There are so many moments in our lives when we feel stuck. We see how we want to be, yet recognize that the negative thoughts and feelings we have are the result of certain triggers, such as situations or people, that make us feel powerless, reconnect us to the pain we are trying to leave behind, or create icky feelings of frustration. What’s most difﬁcult is that it can happen when we least expect it, even during those moments when we are feeling super groovy.
When you are triggered, however, it doesn’t mean you have to stay stuck in this icky feeling. There are techniques you can use to become aware of your reactions and then take responsibility for changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions to catapult yourself to a new level of awareness, happiness, and, ultimately, love of self and others.
Here’s an example of how negative victim or conﬂict thinking can manifest inside your head through the critical inner voice that I often refer to as the “dark side voice”:
First, imagine that you overhear your boyfriend (date, friend, partner) talking to your best friend using communication that you feel isn’t effective. You feel like it is having a negative effect on your friend. You feel you must confront him about it, but are concerned how he will react to your comments.
Think about how you typically might respond to this scenario. If you are intimidated or “walk on eggshells” when you have to confront your boyfriend, you might be afraid you aren’t communicating your thoughts appropriately. Conversely, perhaps you confront your boyfriend using language that is perceived as being bossy or controlling. Either way, think about how you might best deliver the message. Think about your body language, the tone of your voice, and other key characteristics that will impact how your message is received.
Remember, however, that you can manage your thoughts, feelings, and actions and move past feeling stuck to creating a win-win result that leaves you feeling empowered, happy, and satisﬁed. Here are some possible approaches that you’ll want to avoid, followed by some suggestions for change.
Thoughts: “Why is he doing this to me again? He just doesn’t care about how it makes me feel.” If you think this way, you will most likely choose not to confront your boyfriend. Instead, you will try to ignore the feelings and hope the problem just goes away.
Thoughts: “He is such a jerk. I can’t believe he just doesn’t get it. I’m so pissed off; I can’t believe I have to deal with this.” If you stay in this energetic level, you might say to your boyfriend, “What were you thinking? You are upsetting everyone and I don’t have time to deal with this. You need to ﬁx this, NOW.”
The Pro-Active Response
Thoughts: “There has to be a way to resolve this without too much pain. How can I manage his ego to make him apologize and change his behavior?” Using this approach, you might begin a conversation like this: “I am wondering how you might best get your point across to my friend without too much grief. What do you suggest?”
The Nurturing Response
Thoughts: “I feel bad for my friend. I want her to feel safe. I also care about my boyfriend and don’t want to upset him or make him feel bad.” In this scenario, you could approach your boyfriend using words such as, “We have a problem. I consider myself responsible because up until now I have never mentioned it. I know you mean well by telling my friend your point of view, but she may not hear you clearly sometimes. How can we communicate to her in a way in
which she feels secure, and also hears your opinion?”
The “Everything Is an Opportunity to Learn” Approach
Thoughts: “My boyfriend and I typically communicate effectively. This situation with my friend is a great opportunity for both of us to practice giving and receiving feedback. I can’t even imagine where we could go once we take it to the next level.” When you are truly in a space in which each challenge creates an opportunity to learn, the words you use with your boyfriend might be, “I think this is a perfect opportunity to connect better so that we both feel acknowledged. Let’s brainstorm how we could both communicate better, not just with each other but with the other people in our lives.”
The “Zen” Approach
Thoughts: “What we feel within is often projected onto others. This situation is a great exercise in self-awareness. Those who live a Zen life are able to truly disengage from the “trigger” that typically might impact their thoughts, feelings, and actions. In this scenario, the words might be, “I’m enjoying watching this dynamic between you and other people. I’m learning so much in the process. I can totally see myself in your shoes, and can also imagine how my friend might
have felt. How are you experiencing this?”
What’s important to know is that we all move ﬂuidly between each of these approaches throughout each day. Once we free ourselves from our triggers, however, we begin to experience situations differently, feeling increased levels of happiness.