I love getting emotionally triggered.
I mean, I don’t love it like I want more of it. It’s more like a failed experiment. It kind of sucks but you gather lots of good information.
It’s never about what the other person did or who is right or wrong. It’s really just about me. My emotional response reveals everything I need to know about what is going on in my own mind. So I like to take a pause as soon as I can and dig around to find out what’s going on beneath the emotional surface, so I can react differently next time.
Here’s an example of something that happened to me recently.
I was at a concert and this was a band I was super excited to see. But I was feeling agitated for some reason. It didn’t make any sense. I was having a strong negative reaction to the lead singer. What the heck? Who even cares? I don’t know that guy.
The feeling kind of lingered for the rest of the show and I didn’t get to processing it until the next day. What was it about him that bugged me so much?
Step one for me is to figure out what I am feeling.
I try to be very precise about this, because it helps me get to the root a little quicker. What was the emotion? Irritation? That didn’t feel quite right. Disappointment. No. Disgust. Yep, it was disgust.
Step two is to determine what is triggering that particular emotion.
That was easy. It was arrogance. I caught an arrogant vibe off the guy and my response was disgust. I stepped back for a minute to survey my history and this seemed to be a patterned response. Why was I so triggered by arrogance?
Here’s step three.
What does this reaction say about ME? I often try to turn it around on myself as a test. That’s because when I am triggered, it is sometimes by a characteristic that I fear I have or fear being judged as having. Okay. Instead of “I am disgusted by his arrogance,” I try on, “I am disgusted by my own arrogance.” No, that didn’t seem to be the source this time.
So I decided to dig into arrogance a little. What is arrogance anyway? Well, there’s some self-absorption in it. I KNOW that is something that I react negatively to in other people. But it felt like there was more to it.
And then I got it. Rejection. Arrogance contains a little bit of rejection, doesn’t it? It feels like receiving the message that you are not good enough. It feels like the other person is saying, “You are not as fill-in-the-blank as me. I refuse to connect with you. I’m better than you.”
I’d been feeling rejected, not only for myself but on behalf of the entire audience. Here we were, fans showering him with love and admiration, and he wasn’t sending love back at us. Ouch.
Now, I can hear the should in there. He’s supposed to be grateful and gracious. That’s just my own assumptions tripping me up though. He can do whatever he wants. The exercise is for ME. I want to have a different response when I come in contact with arrogance. Right? It’s never about avoiding rejection. It’s about not allowing rejection to cut you. It’s about knowing rejection doesn’t have anything to do with who you are and your self-worth.
Now that I can see it, I can understand my reaction better. All I want is to know myself well enough to sit with arrogance (or any other characteristic) and be completely okay. How I do that is by taking these beautiful opportunities and digging into them. My emotions are awesome indicators of my internal programming. Even when they don’t feel good, I try to welcome them in so that I can learn from them.
You can do this, too.
The next time you feel something, play along.
- What are you feeling? Name it. Get specific.
- Why are you feeling that way?
- What does this tell you about YOU?
There is so much information to be uncovered when you say yes to the investigation. Added bonus: Those “negative” emotions now have a purpose. They show up to teach you about YOU!