Did your child say something that set you off and before you know it you’ve gone off on them? Someone at work got you riled up and all of the sudden you find yourself in a not-so-professional argument? Did your partner tick you off which lead to your epic fail?
At some point in our lives we all go off on someone because they said or did something upsetting to us. Oftentimes our reaction is bigger than it needs to be. I know I’ve had a colossal melt-down. Why is that?
Yes, you can say it’s because you’re having a bad day or had too much coffee. What’s really happening is you’re being triggered. (BTW coffee doesn’t help the trigger mechanism.)
Pushing Your Hot Button
Triggering means the other person hit your hot button which is usually old unresolved issues. When this happens, we go unconscious, or rather, we resort to that old emotional place where the wound started that turned into a hot button or trigger. We react from the unresolved, emotional place. That’s when it can get scary ugly because we say things we don’t mean.
When it’s all over you could feel totally justified in your reaction or have remorse. Or both. And add to that, a heaping serving of self-judgment. “Why did I say that?” “What’s wrong with me?” or “I’m such a bad mom/wife/partner/friend/employee.”
First of all, let’s remove the self-judgment. Beating ourselves up only serves to make us black and blue. It doesn’t help. Ok, so you went a little crazy. It’s over now. You’re not a bad mom or wife or friend etc. You got triggered. It happens. Forgive yourself.
Second of all, no one deserves our wrath. Think how you’d feel if they went off on you. Point taken? When you calm down, it’d be best to apologize to own up and take some accountabililty. Don’t apologize when you’re still upset or it won’t be well-received.
Lastly, take a moment to analyze the situation. What did they say that upset you? Was it a certain word or phrase that reminded you of the past? Did something they say “make you feel” like a child again? Was it the way they said it or their tone of voice? Were you exasperated with their shenanigans and you took the bait once again as they attempted to goad you? Look for the trigger. There’s always one.
Your Trigger is Your Gold
The trigger is the gold. You have to know what’s setting you off to be able to stop it.
Awareness is always the first step to change. Once you identify it, you can move forward. Responding comes from your calm, present self. Reacting comes from your emotional, past self.
In the future when they trigger you make a pact with yourself to take three deep breaths before responding. It will take practice so don’t get discouraged.
If that doesn’t work, walk away. Get in the car. Remove yourself from the situation, whatever you have to do. Go somewhere else to calm down. Call a friend or support person if need be.
Avoid the People Who Agree
A word to the wise. Don’t call a friend or family member who will agree with your upset self. They may egg you on with statements like, “I knew he/she was a jerk!” or “Oh, yeah, you’re right, they can’t keep their mouth shut, can they?” etc etc etc. You know who I mean. You know what they may say because they think they’re supporting you. Just remember, they think they’re helping, but instead it’s keeping you upset and justifying why you went off. There’s never a good reason to go off on someone, no matter how “good” or “right” it feels at the time.
It helps to have a neutral party remind you that you’ve been triggered. Because when we’re triggered, we check out of the present and go to that old, emotional place. We don’t realize we’re being triggered – we just react. And before you know it, it got ugly. That’s where the epic fails come in.
If the person who’s triggering you is abusive, learn to set boundaries. Let them know you won’t tolerate that type of behavior. They may not comply or do it right away because it’s a learning curve for them too. In the meantime, do your part – learn to stop reacting.
The more you are triggered the more dis-empowered you are. You are giving the other person power over you by “getting you” upset. In other words, you are unconsciously allowing yourself to be upset by them. If nothing else works, don’t give them the satisfaction of your blow-up. But still take time to understand why you get triggered. Holding in your anger isn’t healthy.
Reacting all the time is exhausting and can ruin relationships. Not to mention your physical and emotional health.
What are your hot buttons? Can you identify them?
Was it something from your childhood? Was it reminiscent of a former relationship?
Remember, identifying your hot buttons is the first step to letting them go.
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