#127 Identify Your Triggers

In order to change anything – we need to be aware and know what needs to be changes and so to improve our reactions it is imperative that we make an effort to know our triggers.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#127

Identify Your Triggers

Defined

An emotional trigger is something that provokes you. It may be a person, an opinion, a situation, or an environmental condition. When we are ‘triggered’, we generally REact emotionally – often with a defensive behavior. We experience a swell of emotion and it may or may not be specifically connected to the experience at hand.

Discovery

In order to properly manage your emotions, it’s imperative that you know what your triggers are. Ninety-nine percent of the time, our triggers are based in fear. Fear of losing something, having less of something, or never having something – that ‘something’ being anything really… trust, respect, time, money, love, etc… When we understand ‘why’ we are reacting – managing our reactions is much – much easier.

Management

Once we know ‘why’ we get triggered we can learn how to communicate and manage our reactions. Often, it’s about learning how to be present – not allowing our histories to overrun the present moment. It’s about communicating our truest emotion – that thing we fear (i.e, not being loved, having enough time, etc…) By being aware of our immediate thought, engaging our breath, and making an intentional choice in our response, we can stand down those automatic responses that tend to stand at attention when we are triggered.

In order to change anything – we need to be aware and know what needs to be changes and so to improve our reactions it is imperative that we make an effort to ….

Identify our triggers.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#144 Give Up Your Favorite Beverage for a Day.

It’s a reminder to your psyche that YOU have authority over your actions.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#144

Give up your favorite beverage for a day.

If you happen to be reading this just as you move your favorite coffee cup up toward your nose, simultaneously enjoying the aroma and the bold flavor of liquid caffeine… I apologize. Yet – any negative reaction to the suggestion is further evidence that it may be just what you need.

We tend to get sewn into our habits and that morning cup of coffee, tea, lemon water, the evening frosty mug of beer, or the stemless glass of wine are easy habits to do without much thought or consideration; and that’s the danger. Some habits aren’t necessarily good for us. Indeed, it has been postulated that any  habit at all is rather detrimental if we have little awareness of it.

Perhaps the best part of making a decision to give up your favorite beverage for a day is the subliminal (or direct) understanding that YOU are in control of your being. It’s a reminder to your psyche that YOU have authority over your actions. Far too often I hear people say… “I couldn’t help it” or “I don’t even realize I am doing it” when it comes to habits. Paying attention to something as automatic as pouring a cup of coffee or a glass of wine helps you to raise awareness overall.

It’s a simple suggestion and a simple effort that helps you stay focused on the little things. Make a decision to…

Give up your favorite beverage for a day.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#162 Ask Friends and Family for Feedback

We have a deep seeded belief that if we bring attention to them, somehow people will think less of us.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#162

Ask Friends and Family for Feedback

One of the most basic tenets of self-awareness is to understand how you are perceived by people in your environment. There’s no better way to get honest feedback than to ask those who know you best. It’s one of the homework assignments that students in The Elevate Class complete and the results are always a major part of our coaching conversations.

Be Open

Being open to the constructive criticism that people share is a necessity. Your ability to hear their perspectives without feeling attacked or ‘bad’ can help you understand how you are perceived by others. Try to remember that people who love you offer a view that is shared from a place of acceptance; they love you – anyway! It’s always interesting to see things about yourself that can’t be seen from the inside out.

Changes

Not everything that is observed needs to be changed. You are who you are! If an observation suggests offensive behavior, of course you’ll want to consider how it is impacting someone you love and ask yourself if that’s what you’re goal is… It may be just something you want to stay aware of so that you can mitigate its negative impact – where applicable. Perhaps it is something that when changed, would benefit your relationship.

Seeing Ourselves

Sometimes, we look at something so long that we stop seeing it – having become so accustomed to its presence. The feedback we receive is important for a complete picture. If you’re concerned that the response may be too critical – qualify your request by asking this:

“Please offer gentle and constructive critique about my behavior/actions and how they impact our relationship: a mix of positive and negative observations would be appreciated.”

I suggest the response be written so that you can take time to consider their perspectives and your memory won’t be challenged in recalling the comments; email is fine… texting not so much.

Fear

The biggest pushback that I typically see to this suggestion is the fear we experience when we think that our faults are going to be highlighted. We have a deep seeded belief that if we bring attention to them, somehow people will think less of us. Interestingly enough – those traits are always exposed… just because we don’t acknowledge them, doesn’t mean they don’t show through. It’s always better to brave the exposure. Nothing changes if it stays packed away… even if no change is desired, keeping it out in front will make sure that it stays healthy.  So, give yourself an opportunity to grow and …

Ask friends and family for feedback.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

#176 Record Your Dreams

I know this postulation gives many of us pause as we recall some of the more bizarre dreams that when remembered – seem to come out of left field.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#176

Record your dreams

Sleep experts tell us that everyone dreams. Do you remember yours? Psychoanalyst Jeffrey Sumber suggests that dreams are the communication avenue utilized by our subconscious and our conscious selves. He posits that dreams are quite meaningful and will often help us process complicated or confusing emotions in a state that is safe and private.

Ditch the dream ‘dictionary’

I know this postulation gives many of us pause as we recall some of the more bizarre dreams that when remembered – seem to come out of left field. Why in the world would I dream about…. ? We’ve all wondered that question. Dream analysis isn’t a fixed science even though many representations are made as such. While it may be common for people who dream about drowning to be overwhelmed in some area of their lives, it is an inferred meaning – not a ‘fact’.

Currently, all things that happen at an unconscious level are still mysteries and psychologists are only making best guesses at the origin, purpose, and meaning of unconscious events. Clearly, there is a growing body of commonalities yet with dreams especially – it’s a personal event that is as unique as the individual him or her self.

First Step

If you are seeking information about your dreams, the first step is to keep a dream journal on your nightstand. Why there? Many of us forget our dreams within moments of waking unless we wake in the middle of or right after a dream. If we don’t take steps to implant the memory of the dream, it disappears because our brain doesn’t’ consider it necessary information. (Similar to noticing the people next to you at dinner but unable to describe them hours later.) Immediately upon waking… breathe deeply and recall your last known imagery and then write down as many details as you can recall. Generally, as we write we will remember more.

Meaning

Pay particular attention to ‘feelings’ in a dream. If you are engaging in an activity – consider what meaning you give that activity. Who is with you? What is their roll in your life? As it relates to the meaning of your dream – YOU are the expert. You’re the only one who can ultimately decode the messages as they are being sent to you -via imagery – from your subconscious to your consciousness.

After you’ve recorded elements from a number of different dreams – look for commonalities. Identify the events during your conscious day that may correlate to elements in your dreams.

Self Awareness

In this manner, you’ll begin to decode messages or processing strategy that your subconscious mind is working with. It’s fascinating to discover another layer of your psyche and promotes an even deeper level of self-awareness — always a great thing. If you’re curious, get a notebook and begin by…

Recording your dreams.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#191 Focus on Self-Awareness

Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire …

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#191

Focus on Self-Awareness

Some might think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, that ‘denial is safe’ yet living in a state of either can lead to rather dysfunctional coping and/or relating. As a psychotherapist, I find that a number of people entering my office are experiencing one or the other albeit, often unconsciously. Even though it may seem rather counter-intuitive – being ‘aware’ is the emotionally healthier option and so much of my work is to help people become “aware”.

Self Protection

If I could teach people in the world any one skill, it would be an ability to become self aware. It’s not necessarily an easy task! Sometimes, we don’t like what we see when we are able to see everything. That’s where avoidance and denial come into play – they protect us from seeing what feels bad. Who wants to feel awful about themselves?

No Judgement

The only reason we don’t’ want to ‘see’ these things is because on some level – we are judging them. Think about it. If you get a tattoo that you love but your mom hates – no problem. You like it so there’s ‘no judgment’. If you get one during a drunken stupor even though you’ve vowed never to ‘ink’ yourself, you may have a judgment about it and seek to cope with your own disappointment by creating a story that makes it ‘ok’ for you. The preferable scenario is that you simply accept both the drunken stupor and the impulse to get a tattoo without any negative feeling.

Frankly, regret is a waste of your emotional energy. For most of us, we do what we do in each moment because it makes sense based on what we know/feel – at that point in time!! And then, like Maya Angelou said “when you know better, you do better”.

Self-honesty

Even though it may be difficult, seeing yourself clearly – how you think, why you think and feel the way you do, why you engage and react in the manner that is common for you – those are important to know. Nothing changes unless you know it exists. Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire so if it works for you… it’s ok. However, if you are missing a piece of that link then a good hard look at YOU is in order. And since we are always changing in response to our relationships and our environment… it’s an ongoing process.

If your goal is to live with authenticity, then its imperative that you develop a lifelong goal to …

Focus on self-awareness.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It?

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power.

 

“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you can change ANYTHING in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

In the last couple of posts I’ve made the comment to “own” you stuff… your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. What does it mean really to ‘own’? I find that just saying it may not be enough, I find that we often need reminded what it is to ‘own’ because we don’t necessarily live in a culture where taking personal responsibility is front and center. We easily fall into patterns of ‘blame’.

At the turn of the century, the Jamaican reggae singer ‘Shaggy’ came out with a song entitled “It wasn’t me”… he was being given advice to deny his responsibility even though he had been caught red handed. Even the music we listen to seeks to reinforce methods of circumventing personal responsibility. We watch crime shows and movies that demonstrate how to ‘Get Away with Murder’ and we see Oliva Pope ‘fix’ problems that high level officials don’t want to be associated with. While I realize that those are fictitious stories on broadcast television, they seep into our subconscious and weep on patterns of blame whenever there is a chance.

“I can’t be happy because he….”, or “if she would change, everything would be ok.”… I hear people saying these things weekly. My response is always – “what about you?” “What is YOUR role in this?” Relationships are BETWEEN people and so every soul in the interaction has some level of responsibility in the dialogue; some level of input in the collaboration. Relationships by definition, are never one sided. Consequently – even if the only contribution is a RE-action… every person is engaged.

What would it look like if we all took responsibility for only OUR own behaviors?

What would it look like if we all stopped and reflected on what ‘I’ could do better or more effectively?

First and foremost… we have to be aware of what we are bringing to the table. What is it that ‘I’ am contributing to this interplay?

  • Am I being antagonistic?
  • Am I being supportive?
  • Am I being defensive?
  • Am I listening well?
  • Am I validating?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I saying what I mean?
  • Am I contributing positively?
  • Am I keeping score? Playing tit for tat?
  • Do I maintain my composure? My tone? My voice?
  • Have I kept my promises or vows?

YOU must be so self-aware that you know – and can admit – your role in any interaction or collaboration.

You must be so self-aware that you can recognize when you are deflecting (changing the direction or focus) – “oh yeah? Well when you ….” Or when you are defensive… “well, I did that because….” And when you aren’t listening – by interrupting. People who interrupt are NOT listening well.

I use these examples because they are usually easier to comprehend when it comes to relationships… we can each see ourselves in an interaction with another and notice when we contribute to the exchange.

In addition, we are also responsible for our own LIVES… no – we don’t control many of the things that happen but we DO control and need to take responsibility for the way that we respond to our lives. We need to OWN the decisions we make in response to our lives. Each of our actions generates a consequence which, ultimately means that we must own part of the consequence.

Ben and Sally went out for her birthday. Ben bought Sally a bunch of ‘shots’ and Sally got drunk. Sally tells her friend – “Ben got me drunk last night”. Ummm… not really. Unless Ben poured the shots down Sally’s throat… SALLY got herself drunk.

Our decisions, our actions, our behavior – determine how we are viewed in the world… they determine how we think of ourselves and they each become a part of our history… things that stay with us, literally forever. Every action becomes a memory that is imprinted on our soul. So… no wonder we may not ‘want’ to take responsibility. No wonder that we may not want to ‘own’ something that has already happened – something that we don’t necessarily want to be there forever…

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power. If I am a wife blaming my husband for his addictions or blaming the problems in our marriage on his demeanor… I am denying that I have the power for my own decisions… for my own change. I am denying that I have any control over my own life.

What do we need to take responsibility for? We need to take responsibility for our own life… for what happens in it. Did you just get fired? Why? Look at the questions I asked earlier … go through them one by one… could you have done a better job? Could you have been more communicative? Could you have put in more effort? If so… just acknowledge it. Yes –  your boss may have been a dick. The working conditions may have sucked but at the end of the day – it was more than likely the way YOU reacted to it… the way you responded that made the decision.

If my husband is unfaithful, I can blame him for not keeping a promise but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for how I RE-act. Will I be vindictive? Seek to hurt him the way that I am hurt? Will I go deep into the uglies? Some of that will – of course – simply be a human reaction but if I go there – no matter my reaction – no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me how to behave. ANY reaction is one that I will have to OWN. I will have to remember that when I look in the mirror – it will be there with me.

Be aware – constantly aware – of what you are willing to carry with you – for the rest of your life.

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Rebuild & Repair

There was a resurgence in our commitment to one another and in our desire to be together.

“Only in the shattering can the rebuilding occur.” -Barbara Marciniak

Hubby moved back in and we began rehabilitating our broken home. Recovering from infidelity is difficult for any couple. Rebuilding trust happens slowly – painfully slow at first. For the injured party, it is not uncommon for questions to linger, for visions of the indiscreet couple to overtake intimate moments, and for fear of more indiscretions to overwhelm typical days. The only true relief comes with time. I was no different in that regard. As much as I tried, I couldn’t erase the vision of Hubby and Dee in his office, or in her bedroom. I learned to shake my head quickly when these images flooded my frontal lobe; to think of something else. It was more difficult to settle my heart rate and respiration when he was a little late or didn’t answer his cell phone. I was automatically and instantly thrust into neurotic angst wondering where he was and who he might be with. I didn’t reason with myself or process the fear, it built into a frenzy and exploded upon him in the form of emotional vomit the minute he walked in.

Our therapist worked with him to be patient with me as I began to heal and I worked on acquiring better skills that allowed me to emote differently and to cope more effectively with the volatility of my feelings. I learned to journal. I would write my thoughts and their corresponding feelings whether they were rational or not. I had a lot going on in my mind every day and I had to figure out how to validate myself.  I started smoking again. Hubby never had quit through all my pregnancies and we were spending a lot of time outside on the deck talking. Many of those conversations were difficult and having a cigarette in my hand somehow helped. It gave me something to focus on and strangely, connected us again. When we were first married, both of us smoking, we would sit outside and talk well into the evenings. Our talking time had been significantly curbed after I got pregnant and stopped smoking. I wouldn’t sit outside with him mostly due to my aversion to cigarette odor but also because I was also annoyed that he was still a smoker. Now, it was just easier to join him. I was mad at myself for picking up such an undesirable habit again but it served a number of purposes – at least in my mind.

There was a typical honeymoon period where we were all ‘in love’ and ‘romantic’ again. There was a resurgence in our commitment to one another and in our desire to be together. Money was still really tight, especially now that we were spending a car payment amount of money on counseling. It was difficult for us to ‘go places’ or ‘do things’ due to budget restraints but we would just take a walk or plan a picnic lunch from time to time, which helped us stay focused on one another. I tried to make sure that there was good balance between the time I spent on home, family, work, and Hubby. I was successful some days, others… not so much. There are only so many hours in a day and I couldn’t figure out most days how to make it all happen. I still feared that if I wasn’t fixing this element in myself that he would just keep looking elsewhere. I lived with an underlayment of that fear Every. Single. Day.

In therapy, I was learning about self-care. She had helped me to see that I was in a co-dependent relationship characterized by three distinct elements:

  •             Attempting to please another person in an effort to garner love or affection
  •             Making excuses for another person’s bad behavior
  •             Constant support of my partner at the cost of my own happiness

She motivated me to start thinking of myself in a healthier way, to develop interests beyond my husband and family. She taught me to think about my needs and to discern what was important to me. One does not simply ‘change’ thirty years of habit overnight (although I didn’t realize that) and so I experienced a great deal of frustration in my pursuit of perfecting the changes I wanted to facilitate. I felt as though I was entering a period of self-discovery and indeed, it was a beginning.

Our pastor had been grossly supportive, offering additional counsel as needed and always had a smile, an approving hug, ready for us on Sunday mornings when we entered the building. On more than one occasion I was moved to tears as the sermon or the readings would touch on a scar or still sore mental spot if it pertained to forgiveness or family or on being a ‘good’ person. I was occasionally conflicted about the ‘trauma’ we had experienced as a family and the way that it had been ‘glossed over’ simply because no one knew. Hubby – understandably – wasn’t keen on people knowing he had cheated on his wife and I didn’t want people to think badly of him going forward. I had largely, suffered in silence. At least as far as our community was concerned but I did have family.

I had a tremendous amount of support in my life and I used their counsel frequently. My friends Michele, E., my mom, and surprisingly, my twin sisters. Technically, they are half-sisters as we have different fathers but we never used that terminology and I didn’t love them any less. I had been a part of their entire lives; from changing their diapers to working on high school term papers for them. They were turning twenty that year and transforming into really great young ladies. College hadn’t proven to be their vibe and so they demonstrated how hard working they were by holding down jobs in a variety of genres. Cellular phones were just becoming big business and they had an opportunity to participate via sales. They were spectacular! No one I was aware of knew more than they did about cell phones. It was fun to see them blossom into women. When they got to spend time with us, they brought fun and light into our home; we were always laughing. After years of having them visit as kids and then babysitters, it was great to experience them as adults. Our families were central forces in our life. Hubby’s family was closer in proximity and we saw them more often, but I was particularly close to my own. Even though it was a contemporary conglomeration of step-parents and half-siblings who lived far away from me, they all were the grounding strength of what drove and guided me.

We had a party that fall. We were putting ourselves back on track and it was the right time to celebrate not only Baby Em’s baptism but our renewed marital spirit. We invited everyone in both families and a number of distant friends. It was a time of leaf raking, wood stacking, and pumpkin eating. Everyone helped and it was easy. Love was abundant. I was proud of us. We were weathering the storm. We still went to therapy weekly but it had transformed from pain management to skill development in a short time frame. I believed that therapy had saved our marriage.