When Things Go Wrong #2 – Identifying Triggers
Parenting is often a learn-as-you-go experience (aka trial and error). When things go wrong, it’s easy to feel guilty and continue the cycle of wrong by not learning from our behavior. Thankfully, there are some simple (note I did not say easy) steps one can take to work through the wrong and choose anew. In When Things Go Wrong #1, we discussed how to make amends after yelling at a loved one.
This article explores three straightforward ways to observe, become aware of, and work with personal triggers that lead to things “going wrong” as part of an overall approach to prevent yelling and other reactive behavior before it starts. Allow it to be a simple, curious process, and be gentle with yourself. This will take some practice.
Notice your body. I know, you’re in your body so of course this one will be easy, right? Not necessarily. We can tune out, ignore, repress, or otherwise misunderstand the signals of our bodies due to misinformation, cultural and family influence, and personal habits, among other things.
When you notice yourself slipping into reaction (yelling, shaming, grabbing, spanking, blame thoughts, whatever), notice how your body feels. Notice where you hold tension. Is it your throat, chest, heart, belly? All of them? Tune into the natural rhythm of your breath and notice what’s going on in your body. If you choose, allow your shoulders and body to relax a bit as you notice. Intend to remember this body experience and what brought it about.
Notice what’s going on in your mind. The mind is a tool. Some of us may benefit from assistance or practice in refining how we use our minds.
First step, check your thoughts. Are they blameful, judgmental, angry? Who is at fault? Are you berating yourself or someone else in your head? What are the specific thoughts you are thinking? Notice again what is going on in your body as these thoughts roll around in your mind.
Embrace accountability through transparency. Record what you observe or share it out loud or on paper with someone who can listen non-judgmentally. Why? Get it out of your head and into a space where you can see it for what it is.
Our buttons are less scary when we can see them as triggers that we can change. As we identify them, some that are ridiculous will immediately become apparent and we can choose whether we keep them or not. With others, they may stick longer, but we can learn to transition them to something new through simple inquiry — asking questions to determine if our thoughts are harmful or helpful and if we want to keep them.
Spend a day, week, month, or longer simply noticing triggers and the response they create in the mind and body, and create some sort of accountability with either yourself on paper or a trusted friend. When Things Go Wrong #3 will discuss some ways to disengage and transform triggers.
Photo Credit: Agnieszka Bernacka on Flickr