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What Pushes Your Buttons? How to Manage Your Emotional Triggers

Gain emotional freedom from what pushes your buttons so you feel like this woman doing cartwheels on the beach“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.” – Rachel Naomi Remen

This time of year can be so stressful. Dark winter days, end of year demands, and celebrations with family who delight in pushing your buttons can all add up to unwanted stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can learn how to understand, manage and take control of what pushes your buttons.

In the English language, there are so many ways to express how people set off your emotional triggers – pushing your buttons, getting your goat, rattling your cage, yanking your chain, throwing you off your game. And therein lies the truth of the whole matter…when you react badly to an event, it is common to blame the event or other person for your emotional reaction. “He makes me mad. She upset me. If that hadn’t happened…I wouldn’t have…”

While it may feel good to blame someone else, you’re cheating yourself of an opportunity to get to know yourself better and to change any behavior that is no longer serving you. When you think about it, this is tremendous. You have the power to turn off all of those buttons or emotional triggers. However, it will take a great deal of mindful effort to discover your untapped pools of inner strength and courage.

Emotional triggers are a manifestation of your own beliefs, feelings or views. That’s why my emotional triggers are different from what pushes your buttons. Yes, I still have some! Common ones revolve around:

  • Disrespecting personal space
  • Insults
  • Threats
  • Lies
  • Correction
  • False accusation
  • Being interrupted
  • Being ignored

We all have emotional triggers. You do and so do the people you encounter. It’s vital to be accepting of this fact. It doesn’t work to expect perfection from ourselves or others.

An emotional trigger is an experience that draws you back into the past and causes old feelings and behaviors to surface. For example, there may have been a time you were required to do something you didn’t want to do, but were forced to do it by an authority figure. Or you may have lacked confidence, so you couldn’t say “No!”  Now when you hear a demand, it triggers an unfavorable emotional response, even if it’s really just a poorly worded request.

How you think of yourself on the inside dictates how you behave and are perceived on the outside. Your unwanted emotional reactions can make you think that you’re weak and hopeless. But that isn’t the case at all!

When your buttons have been pushed and you feel yourself losing control, take a deep breath and mindfully let your mind sort through the event to see what’s really bothering you and what belief you can change to regain your emotional control.

Examine the situation that triggers your emotional reaction. You have three options for dealing with it: change the situation; change how you think and feel about the situation; or remove yourself from the situation.

Maybe you’re not in a position to immediately examine your emotions. What can you do then? Before the day ends, go to a quiet place and reflect on the episode. You might even want to journal about it, to gain the greatest clarity. Don’t edit yourself as you write. Just pour it all out. This will be most revealing. You’ll also have a written record that allows you to track behaviors or habits that you want to change.

When you know you have an emotional trigger, don’t avoid it; challenge yourself and keep trying to manage it. Plan how you’ll respond next time. “If Situation B arises I will do XYZ. This course of action supports my need to have a choice and be appreciated!”

Of course, you’ll want to be loving, kind and patient with yourself as you peel back your emotional layers. It will take time to make adjustments to your beliefs, feelings and values. Work at building a strong foundation of mental energy and physical wellness, as well as a supportive network of people; then you’ll be able to unplug those emotional triggers and turn off what pushes your buttons.

I’d love to be part of your supportive network. It’s one of my life’s pleasures to use Somatic Coaching to help my clients gain emotional freedom and reach their fullest potential in life. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Tony Robbin’s Emotional Triad: How to Visualize and Achieve Emotion Control

A woman visualizing Tony Robbin’s Emotional Triad so she can achieve emotion control

Emotional Triad

Do you remember that time when you “got up from the wrong side of bed” and the bad mood persisted all day long? You felt like you should go back to bed and stay there, right? And then there are other days where good things just keep rolling in, like you’re a magnet for all the good in the Universe. Why can two days be so different? You’re the same person, aren’t you? Actually, you’re not.

Every day we put ourselves in a different emotional and mental state. For example, you go to bed fired up about tomorrow’s project, so you wake early, eager to jump out of bed. If, on the other hand, you go to bed worn out, grumpy, and anxious, the chances are the next day isn’t going to go so well.

What you do and how you feel is determined by the state you’re in. Your emotions and attitudes control everything in your life — your mood, your decisions, your actions. So the big question is: if you start the day in a negative state, how do you switch over to a positive state?

I love the Emotional Triad that Tony Robbins came up with. It helps us visualize how to become grounded and achieve our center. The idea is to try to keep the three sides of your Emotional Triangle in balance. The good news is that we can learn to mindfully change and manage each pattern or behavior that throws us off balance.

What is the Emotional Triad? Visualize a triangle that has these three sides printed on it…

Emotional Triad Side 1: What are you doing with your body? Tony names this side “Physiology.”

We are somatic creatures – our emotions affect our bodies and vice versa. If you improve your posture, you’ll experience a feeling of confidence and alertness. If you slump, your mood will slump. Try it right now. Stand up straight and breathe deeply. Reach your arm in an upwardly sweeping motion. Smile. Dance in place. Observe how this body movement changes your emotions. This knowledge is powerful!

Emotional Triad Side 2: What are you focusing on or believing? Tony names this side “Focus.”

As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Focus on the positive and set your intention on what’s important to you. Don’t let your mind wonder to the “what if,” or the “I can’t,” or the “I’m not.” Visualize the powerful and competent person you are and want to be. By setting your focus on the positive, your mental and emotional state will shift.

Emotional Triad Side 3: What are you saying to yourself? Tony names this side “Language.”

Name calling, second guessing, doubting, criticizing, blaming – these do not build good relationships with other people, so why would you talk to yourself that way and destroy your relationship with yourself?  Cultivate greater awareness of the words and tone you use when you engage in self-talk. Do you see patterns of self-hatred or self-abuse? Then switch out that word, phrase or tone to one that shows self-compassion and self-love.

Get into the habit of mindfully assessing your Emotional Triad and change what isn’t promoting the positive emotional and mental state you desire. If one side of your Emotional Triad isn’t as strong as you want it to be, I’d love to work with you to strengthen it!  Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

How You Can Regain Emotional Stability After a Life-Altering Crisis

Emotional stability will help you handle life altering crises“Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~ Jim Rohn

I love stability, don’t you? It’s kind of like driving. We want our cars to ride smoothly, but there are always bumps in the road. That’s why we need emotional stability. Like shock absorbers, being emotionally stable allows us to withstand and handle adversity while we still keep moving forward.

However, because life is always changing, it’s vital to have a system for fully experiencing the highs, the lows and everything in between.

For day-to-day stresses, you can maintain emotional stability by using methods such as meditation, becoming more mindful, exercise and restorative sleep.

But life often throws things at us that we’re not prepared to handle. People are confronted with tragic circumstances like life-changing health issues, death of a loved one, divorce, physical and/or sexual abuse, violence, accidents, and so much more. We’re not born knowing how to deal with these things. And it’s quite possible that no one in your immediate family or circle of friends has had to deal with them either, so they can’t help you.

If you’ve experienced an emotional crisis that has thrown you completely off balance, what can you do to regain emotional stability?

A momentary lapse in behavior does not make you emotionally unstable. The emotional instability I’m talking about is caused by a lifetime of repressed emotions, tamping them down instead of experiencing emotions in a healthy manner. That’s when we become unstable and ungrounded.

It’s like a thorn in your finger that leads to an infection, except it’s an emotional splinter in your heart and soul. It’s always raw and sore. It limits what you can do, because you’re preoccupied with the wound. And since you tell yourself that it’s ugly, you try to keep it hidden.

How can you clear out emotional debris?  

You can’t just dig around your festering wound superficially. That would be like getting part of the thorn out, but leaving the tip. You must get to the bottom of it and fully feel the entire range – the breadth and depth of your emotion. Painful? Yes! But that’s the way healing occurs.

Many people keep their calendars so booked that they don’t have time to think. I suggest you clear some time, perhaps even devoting the next year to making your emotional hygiene a priority. Make the commitment to take time to experience your emotions fully as they arise. In that way, you can develop a reliable system for emotional stability.

Developing or regaining emotional stability will not happen overnight. It’s going to take time and practice. Your progress will depend on how long you can sit with your deeply disturbing emotions like sadness, anger, or fear.

Here’s how to do it: Each time you feel a wave of that emotion, find a quiet place by yourself and go deeply into it. If you’re feeling sad, think about the saddest things in your life. Then just cry it out until there’s nothing left. (If the thought of doing this frightens you or if you’re struggling with PTSD, depression or anxiety, please consult with a mental health care professional who can support you through this process.)

The point is to start by thinking of the ugliest, most painful thoughts and letting that feeling take you over and flow out through your tears, thoughts, and breaths. Once you’ve released that emotion, you can go on with your day. You’ll discover that each wave of emotion, on average,  only lasts 90 seconds.

As you crash through each emotional wave, you’re closer to calmness and serenity. Learning the process of experiencing emotions fully makes life easier. It allows you to experience new emotions without them taking over your whole day. You can get past it without doing damage to yourself or others.

Regaining emotional stability after a crisis is much easier when you have a safe place to be heard and supported. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you practice greater awareness and coping techniques.

Emotional Polarities – How to Embrace the Good, Bad and the Ugly as You Reclaim Your True Self

To feel completely whole you must accept your emotional polarities, i.e. your humility and your arrogance, and quit judging either emotion as good or bad. “To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light”. ~ Carl Jung

Have you given away your power?

Perhaps it started years ago… Many times when we’re young and go through a crisis – caused by divorce, death, illness, or abuse – we never have the room to explores and process all of the emotional polarities that come along with these experiences.

As a kid, you think you have to be mature. You have to show your parents, teachers and friends that you’re fine, that you can handle it… But what you’re really doing is learning to suppress or disown your real self.

As a child trying to protect yourself, you put on a persona. The problem is that persona lives on and you may stop yourself from saying things you want to say; you hide your emotions or your pretend to feel something that you don’t. You show the world a censored version of yourself.

In time, we can bury our authentic self so deeply that we actually lose sight of who we really are. The persona you put on as a child, or Shadow Self, is still there under the surface causing havoc. (Read my previous blog post that explains your Shadow Self.)

To accept your true self you have to identify, acknowledge and own the repressed parts (the good, the bad and the ugly) you may have been denying for years. Consciously integrating your shadow self allows you to reclaim the power you once gave away. It enables you to recognize your uniqueness and the gifts you have. The ultimate result? Total self-acceptance brings inner peace.

This process isn’t easy. To reclaim your disowned parts recognize that…

  • You can’t bypass your past experiences and the unfelt emotions.
  • You can’t get rid of emotions like you can’t get rid of energy. They can only be transformed (emotions = energy in motion).
  • You must bring adult witnessing, compassion and understanding to those young parts to foster healing.
  • You prolong the disattunement (lack of harmony) that you experienced while growing up by failing to attune to your emotional needs in adulthood.

Are you ready to make room for your younger self? Integration is the healing process of identifying, acknowledging, embracing unprocessed emotions from childhood.

This process involves embracing both sides of your emotional polarities. What does this mean? You can’t have confidence without insecurity; humility without arrogance; compliance without rebellion; tenderness without hardness.

As you read these emotional polarities (opposites), did you judge one emotion as good and one as bad? Is it hard to acknowledge that you possess some of them?

In these polarities, neither emotion is right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. And we need to acknowledge that we possess them without judgment.  

I’m not advocating that you unleash your emotions on others without restraint. I am saying it’s important to mindfully acknowledge how you feel, reclaim your feelings, process those feelings, and then express them in productive, non-destructive ways.

It can be very telling when you feel inordinately irritated when you see such qualities in others. Often this is triggered because you’ve disowned this quality within yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Why does this aspect of a polarity bother me?
  • How do I hold its counterpoint?
  • Why do I view it this way?
  • When did I start to disown this in myself?
  • Was it because of what someone said or something I experienced?
  • What was the context then?
  • What is the context now?
  • What will happen when I acknowledge this disowned polarity in myself?

It’s a fact of life that emotional polarities exist within all of us. Bringing them to the surface and acknowledging them enables you to free energy that you can productively use in your personal growth. This is so much better than continuing to feel irritated when you see it in yourself or others.

You can become resilient, successful and capable despite your difficult or traumatic past experiences. I’d love to partner with you on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Discover Your Shadow Self and Embrace Who You’re Meant to Be

If your life appears to be satisfying, yet you feel like an inner struggle never ends, you might need to integrate with your Shadow Self to feel whole again“We tend to think that vulnerability is associated with weakness, but there’s a kind of robust vulnerability that can create a certain form of strength and presence too.” ~ David Whyte

Do you have secrets you’ve never shared with anyone? Perhaps something that happened to you as a child? Maybe it’s simply a feeling that is so raw you’re too uncomfortable to share it with anyone?

All of us have secrets we hide from others and perhaps even from ourselves. (Carl Jung called this our Shadow Self.) We hide what we dislike about ourselves or feel is unacceptable because we want to feel safe, respected or accepted. If we reveal how we really feel deep inside, we’re afraid we’ll be rejected.

When do you develop this Shadow Self? And how does it undermine your life, your relationships and your sense of purpose?

Your Shadow Self is usually developed in your childhood. Maybe your parents or teachers taught you what they’d been taught – “don’t cry, pull yourself up by your booth straps, put on a smile, be strong.” You got the message that it’s good to bottle up or choke back your emotions. Overtime you came to view certain emotions and qualities as “bad” so they must be hidden when you feel them.

It’s a lie.

Denying your emotions actually makes you weak, needy and more vulnerable to life events. Sadly, most of us walk around cut off from our body – the vessel for our emotional experiences – and live our lives from our thinking mind only. This makes us incomplete.

While working with hundreds of clients, I’ve discovered that there’s usually a pattern underlying current challenges. At some point in our past, most of us thought we had to leave behind or abandon our younger self to survive and become an adult.

But that Shadow Self is still there under the surface. Often it shows up as unresolved issues, limiting beliefs or unchallenged “truths” along your journey to adulthood. The associated emotions may disastrously resurface as anxiety, depression, or illness.

When this happens our reflex is to push our Shadow Self back, to get rid of it or deny it. It feels foreign, scary and confusing to acknowledge your past hurt, sadness, grief, or loss. You want to just forget it and keep it in the shadows.

How can dredging up the past possibly bring you closer to healing?

It’s common to imagine that embracing your disowned emotions will devastate you and interfere with your ability to be a functional adult. Yet the truth is that you’re not operating at full capacity when you’re not connected with those parts you have disowned. You are literally missing parts of yourself.

As a child, we have a coping mechanism; we develop adaptive skills to keep the disowned ones hidden. For example when you disown vulnerability you might:

  • Develop an inner perfectionist to avoid feeling “less than” when making mistakes.
  • Develop a tough exterior, becoming overly self-reliant and independent so you’re not disappointed and hurt by others.
  • Develop a need to take care of everyone else because no one is taking care of you.

Yet the truth about vulnerability is that it can be empowering if we develop what David Whyte, my favorite poet, calls “robust vulnerability.” This seemingly counter-intuitive concept is to allow vulnerability into your life so that it strengthens you from the inside.

Do you see how these adaptive skills can keep you from realizing your wholeness and true self? Your Shadow Self keeps you from letting your light, your true brilliance, shine. And when you’re always trying to hide who you are, you won’t have the energy to forge close, rich relationships. (In reality, you’re not hiding it very well either.)

The good news is that you can become whole again! You can learn to welcome, deeply hear, understand, and value everything about yourself, even the disowned parts of your Shadow Self. Then you can integrate them back into who you are and how you express yourself.

For some this can be quite challenging and frightening to do alone. I’d love to support you on your journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Isn’t it time to “see and embrace the elephant in the room” and finally take the steps to feel whole and in harmony with who you’re meant to be?

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