30 June, 2009

Getting Triggered

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about triggers (also called “hooks”).  Triggers are thoughts, memories, events, words, or actions - - that when exposed to - - trigger, or hook us, causing an emotional upset.

We are never triggered by the content of things happening to us today, but rather because of things that happened in the past.  And, those triggering events came to reside in us only because of situations we were in that we were unable (due to our immaturity of age or mind, or due to great emotional turmoil, etc.) or unwilling to be with.

Today, when we get triggered by someone else’s words or actions, we need to stop and consider that we are being triggered by our pasts, and not by the current situation.  We have a predisposition to react (not respond) when we are triggered.  Our predisposition is to react out of anger, rebellion, despair, or some other emotion that isn’t even appropriate to the situation at hand.  But we don’t always see that because when we get triggered, our thoughts and feelings take us back to the past and we react out of feelings about that past triggering event.

So, we are left with two goals here.  The first is to recognize when we are getting triggered and ask ourselves, in the moment, if we can give up our emotional reaction in order to respond appropriately to the situation at hand.  The second is to locate that triggering event and relive it.  Do this with someone you trust.  Close your eyes and describe the event or memory.  Feel any bodily sensations.  Feel your emotions surrounding that event.  Listen to what you are thinking regarding that memory and relay all of this, out loud, to your friend.  Let your feelings come out about that event.  Sometimes this will be crying.  Other times it will be anger or another emotion.  Your friend needs not say anything but simply be there as a sounding board.  By reliving the event, and now dealing with it with the maturity of an adult, you will be able to allow that memory its release and it will no longer have a hold over you.

29 June, 2009

Our Choices Give us Power

How many times have you heard someone say (or, have you said), “S/he made me feel angry/upset/like I don’t matter!”?  Our humanity is thrown to always make another responsible for our feelings or what we get in life.  So, this may not be a popular thing to say, but the truth of the matter is: No one can ever make you feel any certain way.

You may now be thinking, “But when so-and-so said or did X, it made me feel Y.  I didn’t choose that.”  Yes, you did.  You choose the feeling you felt and you continue to choose it!

We need to understand that we are our own masters.  We choose where we go, what we do, the jobs at which we work, the people we talk to, the things we say, the feelings we feel, and the things we think in response to what others say.

We would like to make others responsible for all of these things and then we wouldn’t bear any responsibility in the matter.  Nor, would we be able to steer our own lives in the directions we want them to go.  In many ways, it’s much easier to sit back and just be at the affect of everything and everyone.  However, being at the affect of someone (or something) else isn’t a powerful place for us to stand.  Being at the affect of something actually removes all power from us.  If we don’t choose where we are or how we feel, then our feelings are given to us.  Acting out of a place of “no-choice”, gives us absolutely no power in the situation and no say-so as to the outcome.

“But,” you say, “I didn’t have a choice.”  Again, I’m going to assert that you did have a choice and that you always have a choice.  Let me demonstrate with an example from my life.

Doctors found in November 2007, that I had been born with a bicuspid aortic valve.  Simply put, I was born with two flaps on my valve instead of three.  At the same time, they found an aneurysm on my ascending aorta that was 9cm.  The aneurysm was life-threatening and would require a quick surgical response.  The valve, also, needed to be replaced as it was weakened and was allowing blood to flow back into my heart.  The choice I was given was to have open-heart surgery to replace the malformed valve and to repair the section of the aorta where the aneurysm was.  I chose to have the surgery. 

You might be thinking now that I had no choice in the situation.  I had every choice.  I could choose to have the surgery or I could choose to not have the surgery.  One might argue that surgery was my only choice if I wanted to live.  That may be true.  However, don’t get the likely outcome of a choice confused with the choice itself.

I chose to have a surgery where my ribcage was cut and then spread open, my heart and lungs were stopped and my body put on life support machines, my core body temperature was taken down to 15 degrees (F), and I had my valve replaced with a mechanical valve and the aneurysm repaired.  Any part of that surgery had a certain percentage chance of going wrong.  And I had some percent chance of dying on the table.

My choice to have surgery had nothing to do with the outcome of the surgery.  Arguing that I would have most likely died without the surgery is a valid argument.  Arguing that I could die during the surgery is also a valid argument.  It doesn’t matter in life if you only have one option given to you in a circumstance.  You still have a choice.  You can choose the option that is before you or you can not choose that option.  The choice is yours - - and it is a choice!  To have your life’s actions and feelings not be your choice is the most un-empowering position you could ever take.

If I live my life at the affect of others, I have no power.  I simply wait around for the next interaction so that my feelings can be given to me.  Once I have them, then I know how I feel!  On the other hand, if I choose how I’m going to feel, prior to any interaction with another, I am not swayed by the thoughts, emotions, or words of others.  Instead, I choose my own happiness.  I don’t have to wait for someone else to come along and give happiness to me.

I have a simple request with today’s blog:  Re-read this blog until the message sinks in.  Then, choose powerfully, to have what you have.  Don’t choose to be a victim and don’t choose to be at the affect of others.  Instead, make yourself responsible for choosing your own feelings and choosing your destiny.

26 June, 2009

Our Interactions are Shaped by our Perceptions

Perception is one of the tools of communication we have which allows us broader access and insight to the true feelings of those around us. 

We sometimes overlook the power of perception in our daily lives but it absolutely shapes the color of our interactions with others, the quality of our lives, and our willingness to take action on behalf of another.

We all have powers of perception when it comes to “reading” others.  We perceive people to be upset, to be dangerous, to be lighthearted and fun to be around, and to be serious and void of humor.  These perceptions come from others physiological (body) language (standing with open or crossed arms, smiling or frowning, eyes are bright or eyes are glazed, etc.) as well as their tones of voices and inflections of speech more so than in the actual words that they say.

While perception is a valuable tool for us to use in our communications with others, there is a particular trap we often fall into when it comes to perception.  Let’s say that you’re meeting someone for the first time.  It’s been said that first impressions are the most important.  Why do you think that might be?

When we meet someone for the first time, we file away general information about that person in our memory.  Most of us will at least remember the person’s face.  Some will remember the person’s face and their name.  But all of us will remember what we perceived about that person.  We will remember if we liked them.  We will remember what kinds of signals they were sending with their physiological language and other non-verbals - - and by these we will remember if they were enjoyable to be around and whether or not we felt that they liked us.  We will remember if we were offended by anything they said.  And so on, and so on…..

The trap that this creates for us is that we begin to “know” that person by what we remembered from our first encounter.  That’s not to say that those impressions cannot be changed over time.  However, the next time we are in the company of that person, we choose the words we speak, the information we share, and convey back our overall feelings about that individual based upon our past perceptions of the person.

This trap, however, isn’t reserved for people we’ve just met.  It also interferes with people we’ve known for a long time. 

People can and do change.  And, people transform.  My perception about my supervisor at work might be that he isn’t sympathetic to others when they are sick.  He’s never sick and he doesn’t have empathy for others when they are.  However, let’s say that he eats some tainted shell-fish one Friday night and he becomes very sick.  By Monday, he’s recovered enough to return to work and he can hide the fact that he’s been ill.  Neither I, nor any of my fellow employees, know that our boss was sick over the weekend.  Now, unbeknownst to any of us, through his own experience, my boss has developed an empathy for others when they are sick.  But since I don’t know that, I still relate to him as if he were a tyrant when it relates to illness. 

The following Wednesday, I wake up really sick with a stomach flu.  I go to pick up the phone and call my boss but all I can think about is how he has related to me in the past when I was sick and how difficult this is going to be for me to call out of work.  I try to think of other excuses.  I try to determine if I can push through this and make it.  This whole time, I am operating in the trap known as “preconceived notions” as given by the perceptions I have about my boss in the area of sickness.  I’ve gotten myself so worked up that I’ve gone over what our verbal exchange might be when I call in and talk to him.

Finally, feeling that I’m armed as well as can be, I call my boss to inform him that I will be out of work that day due to illness.  He thanks me for calling and tells me that he hopes I get to feeling better soon.  “What?!!!?!,” I think as I hang up the phone.  That wasn’t my boss.  I proceed to ponder over it for awhile and then chalk-it-up as a one time thing.  I continue to relate to my boss as an uncaring, unsympathetic human being.

That is an example of the trap of perception at work.  If we only relate to others as we “know” them to be, we never leave room for them to change, grow, or transform.  They can only “be” who we perceived them to be.  And, in our worlds, once they do change, we don’t see it because we’re never looking for it.  We’re only looking for the evidence of what we “know” to be true about them.  And, we will always find the evidence we are looking for to support our assumptions / perceptions about others. 

In order to compensate for this “trap of perception”, we must give up, anew, our previous perceptions about a person each time that we interact with him or her.  Only then, do we allow another the space s/he needs to be fully self-expressed as who s/he is, in the present.

25 June, 2009

Our Worlds are shaped by our Perspectives

Perspective is a very powerful thing.  Our moods are given to us by the perspectives we assume.  Our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions are all driven by the perspectives from which we choose to live our lives.

We sometimes overlook the power of perspective in our daily lives.  But, it is the absolute framework for the quality of our lives.  Our perspectives determine our willingness to take action in any given situation.  If we believe we are unbreakable, our perspective will lead us to take risks, ask for things that others won’t, and attempt things that others may shy away from.  If we believe ourselves to be broken, our perspective will keep us from easily making friends, prevent us from requesting anything from another for which the answer might be “no”, and stop us from taking any action at which we might ultimately fail.

We must make every effort to vigilantly remember:  the perspectives we assume provide the context for which the content of our lives shows up. 

As an example, if you have the perspective that you are unlovable, the only context in which people can show up for you is in a space of unloving.  In that space of unloving, any given person’s actions will be used to prove to yourself that you are incapable of being loved - - regardless of how benign the action might have been.  [Remember: We always find proof of what we’re looking for.  If we’re looking for proof that people are dangerous, we will always find proof of it in their words and actions.  If we’re looking for proof that people are loving, we will always find proof of that in their words and actions.]

Last week I needed to be at a specific place at a specific time.  I left the house late.  As I was driving, I became very aware of my thoughts and feelings.  I was tense.  I was irritable.  I was in an upset and everyone else who was driving in my path was doing so incorrectly.  I was making all of the driving actions they took about me.  If someone pulled into my lane ahead of me, they were inconsiderate and oblivious to the fact that I was in a hurry.  Quickly, I regained consciousness and choose a new reality - - a new perspective.  I thought:

When I believe that I’m going to be late, I get upset and everything that happens is wrong…..it’s like the world’s conspiring against me.  However, if I didn’t have to be anywhere at a specific time and I were just out running errands, everything would be great and the actions that other drivers took would (of course) not be about me.  In fact, they would be of little consequence to me.

I didn’t take the perspective that I wasn’t going to be late.  I was pretty certain that I would be and lying to myself about that would not be the best solution.  Instead, I said to myself, “OK, I’m going to be late.  There is nothing I can do to change that.  All I can do is communicate my impending lateness to the party concerned and allow myself to be with the fact that I will be late.”  Hurrying, driving recklessly fast or taking risks in my car where not actions that I wanted to take.  Instead, I simply allowed myself to be with the fact that I would be late and I was able to easily switch gears back to a “running errands” type of driving mood - - no hurry, nothing wrong, no irritability.  

You choose what you want in life.  No one chooses that for you.  Don’t get into a rut of thinking that you’ve been given your perspectives in life.  You may have had certain influences (such as your parents or guardians) in your life, but you chose the perspectives by which you live your life.  And you now have the power to freely choose different perspectives - - ones that empower you to live your best life.

24 June, 2009

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

In order for the caterpillar to become a butterfly, it must first give up its form.  It cannot be attached to looking as it currently does and still transform.  I like to think of the difference between change and transformation as follows:

Change is “to make different in some aspect.”  Or, in other words, “to alter an existing thing.

Transformation is “giving up one form for another (such as giving up being an orange for being an apple).”  Or, in other words, “to become something entirely different.”

Transformation can only occur when we give up being what we believe ourselves to be.

If we want to transform ourselves into loving human beings, we can do that…..but only after giving up “knowing” ourselves in our predispositioned way of being - - as beings of judgment.  If we give up being judgmental, we can become understanding, and by that avenue we can become loving individuals.

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