One of the many wonders of our brains is how masterfully they rationalize our behaviour.
Something occurs, you react, and then your brain instantly concocts a reason for your reaction that seems to justify your behaviour even if the reason makes no sense. For example, you get very angry because you can’t find a report you were working on. You blame the company for giving you insufficient space, the cleaners for moving things around on your desk, or your boss for giving you a stupid task or deadline. You ignore the reasons you are tired and your patience is thin. You suppress your unhappiness with your boss or your life.
The act of rationalizing is so quick, the best you can do is to recognize when it occurs and choose to consider what else could be causing your reaction. Here are five tips to help you manage your emotional triggers.
1. Accept responsibility for your reactions
Seek to identify what is triggering how you feel in the moment, give yourself the chance to feel differently if you want to. This will also give you more clarity on what you need to do or what you need to ask for to change your circumstances.
2. Recognize that you are having an emotional reaction as soon as it begins to appear in your body
Be aware when you are breathing quickly or not at all, that certain muscles in your body are tight, or that you feel pressure in your gut or heart, stop and ask yourself what you are feeling and why. Don’t judge or fear your emotions, if you don’t recognize your feelings, you can’t work with them.
3. Determine what triggered the emotion
The strengths that have helped in life are also your greatest emotional triggers when you feel someone is not honoring one of them. When your brain perceives that someone has taken or plans to take one of these important things away from you or that your needs are not being meet, your emotions are triggered.
4. Choose how to manage your emotions.
When you are able to quickly identify when an emotion is triggered you are then more able to choose what to say or do next. Question your reaction and decide to either ask for your needs to be met or let the need go for now.
5. Practice mindfulness techniques.
You can practice this step at any time, even when you first notice a reaction to help you think through your triggers and responses. Helpful mindfulness techniques include:
Defusion – distancing from and letting go of unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, memories and other cognitions.
Acceptance – making room for painful feelings, urges, sensations, and allowing them to come and go without a struggle.
Contact with the present moment – engaging fully with our here and now experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity.
Spacious awareness – accessing a spacious sense of self – the observing self: a transcendent aspect that is conscious of thoughts and feelings as passing experiences but not identified with them.