Let’s face it, most of us have family that triggers us. Now that the holidays are just around the corner, we can sense that our stress level is rising in anticipation of the family gathering.
Maybe you have in-laws that put you on edge because you secretly believe that they’re judging your every move. Maybe you have siblings that make snide comments at you or your children. Maybe seeing your parents makes you feel like you are seven years old again and aren’t allowed to have your own independent thoughts. With stressful anticipation, we unconsciously gear up defenses for the potentially unwanted interactions. When we are defending our vulnerable feelings, it’s hard not to feel reactive and forget our authentic self.
Let’s make an intention that this is the holiday season that you no longer react to your family’s behavior from a place of defense but respond from a place of authenticity.
To help you access your authenticity, try this practice in a safe place away from people that trigger you:
To start, remember a situation with the person that triggers you (or the person that you have a grievance with). Just notice what it is you are doing and feeling internally..
Notice how you’re preparing yourself (bracing, becoming more childlike, changing in personality traits like quiet vs boisterous, etc.) when you’re in the room with the family member that usually triggers you.
Then explore and get clarity on why you’re preparing yourself this way:
For example, if you’re bracing for an interaction with your mom, ask yourself what is it that you’re expecting her to do? Maybe you expect another demand? What are your typical reactions and feelings when that happens? Maybe your typical reactions is grudging agreement and you’re feeling frustrated. What else are you saying to yourself? Take some time to really explore within. What self-judgements are you really saying to yourself subconsciously? Maybe it’s “I’m not a good daughter”, “I’m not as successful as the rest of them”, “I can never please her”, “She never seems to get me”, or “I can’t be accepted as I am”.
Take several deep breaths and let those thoughts and feelings stay for a while – there’s no need to elaborate or diminish them. Let yourself stay with the feelings and sensation. After a while, let yourself notice the part of you that is aware of your feelings and sensation; the mind-sight that’s watching the thoughts and feelings. Fully notice that there’s another awareness in yourself that’s above your triggered feelings and judging.
From that other awareness, notice everything in your body that isn’t feeling those emotional triggers and self-judgement. You can usually find that in your toes, finger tips, and maybe your calves. Can you shift into that other awareness and view the person that’s causing your distress from that other awareness. Allow yourself to notice both your automatic inner responses to your triggers and that other awareness. Perhaps let yourself vacillate between the two states and simply notice what’s happening inside you. After a moment, let a new response naturally arise for the situation that typically triggers you.
How was that? Send me your insights and comments after you try this exercise at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.