. That person is mirroring back to you what you haven’t allowed yourself to see or feel about yourself — an unresolved issue (almost always from the past), a belief you have about how something should be, i.e. “women with small children shouldn’t have a career” or “I’m being selfish.” If you were consciously aware of what you’re feeling in this area, you wouldn’t need a mirror, would you?

All too often, we judge ourselves harshly for what we think we should or should not be thinking, feeling or doing. Those “shoulds” and “should nots” are almost always rooted in conditioning we’ve received primarily from family, school, church and peers. It’s someone’s else’s idea of how life should be, how we should be. We are all prisoners of this conditioning to some extent. We’ve internalized it as the “truth” about us rather than what it really is: someone else’s view of us. We have a choice to believe or not believe this conditioning as the truth — and that does require allowing ourselves to be aware of and experience our emotions as they arise.

It’s not as difficult as you may think or fear. Trust me on this — I’ve been there. Just try it and see what happens.

The Tyranny of Perfectionism

How many of you have burdened yourselves with unrealistic expectations of perfection? First, what is perfectionism? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “[a] disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable; especially: the setting of unrealistically demanding goals accompanied by a disposition to regard failure to achieve them as unacceptable and a sign of personal worthlessness.” Excelling in our endeavors is something we all want; however, a problem arises when we receive messages from our parents – verbally or nonverbally – that our efforts aren’t “good enough.” I don’t think parents realize how damaging those message can be to the self-confidence of their children. Time after time in my coaching practice I hear from my clients about the often devastating emotional effects of these messages and unrealistic expectations of perfection – that some are still struggling with 30, 40, 50 years later. Below is an excerpt from a Psychology Today article, describing some of those effects and their impact. “Concern with mistakes is a reflection of what Frost [Randy O. Frost, psychologist and professor at Smith College] calls the core issue in perfectionism, the unspoken belief or doubt that arises in a child’s mind: ‘I’m incompetent or unworthy.’ It leads to hypercriticalness and the rigid adherence to strict standards of performance under all conditions. It is the element of perfectionism most linked to psychopathology. And it comes about because a child has been made to feel that approval is contingent on performance.” “Pitfalls of Perfectionism,” Psychology Today, publ. March 1, 2008. Children who have grown up in this type of environment – where only an “acceptable” level of performance was “rewarded” with approval – grow into adults who are driven to perform by an internalized “acceptable level” at great cost to health, relationships, inner peace and satisfaction. In most cases, no other standard is used to measure a successful life. How many of you suffer from the effects of this early childhood conditioning? And how is it affecting your life to this day? Do you become anxious if you don’t measure up to some internalized standard of performance and/or perfection? Are your relationships negatively impacted by your own unrealistic expectations of perfection of yourself and others in your life? Answering these questions will require your willingness to explore your suppressed and/or repressed emotions that are keeping you trapped in perfectionism. Are you ready?