We all get triggered. Maybe you’ve had a stressful day at work and we come home to find the kitchen a mess AGAIN. Maybe your partner yells at you and you can’t help but yell back. (By the way, that’s totally normal!) But pretty soon, you’re carried away in an argument and you’re more concerned with wanting to be right than feeling connected. For hours or days after, both people feel resentful and depleted. Trust me, I’ve been there! I remember criticizing Bruce for checking his phone while we were on a date by saying, “You’re so insensitive. Obviously you care more about facebook than me!” (just a bit overreactive ;-))
You may have heard the phrase: “You don’t have to show up to every argument you’re invited to.” I believe that every action is an act of love or a cry for love. I wanted to be able to show up and be loving to myself AND Bruce when we were upset, but I kept getting angry and critical. It took me consistent practice, but eventually I was able to show up in a loving way, and I share a few useful tips below:
1) When you’re not triggered, imagine how you WANT to respond when you feel upset. Do you want to be able to say your feelings and needs in a loving way instead of being critical? Do you want to be able to respond to being yelled at with a firm yet empathic response? What action would make you proud of yourself, because its rooted in your highest values, like love, freedom, creativity, or playfulness? Imagine yourself being that way, engaging all of your senses. What would that look like, and feel like? I knew I wanted to be able to feel compassion for my feelings and state my needs in a loving way. I wanted to say something like, “I’d LOVE it if when we’re on dates, we give each other our full attention. Then I’d feel really connected to you. How does that sound?”
2) Create a reminder of that way of being that you look at regularly. You can make a post-it, a picture on the lock screen of your phone, or a phrase that you repeat to yourself when you meditate. I visualized myself every day with my heart open, giving and receiving love. I affirmed that I would respond with love, and I placed reminders around the apartment (I even tied a string around my wedding ring reminding me to respond with vulnerability instead of anger)
3) Practice Self Compassion. I teach about how to use compassion to identify the positive message underneath negative emotions in this post. It takes 30 days to build a new habit. If each time you feel a challenging emotion, you give yourself compassion, you’ll be able to feel upset and state your feelings and needs in a way that doesn’t cause a fight. It took consistent practice, but now I can respond with love, even when I’m triggered. (There’s an iphone app called iGrok with feelings and needs on it, and I’d look at it when I was upset, and give myself compassion instead of blaming him! Ok I’m a nerd 😉
4) When you feel triggered, take 5 deep breaths, intend to relax your body, and ask yourself, “What am I feeling, and what am I needing?” How can I tell my partner what I need in a loving way, instead of fighting? Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Imagine telling them this, and ask yourself, “How would I feel hearing that?” This way, you communicate what you need, in a way they can hear you.
I’d love to hear from you! How do you react when you get triggered? How do you want to respond instead? How do these steps work for you? Leave a comment in the space below 🙂