An email correspondent from England recently wrote to me with a question. My response follows. I invite any reader to email me with questions or concerns so that I might offer any help I can.
Dear Man’s Coach,
I hope all is well with you. There is something I wanted to ask you about dealing with emotions and in specific dealing with emotional triggers. These can be various triggers but specifically they are triggers dealing with the people I have dated. For example if I go back to a restaurant where I’d been on a date with someone I’ve met it triggers some sensations of unhappiness. Another example is of an Australian I’d been with but it didn’t work out. The other day I was watching a TV program on Australia and the similar feeling came over me. The funny thing is in both these situations and other similar ones I had only met the persons a couple of times. I would like to know your thoughts on this and how best I can work around these feelings.
I totally identify! This is normal, normal, normal! I get teary just listening to certain music or watching particular movies because they remind me of something in my past. As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) I know that I am prone to these deep, empathic connections that get easily triggered. They almost seem to have a life of their own and are indications of the great capacity we have for connecting emotions with events. The feelings can be difficult to manage: sadness, grief, anger, and regret over lost opportunities. The important thing to remember is that this is normal for us, especially if we are a HSP.
Knowing this it’s important to feel the feeling and “be” with it, without avoidance. It may help to identify where it is manifesting in your body. There also may be an inner saboteur lurking, a voice that tells you that perhaps you made a mistake, or that you’ve been wrong or bad or foolish. Acknowledge the presence of the saboteur and then call on your Inner Sage to respond with the loving kindness of a parent to the little child inside you that is hurting. Invite your Sage to be with you in the difficult feelings and to accompany you as you process them.
If I have repeated experiences with the same triggers I may have to spend more time with the emotion and really feel it in order to move beyond it. I also might reframe the moment, so that I associate the trigger with something new, something that makes me smile, even if it’s a piece of furniture, a flower, or a cranky baby!
Even if you’ve worked through the strong emotion associated with the trigger, you may be surprised by the same trigger again. At this point you might try changing your “geography” by standing or sitting, perhaps taking a walk outside for some air, or even going to the restroom. Move around, take a couple of deep breaths, “reboot” the moment, tell yourself you’re okay and that your life is bigger than the present moment. It’s like momentary indigestion for the soul; it too shall pass.
Let me know if this works for you. And be aware that almost anything or anybody in your life might one day be a trigger for a series of emotional associations that either delight you or drive you into sadness. HSP’s need to go overboard in practicing extreme self-care because they are so tuned into everyone else that they think they need to meet others’ needs before their own. Ask yourself what you want in this moment and give it to yourself generously and abundantly.
The Man’s Coach
Contact the Man’s Coach at email@example.com