2020: A Horribly Terrific Opportunity – Part II
This is the second installment of a three-part series discussing the horribly terrific opportunity that is 2020. In the first post, I explained how the huge emotional triggers of this year are touching on deeper areas of pain and unmet need in our lives. We think the primary issues are COVID, racial unrest, a major election, riots, etc., but these events are just poking at existing pain that lives inside of us. These events can be thought of as “triggers,” and they are producing strong emotional reactions. We defined a trigger as an irrational response to a rational or irrational person, situation, or circumstance. The more rational the person, situation, or event, the harder it can be to spot that you are triggered. We know that we are triggered when we are no longer “OK”. “OK” being defined as clear-minded, tenderhearted, and at peace. Another great indicator of being triggered is when you have lost the ability to have compassion for yourself and others. The parting homework was to practice learning to recognize when you are triggered.
Well, how did the homework go? Were you able to recognize times when you were triggered in the distant or not so distant past? Learning to recognize when you are triggered is the most important step in this process, simply because it is the first step. From my personal experience, I was completely unable to do this until I had the language to describe what was happening to me. If I were triggered and got into an argument with my wife or children, I would feel great shame and be mad at myself. I would think about how I would have to try harder not to do that again. Understanding the brain science and how in a triggered state I lost access to my adult sophisticated (frontal lobe) brain and that my child or primal brain took over was tremendously freeing. Could it be that I was not truly a horrible person, but just a hurting one? I did not for a minute look at this newfound knowledge as an excuse for my sometimes very poor behavior. But instead, I looked at it as a great source of hope that I was onto something that could profoundly change my life.
As a Christian, one of my great sources of frustration was my inability to live the life the Bible described was available to me. The Bible tells me I am a new creation…. the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17). Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Christian life to be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That is a powerful list! I was bewildered and ashamed of how I possessed so few of these fruits on a consistent basis. A fruit is something that needs to be cultivated. The process I will now outline is how to cultivate the fruit described in Galatians 5:22-23. Every single human being on this planet has the seeds for this fruit already living inside of them, it just needs to be cultivated so it can grow. This fruit is the essence of who God created us to be.
The Remote Control Exercise (©Laura Duncan)
When I began working with Laura Duncan, an emotional health consultant in Redding, CA, one of the first things I learned was an exercise she developed called the Remote Control Exercise. It is a five-step process that serves as the “X” factor to help you drill down and see what is taking place at a heart or soul level. Think of it like going to the gym accept instead of building up your body, you are building up your soul. This process is how you fight the battle FOR your heart. Here are the five steps:
- Pause the trigger –
Pretend you have a remote control in your hand and hit the “pause” button. At this moment you cannot get anything from the person, situation, or circumstance that has triggered you. One of the biggest challenges in this step is to turn off blame. Blaming does nothing to take care of your heart. It feels good for a moment but leaves your heart aching.
- Connect to what you are feeling –
Identify your reaction emotions. Examples include angry, overwhelmed, out of control, desire to give up, frustrated, hopeless, etc. Take the time to let yourself feel these.
Identify your tender emotions. Underneath these big reaction emotions lies the truth of what you are really feeling. All these big emotions funnel down to just a few “soft” emotions. They are sad, scared, or lonely. Spend some time letting yourself feel these. You must feel to heal.
This part was very difficult for me at first. I spent a lot of my life trying not to feel. I do not think I am unusual in this. I saw feelings and strong emotions, especially the tender ones listed above, as weakness. Instead of allowing my heart to feel them, I instead adapted coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms function like medicine. Work, exercise, and even my faith served as forms of medication for me. In my teenage and young adult life, alcohol could be added to that list. As humans, we are averse to pain, and allowing ourselves to feel these emotions can be tremendously painful. The list of ways we have devised to avoid “feeling” is extensive. In a future blog, I will discuss this in more detail as well as pharmaceutical interventions. In some cases, these can be helpful, but they can also be detrimental if they decrease your motivation to go after the pain source.
- What do you need?
There are ten basic needs that we all have. When I learned this, they were presented as being “10 Gifts” because they are given to us by the people in our lives. Use this list of ten to evaluate what you are needing in the moment:
- to be seen
- to be heard
- to know you are enough
- to be accepted
- to be provided for
- to be protected
- to be played with
- to be taught or instructed
- to be valued
- Show Yourself Compassion
Compassion is the ultimate healing agent. As mentioned earlier, we can medicate our pain in a lot of different ways, but it is compassion that brings true healing. This was also extremely difficult for me at first. We need to learn to speak to ourselves in the same way we would a young child. If they were scared or had gotten hurt how would you comfort them? What would you say? Another major help was looking back at pictures of myself when I was a child. In this step, I challenge myself to think about how old the trigger is making me feel. The bigger the trigger the younger I am. (This further helps me understand how two grown adults can argue and carry on like toddlers. I know we have all seen this and I am sure if we are brave enough to admit we have done it too lol!) I found some old picture albums and I looked at the pictures until I truly connected to the fact that I was looking at myself……until I knew that I knew that the little man in the pictures was truly me and that I am still him. In many ways, the young boy in the pictures is a truer reflection of the real me than my adult self is today. It is easier to have compassion for a child, so this exercise is a wonderful ice breaker. Below is a list of compassion phrases that when spoken over yourself have a tremendous amount of power to heal.
I see you trying so hard
I am proud of you
I am sorry you feel sad
I am sorry you feel alone
I am sorry you feel scared
I can tell you care so much
Take all the time you need
You are going to be ok
I will sit with you until you feel safe
I value you
I am sorry you feel trapped
I think you are brave
I don’t want to get rid of you
I don’t see you as broken
I see you
I enjoy you
- Unpause your trigger. How does it feel now?
As you work through this process and learn to apply comfort, the impact of the trigger on your eternal world will decline dramatically. You will also be empowered knowing that you can be “OK” even when it is not “OK” all around you.
Remember, 2020 is an opportunity. It is a gift. It is exposing issues inside of us that we simply cannot run from any longer. This week I received extra motivation when one of my children shared how my triggered response was hurtful to her. Hurting people, hurt people and sometimes it is the ones we love the most that bear the brunt. Ultimately, we are learning to take care of ourselves for our own sake, but a wonderful side benefit is that those we love the most will get to see more of who we truly are and not just our triggered responses. Take some time to practice the Remote Control Exercise. Enjoy the journey 😊!!
In our next blog, I will share some of my personal examples using this exercise.