Orlando Counselor Providing Mindfulness Counseling for Emotional Triggers
You did it again. You got swept up in emotions and reacted like a jerk. Last time you got swept up in emotions, you promised yourself you wouldn’t overreact again. Even with a resolve to be better, you got hijacked by your own reaction again. And now you feel like total crap!
“Why can’t I just stop reacting like this?” you think to yourself, while metaphorically banging your head against the wall. Not only do you have the reaction to deal with, you now have to deal with the guilt and shame that comes out of another failed attempt to act differently.
As an anxiety and trauma counselor providing counseling in Orlando, many of my clients struggle with being emotionally hijacked.
When the emotional reaction doesn’t seem to fit the situation, in other words, you have an overreaction to a situation, you’re emotions and reactions are tied up in the past somehow. You’ve stumbled upon an area that needs some healing work. That work is best done with a compassionate and experienced therapist. In the meantime, though, I have created a mindfulness tool to help you exit the dreaded pattern of emotional overreaction.
I love acronyms, so the name of this little jewel is Choose PEACE. Wouldn’t you rather chose peace, than fall in back into the habitual pattern of emotional overreaction, guilt, and shame?
P is for PAUSE (and breathe)
When you start to feel yourself getting geared up, pause and take a deep inhale and an even longer exhale. This sends the signal to your nervous system to settle. It also shifts you out of the automatic response that has held you hostage for so long. Bring a gentle and kind awareness to what is happening in your body. It’s likely your body is ramping up to defend and attack. Send a compassionate breath to the tension in your body and let go of the tightness on your exhale.
E is for EMOTION
If you’re dealing with a habitual reaction, it is likely you have several emotions happening at once, so I encourage you to spend a few moments here making room for different feelings to emerge. Start with the most obvious emotions, anger, rage, irritation, or agitation. Compassionately acknowledge these difficult emotions by saying to yourself, “This is really hard to feel all of this anger.” Under the very energetic and reactive feelings are usually some softer ones like hurt, disappointment, fear, sadness, or loneliness. See if you can find these more vulnerable emotions that live under the reactive feelings. With gentleness and maybe even with a tender touch, one hand on the belly and one hand on the heart, say to yourself, “I notice some sadness here.”
So often, we run away from, rather moving toward difficult emotions. I encourage you to have an open and gentle relationship with the difficult emotions that all of us humans feel. For more mindfulness practice on working with difficult emotions, I encourage to visit Kristin Neff’s practice of Soften, Soothe, Allow.
A is for ASSIGNED MEANING
When there is a habituated response, a part of you has assigned it a meaning, and it’s usually something negative about yourself. This part of the Chose PEACE process takes self-reflection and is sometimes best explored with a trusted friend or a therapist. There needs to be the ability and the willingness to look for and find the meaning that you have assigned to the situation. Internally, this can be a story your mind has created that feels antagonistic toward yourself.
Examples of meaning that are often assigned in habituated responses are: I am not important to them. I am not valuable. My needs aren’t important. I am threatened and not safe. I am not respected. I am broken. I am not supported. I am trapped. I am powerless.
C is for COMPASSION
After you find the meaning you have assigned to the situation, extend yourself some self-compassion. It is difficult to feel unimportant, not valuable, or like your needs aren’t important. Have some tenderness for the part of you that is having this experience. When you’re experiencing a habituated response to something, you have a wound that needs tending to, whether you remember getting the wound or not.
Additionally, being held hostage by a habituated reaction makes us feel powerless and out of control. Go easy on yourself. Have a soft and gentle approach with yourself while you are sorting all of this out. “It is really hard to feel powerless over my own reactions. I am going to go easy on myself while I am learning to have a different response.”
Have compassion for the “offender” in this situation. Take a minute to consider their perspective and what they might be going through in the moment. Internally, extend them a little gentleness for their struggles. Compassion is like the softening the edges to the way you relate to yourselves and to others, remembering, we’re all doing the best we can at any given moment.
E is for EXIT PATTERN
Do something, anything different. Do the opposite of your normal reaction. If you normally lean in and argue, then walk away. If you normally yell, turn on the radio and listen to music. I suggest you make a list of things you can do that will be different than your usual reaction. In the meantime, I have started a list for you here:
Listen to music
Smell something that has a nice scent
Wash your hands
Look at photos
Watch funny videos
Take a drink of water
Look for the color purple inside and outside
Feel the textures around you
Write a journal entry
List all the colors you see right now
Call a friend
Pet your dog
To get the most mileage out of this practice, I suggest you pick a recent upsetting event and reflect on it by journaling through the steps above or bring it into your mindfulness practice. After you practiced Chose PEACE as a tool for self-reflection, then I suggest using it on the fly during an upsetting event. Doing so will help you slow down and offer you the ability to respond, rather than react.
Here’s a recap for quick reference for Choose PEACE:
PAUSE (and breathe)
If you’re finding it difficult to change your response despite mindfulness practices, such as this, don’t be too hard on yourself. You have some wounds from the past that are being triggered by the situation. You just need to get some extra support from a trained therapist.
More on Mindfulness and Difficult Emotions
If your interested in other mindfulness practices to help with emotions check out these:
RAIN by Tara Brach
Soften, Sooth, Allow by Kristin Neff.
More on Mindfulness and Anxiety
If you are interested in mindfulness tools for coping with anxiety, check out these related posts:
Lauran is an anxiety and trauma therapist providing counseling in Orlando, FL. She also specializes in helping people heal old broken relationship patterns that keep them from finding, creating, and keeping healthy relationships with partners, friends, and family. Lauran uses a down to earth approach infused with cutting-edge therapies that go beyond traditional talking to help clients feel calm in their body and mind and find peace within themselves.