Triggering Reactivity

We get triggered by people, situations, and events and find ourselves reacting in ways that, in the aftermath, we are ashamed of, know consciously to be ineffective or destructive, or that we thought we had outgrown. It can be disheartening, depressing, and cause us to feel hopeless, unmotivated, and angry at ourselves as well as others. At a very basic level, this is the basis of addiction. We want to ease the pain or stress that we are feeling! We revert, often without conscious thought, to old coping mechanisms. We just want to stop feeling the uncomfortable vibes or jitters that we experience when we come up against behavior, thoughts, or actions that trigger unconscious or subconscious reactions.

For example, why do some people overeat? Even when they know consciously that they are not hungry? Beyond the taste buds that give the message that whatever is being eaten is delicious, the unnecessary food is providing a balm to an uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps eating has become a way to stop feeling alone, worthless, and unloved for many of us. And it works, at least temporarily! For those few minutes while we are eating the comfort food, we feel soothed and less uncomfortable. The loneliness, the self-disparagement, and the feelings of being unlovable diminish in volume. 

This sets up a patterned way of dealing with uncomfortable emotions. Does the food have anything really to do with the feelings? No, it’s just a method of coping that seems to alleviate the pain of the emotions just long enough time for us to begin to feel some relief from the uncomfortable emotions. And that is one of the hallmarks of these coping mechanisms, they are temporary, and thus must be constantly repeated to regain a sense of emotional equilibrium.

Eating is not the only way to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Humans are inventive in their coping mechanisms! Alcohol, drugs, sex, abusive relationships, thrill seeking, self-abusive behaviors, angry outbursts, and inflicting physical, emotional, and verbal pain on others are other ways that people have found that relieve the stress of their emotional pain. But not all addictive behaviors are seen from the outside as negative!

Another example can be seen in people who seem to thrive and truly come alive only in times of crisis. They are there to help family, friends, and the greater community survive a threat or difficult time. These people become the saviors that others constantly call on for help. This rescue pattern can become so embedded in the rescuer’s psyche that they look for crisis situations to manage and, sometimes when it can’t be found, will create situations where their invaluable help is called on. This is not necessarily consciously recognized but when their assistance is not desperately needed, these individuals do not feel happy, fulfilled, or even alive. Again this is an addiction, albeit often seen in a positive way by the receivers of such assistance.

Being able to come to the rescue allows these people a way to feel valuable and worthy. Taken to a bizarre extreme, we witness the phenomena of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Although this syndrome is fairly rare, less extreme examples are all around us. If an individual was praised as a child only for their ability to maintain calm and offer assistance in an emergency, this becomes a way for the child to continue to find value with others and self. This is the way the child feels fully loved.

What do habitual unconscious reactions, built-in automatic responses, and addictive patterns have in common? Often they are the learned consequences to events that happened in the past. When we find ourselves challenged in the present, our past memories can cause us to react without even knowing we are being triggered. We bypass the conscious thought process of what might be the best way to respond to the challenge in the present by triggering an automatic resolution that has worked for us in the past. Reactively responding to a present situation always means we are functioning from our memories and past experiences. By clouding the present with filters from the past, we lose objectivity and may not clearly see the present situation. New ways of approaching any situation, whether challenging or trouble-free, can be missed because we are entrenched in the old pattern of thinking and cannot see the new solutions or opportunities.

There are currently a number of methodologies to help us rid ourselves of no longer useful emotional and mental patterns. But before we can avail ourselves of any method, we must be able to bring these unconscious and subconscious patterns to the surface. It has been posited that conscious thought is only about 10% of all the thinking and remembering we do. The vast majority of memories and thoughts are below the conscious level. This can be a major stumbling block. How can we become aware of what is not recognizable?

Generally, how we feel about ourselves and others will reflect any biases we may have embedded in our memories that cause a habitual emotional response. If we are unhappy with ourselves, attention needs to be paid to ferret out what circumstances seem to trigger negative self-talk. If we seem to have a “go-to” emotion such as anger towards others, what is the true source of the anger? What are our thought habits? Do we tend to catastrophize events and outcomes or do we anticipate positive results? Do we seem to repeat actions that do not give us our desired conclusions? What do we really believe about ourselves in terms of our potential, capability, worthiness, and loveability? All of the answers will be reflected in our lives on a physical, emotional, mental and energetic level.

If our existences are in harmony with what we want out of our lives, then chances are that we are not going to act from past experiences and will not respond reactively. On the other hand, if we are not happy with how we interact with family and friends; where we are in our careers; our health; our romantic partnerships then chances are that we are holding onto and acting from outmoded or false preconceptions.

Some scientists posit that we hold memories and, therefore, behavioral patterns in all of our cells not just in the brain. This is one reason why there is such interest in energy medicine healing methods such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Acupuncture, Energy Medicine, and The Healing Codes. By working with the body in ways that combine physical touch and activation, these methodologies can help to remove old ways of thinking and behaving by embedding new and more effective ways of functioning in the physical body as well as in the thinking mind.

Many individuals have found that unearthing old patterns through talk therapies alone have not done the job of removing the old habitual patterns. It certainly can help to bring awareness of old emotional templates but by going over old patterns repeatedly, sometimes individuals feel worse and can become even more stuck in the old ways of behaving and responding. Continually reliving past trauma can cause us to make the mental pathways in our brain that contain the trauma to become more entrenched.

We want to discontinue to think in those ways – to abandon the dendrite pathways that cause us to function in the old way. By taking the acquired awareness of what is below the surface (unconscious and subconscious thinking) and applying energy medicine techniques to clear the body of the old patterns, people can make remarkable changes in how they experience formerly troubling challenges. How and when they respond to a situation can become more considered and thoughtful and not a knee jerk reaction. By functioning without the filters of the past, an individual can operate from a more authentic place; from the standpoint of who they are in the present instead of who they were in the past. We stop limiting who we think we can be and begin to expand who we are capable of being. We begin to live in the present without the holdovers from the past.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

Summer Reflections

At some point each summer I start to feel a sense of melancholy. The summer scent of musty cut grass in the air makes me feel sad because I know that the long, warm, lazy days of ease will come to an end. Oh the summer is not over by a long shot! But I can hear and smell the passing of the season even as we are at the height of it.

Perhaps the melancholy is more acute as I grow older. I’ve had many cycles of seasons under my belt so perhaps I am more intensely aware of the passage of time. My beautiful and boisterous granddaughters bounce and jump around in the grass, ferreting out tiny pine cones in the trees, laughing at the bunnies who zigzag so as not to get caught, and plucking wild and domesticated flowers off willing branches to be presented as bouquets to their mom. They don’t notice the passage of time. They are in the thick of the moment. I watch their strong tanned limbs move with abandon and I remember how I felt when I was their age. I join my granddaughters in running across the field with arms out spread as if they are the soaring wings of angels.

I think of the plans I had for this season earlier in the year – what have I achieved and what still remains to be done? A sense of urgency emerges but it feels almost absurd. Why hurry, why worry, why fret? Summer is still here with its boundless possibilities and hopes! The sun is shining and there is still time, still opportunity, still serendipitous chance. And so I drink in the intoxicating nectar of the light, the animals and the birds, the smells, and the sounds. I feel the love emanating from people I care about and from the very earth itself.

The melancholy begins to lift.

It’s a bit like the ancient fable about the grasshopper and the ant. If we spend all our time worrying about the future, do we enjoy the present? If we spend all our time being in the moment, do we quickly become part of the past? Past, Present, Future. In a more modern context, if you are so busy taking that perfect snapshot with your cell phone, are you a participant or merely a record keeper? If you don’t take the photo, can you be sure that you will remember the moment?

Of course the key is balance – balance between work and play, enjoying the moment and planning for the future, between action and relaxation. But that balance can sometimes be elusive. If we get stuck believing that where we are is not where we are supposed to be, then we can’t be fully present. We may begin to feel frustrated or impatient or that we are losing out. We may even feel melancholy.

How do we balance it all while being fully present to each side of the equation?

I’ve learned that trusting in myself is a large part of the answer. Having faith that my inner voice will give me a sign or nudge when it’s time to transfer to the other side of the equation. I haven’t always believed that I would have that inner understanding available when I needed it. However, as I get older, I see that my intuition is usually reliable.

I’ve also learned that the more I listen and follow my inner voice, the more the rest of the world seems to echo that understanding. Opportunities arise that resonate with what my intuition is saying to me, making it easy to choose the path ahead. So while I can sense the passing of the summer even as I enjoy the delights of the season, I understand that this is the balance that occurs in all aspects of life.

 

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and wingWave©Coach. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

 

© 2018 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.