A Different Way Of Managing Your Triggers
We’re always looking for a better way to turn our troubles into triumphs whether that’s finding the best diet to fulfill our health goals or managing our pesky emotional triggers that transport us back to age 5, and we get stuck searching (or waiting) for the perfect solution while overlooking the simplicity of just doing things differently.
There’s pressure to handle things better though. This is the focus of personal growth. Always moving up.
Nobody wakes up and says, ‘Today, I’m going to be worse’. But there’s a chicken or egg conundrum that accompanies the upward notion of self improvement. Must you become a better person in order to do things better? Or must you do things better in order to become a better person? Which comes first?
I see people teeter between the two, sucked in to the self improvement abyss for what seems like eternity. They’re waiting to feel better to do better or do better expecting to feel better.
The focus on better can backfire in many ways. Sometimes “better” is associated with perfection and ultimately procrastination and negative emotions. Also, making the colossal leap from the way you feel now or what you’re currently experiencing to a better way of life seems like an impossible jump more suitable for the daring, Evel Knievel.
The alternative is to do things differently, not “better” or “worse”, just differently, because at least you’ll get a different result. Afterwards, you can review and reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
The idea of doing things differently compared to doing things better, is a mind-shift.
The psychological difference between better and differently is in the words themselves. The words you use affect your thoughts, actions, and behaviors.
For instance, when you say, ‘I could’ve handled that better,’ you feel bad about yourself. You may even torment yourself with emotions like guilt and shame. But when you say, ‘I could’ve handled that differently,’ you see an opportunity. The subconscious prefers the latter too.
When we seek to do things better, we are coming from a place of ‘not good enough’.
I was a good kid growing up. In fact, I’m not sure what else was notable about me other than a ‘good little girl’.
Even in times of chaos during my childhood, I remained a good little girl. I didn’t express the anger or sadness I felt. That would be “bad”. And if I tried, I was immediately shut down or made to feel wrong.
Into adulthood, I had the almost-obsessive tendency to strive to be better and better, to improve myself and my circumstances, but mostly to please others. After a this unnatural striving wasn’t getting the results I wanted.
I started to do things differently. It began with, ‘I wonder what would happen if…’
…’if I just left a family get together when someone got too drunk or belittled me.’
…’if I expressed my honest thoughts.’
…’if I expressed anger and other emotions without fear of altering people’s opinion of me.’
There was a genuine curiosity brewing inside me to turn my world upside down.
The first thing was speaking up for myself, sometimes in combative ways, finally(!!!!!!!!) expressing my anger at people when they wronged me. The ways I did things differently were not always a better strategy at the time. But in the end, it helped me to learn to express myself and change my life.
This transformation didn’t begin with better, it began with different.
People will often attempt to improve the same strategy they’ve been using for years, believing it will lead to different results.
Suppose someone triggers you and you decide the better way to handle it is to speak to them about it. But they don’t change, and neither does your trigger, because the next time it happens, you try to talk to them again only calmer, explaining it better. Same strategy…over and over again.
Real change begins with doing it differently.
Diet and food choices are associated with another type of trigger. After discussing this idea of doing things differently, one client decided that she would stop searching for the perfect diet and (her idea) not focus on what she ate, but go a completely different route and focus on how she ate and sometimes where she ate…but never what. No matter what!
At first this was scary. She’d always monitored the types of food according to the types of diets she was on.
Initially, she paid attention to how she ate. She slowed down and felt calmer so she ate less. Then she decided to commit to where she ate- no longer on the go or in her bedroom. This eliminated poor food choices.
Her old food-obsessed triggers had no power over her anymore.
After a few weeks, her mentality about eating completely shifted and it turns out that’s exactly what was needed to lose weight, not another diet or strict food list.
What is something you could do differently today?
When someone triggers you, you could walk away. You could stop the conversation immediately, knowing they’re pushing your buttons. This solution is neither better nor worse, simply different and it will get different results.
The reason triggers are difficult to ignore and they elicit knee-jerk reactions from within us, is that we are still reacting from our childhood experiences or continuing to use strategies from our childhood, in adulthood. We’ve all witnessed an adult throwing a tantrum!
Triggers exist to help us do things differently (than we did in childhood). They remind us that we are not that child anymore and we are empowered adults with choices.
Triggers are a fantastic opportunity to do things differently by applying the information, experience, and wisdom from adulthood.
When an emotional trigger occurs, ask yourself, ‘What do I know now that I didn’t know then (childhood)’? This may be that you now logically know you’re no longer small and helpless as you were when you were a child.
“What can I do now that I couldn’t do then?’ You can speak up for yourself and set boundaries even if you weren’t allowed to as a child.
Triggers are habits and habits are subconscious. That’s why we have an immediate reaction when something or someone triggers us emotionally. Once we’re consciously aware of what our triggers are, we can plan to respond differently and try out new coping mechanisms from what we’ve learned throughout our adulthood.
In hypnotherapy, people first describe their problem; they often feel like they’ve tried everything!
The beginning of the session is brainstorming, including asking them what they could do differently. Most of the time, people have plenty of their own ideas. But the key word is “differently”. I don’t want them to try anything they’ve already done or any version of it. That’s madness! But you’d be surprised how many people do exactly this!
And when they’ve decided on an idea or two, it is then reinforced in hypnosis.
You can also reinforce it yourself by becoming consciously aware of your triggers and writing a plan of action that is different than how you’d normally respond.
I’ve had the most luck trying something completely different than what I’d normally do. It seems to “shock” the habit or pattern from existence, even when it involves someone else. Essentially, you break the subconscious habit loop.
Our patterns with others close to us are habits and sometimes doing something different can wake you both up. They may not like it, but that can be a sign things are changing…and that’s a good thing!
We think the world may fall apart if we don’t do the things we’ve always done, or some version of, but the root of change is in doing something different, not just better. Better can be the result but its typically not the first step.
Peace and Be Well,