Perhaps one of the most valuable insights we can have about ourselves is the impact that our habitual behavioral patterns have on others. Sometimes we unnecessarily set off an unwanted emotional chain reaction that changes the mood and energy of a situation in a negative way.
When we get triggered and fall back on conditioned reactive responses, we lose sight of the bigger picture and other’s reactions to our patterns. Unknowingly, we have invited another to participate in our pattern. If that person gets triggered and fires back in their own automatic response mode, suddenly we have a whirlwind of mixed emotions, conflict and a big energy drain. Everyone ends up emotionally distanced from the immediate problem and its resolution. We get caught in the cycle of poor behavioral habits.
If we tend to shut down in a conflict situation, we just bury our truest feelings and desires. We deny our loved ones the chance to really understand what is important to us.
If we blow up and blame, we disregard taking personal responsibility. We deny others the opportunity to learn about our deepest vulnerabilities.
Invariably we end up wasting a lot of precious time and energy that we can never get back.
Years of patterns like this can erode marriages, sibling relationships and friendships. It is also something that children learn by example and why so many dysfunctional behavioral traits get “inherited” within families.
The best gift we can give to ourselves and our families is to recognize old patterns that are not serving us well and break the cycle.
It takes serious work to get “mindful” about yourself and why you get triggered by certain things — and how you routinely (and mindlessly) respond to those triggers. Be compassionate to yourself as you delve into your issues with unabashed honesty.
The real test for making positive changes in conditioned responses is when you find yourself in one of your familiar “triggered” moments. You’ll have to hit the pause button on the old automatic reaction and take some calming breaths. Reframe the situation so that you can respond in a better way than you usually do. I’ll let you in on a little secret — just being calmer in your reaction will go a very long way towards a more positive approach.
It is especially beneficial to talk with your loved ones about the changes you are striving to make and why you are motivated to do so. It creates an opportunity to break down barriers that you’ve put up in the past. It’s an active demonstration that you are taking personal responsibility for ineffective behaviors. Ask for their help and support.
Treat your personal energy as the valuable resource it is. Use it wisely for things that matter. Someday you will need to draw on your energy reservoir for something serious — and you will be glad that you didn’t waste it on something trivial.
The same is true for time — we don’t really know how much time we are each allotted in this life. Hindsight really is 20/20 and looking back, you are sure to find moments where a shift in your attitude or behavior could have totally turned an experience around. The time you squandered on a silly argument or pouting could have been better spent appreciating the moment.
Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some of these transformations occurring in families who recognized a change was in order. What has become so noticeable is the shift in energy. There is more positivity and a lightness in the home environment. Couples are feeling like a team, working together toward a common goal rather than feeling like opponents in a boxing match. There’s a lot more positive reinforcement given to each other when new attitudes and better approaches are taken. Apologies and forgiveness are offered more readily when the inevitable slip up occurs.
Most noteworthy is how the young children in these families are benefiting from the improvements and positive energy. Children pick up on the emotional energy and will often act out to deflect something that feels uncomfortable to them. These children are also learning good emotional coping skills, along with trust and mutual respect.
I’ve mentioned this in prior blogs, and it is worth noting again. Pema Chodrun reminds us that when just one of us makes mindful changes, we make it easier for others to do the same. When we make the commitment to do the work to better ourselves and change bad habits, we become good role models for our children and others. That is some pretty powerful motivation for positive change.
Get a grip on what triggers you, get a deeper understanding of who you are and how you want to be treated, and