By Dr. Laura Markham
“Unpack your emotional baggage so your kids don’t have to carry it!” – Lu Hanessian
In our last post, we talked about how most of us have some old emotional baggage that no longer serves us. Unfortunately, if we don’t resolve those issues, we take them out on our children.
That’s because when we get triggered by the past, we lose our conscious connection to what matters in the present moment. So we say and do things that we would never do if we weren’t triggered.
So instead of supporting our children to work through their normal childhood issues and emotions, we add a layer of shame and blame. Instead of calming the storm and creating a safe haven, we end up escalating the drama. And we pass our unresolved emotional baggage on to our children, who will carry it for the rest of their lives.
Luckily, there’s a better way. You can heal those old triggers. It’s not easy and it takes courage — but it’s simple. Here’s the secret.
NOTICE the FEELING,
but RESIST TAKING ACTION.
Instead, HOLD YOURSELF WITH LOVE,
and JUST ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL.
It’s that simple. All those actions we take when we’re triggered take us down the wrong path. We leap to action or conclusion to avoid feeling those emotions. But once we allow ourselves to feel an emotion, it begins to evaporate. (By contrast, as long as we’re pushing the emotion away or running from it, it keeps pestering us to be felt. We’re doomed to lug it around with us until we get the message.)
Of course, when you allow yourself to feel any emotion you’ve been avoiding, it probably won’t feel good. But you can handle that, because you’re not a child any longer. The emotions may feel dangerous, but they aren’t. You’re an adult, and you can love yourself through it.
You can do hard things! And if it feels too scary and you want support, no shame, no blame. You can always find the support you need to help you do hard things.
Here’s your blueprint to heal a trigger.
1. Get yourself as centred as possible
Imagine a place where you feel completely safe. Let that safety soak into your being. Remember three things you’re grateful for, which will increase your sense of wellbeing and inner resourcefulness. Fill yourself with love and compassion. Surround yourself with light. Your goal here is to start from a place of safety, which keeps you from getting re-traumatised by those feelings.
2. Now, think of the recent event that triggered you
You don’t need to know what the old trigger was, just think of the recent event that set you off.
3. Resist the urge to rehash the story of what happened
Noticing the feeling does NOT mean getting all tangled up in the story line and your judgments about what happened. Thinking about the story of what happened will just mire you in the muck. We feel emotions in the body. So noticing the feeling means noticing the sensation in your body.