It can be difficult to identify when we've been triggered. We can get lost in a storm of emotions, losing sight of who we are and which way is up. Sometimes we can make some sort of sense of how we feel; other times we are feel like a complete mystery to ourselves.
Let's break down a process that can help.
Feeling overwhelmed, panicked, numb, depressed, angry? Avoiding something? Can't think straight?
It's normal to experience overwhelming feelings sometimes. It's ok to get triggered by what someone else says or does. It's ok to have no flipping idea why you feel the way you do. The art is in working through it compassionately with yourself to help you reconnect with YOU, integrate, and regain a sense of steadiness amidst whatever turbulence is going on.
And only YOU can offer this kind of stability for yourself.
Navigate Big Emotions + Triggered States
1) ACKNOWLEDGE HOW YOU FEEL
First thing to do is acknowledge however you're feeling. Stop everything you're doing and identify it to the best of your ability. If you don't have time, make time to do it later. "I don't know how I feel" isn't going to cut it. Turn toward whatever you're feeling, try to get a good (and compassionate) look at it, and identify what it is.
It could be: fearful, distrusting, empty, heavy, panicked, avoidant, confused, grief-stricken, lonely, etc.
DO NOT JUDGE IT. Let it be whatever it is. The more you judge it, the more you get lost in feelings about it.
2) ACCEPT HOW YOU FEEL
You will be powerless to it until you accept it. This is a MUST. If you can't accept your own feelings, they have no capacity to come to light and dissipate. You avoiding them and judging them keeps them locked into position. Plus it just feels a whole hell of a lot better when you can allow yourself to feel however you feel.
It could be: "I see you, feelings. I fully accept you. I'm sorry you've been feeling this way. It's going to be ok. It's ok to feel this way."
3) OBSERVE HOW YOU FEEL
Now that you've identified your feelings and you've found some acceptance for them, you can really observe them. They come more clearly into view as you hold a nonjudgmental and compassionate space for them. They just want to be felt and seen so that they can keep moving and transform into something else. When you are the observer, you are no longer PART of the emotion. This is extremely helpful. Observe the feelings, be kind to them, but there is no need to become them entirely.
It could be: "How does this feel? What does it look like? Where do I feel it? Where is it coming from?" Just watch the feelings, notice them, let them do what they do.
4) ASK WHAT YOU NEED
It's time to talk to these feelings and triggered states. This can be tricky and difficult because it's easy to get swept back up in it. However, the more you practice, the better you'll get and the more your inner child/wounded states will thank you. I developed my own method for this that works for me. You will have to figure out what works best for you. But make it a priority- this is how you build a loving relationship with yourself.
It could be: "Hi "X" feeling, hi inner child. I see you. I can feel how you've been feeling. What do you think you need today? What would help you to feel better? What words of encouragement or kindness do you need? I am totally here for you. I'll do whatever you need. You don't have to feel "X" way anymore. I'm here to help you."
Don't rush the process. It can be a little confusing at first. But as you clearly differentiate your higher self/parental self from these fractured parts of you, you gain the clarity and guidance to help them however they need to be helped.
Dr. Cailin O'Hara, DACM, LAc, Dipl OM, is a nationally board certified doctor of Chinese medicine, acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist.