Cat From The Mat

Knee-Jerky and Trigger Happy

“People don’t make us angry. 
How we think makes us angry.” 
   -Marshall Rosenberg, NVC founder

What makes you angry? Who triggers you?  Do you know that moment your buttons are being pushed? Living in a constant stimulated state might be taking a toll on your nervous system and diminishing your life energy.  So why do it?  What does it all mean?

When triggered, my knee-jerk reactions surface.  This leads me down a path of frustration, irritation, and confusion.  Some people project anger onto others, placing accountability outside of oneself.  Others, like myself, operate by instilling guilt within.  “What did I do to warrant such behavior?” I ask myself.  Either way, it’s perpetuating a culture of shame and blame conditioning.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that it’s better to give myself a hard time in lieu of condemning others.  When I get upset and hold it in, it eats away at me, like a hollowing tree.  This unfortunately builds resentment, creating a further disconnect to myself and to others. 

Regardless of where the fault is placed, there is an assumption that someone is doing something TO me.  This immediately places the power outside of myself.  However, what if my triggers have little to do with another’s behavior.   Rather, the situation is a red flag letting me know that something inside of me is being ignited.  The other person just happens to be the messenger, reminding me that I have an intrinsic issue to sort out.

My training in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) has given me the tools to identify a stimulus from its cause.  My “buttons” are alive and well, already installed within.  When said are buttons getting pushed, it’s easy to confuse that stimulant person with the root of my emotional response.

Once able to keep those two distinct, I can choose to do the following steps:

1) I notice that I am irked and ask myself “What is that?”  This slows things down and allows me to pause.

2) I connect my identified, familiar feeling with what I am needing when I feel that way.  This gives me more understanding about what I value and ascertain whether a desired need is present or absent in this interaction.  Instead of getting stuck in the belief  “that person pissed me off,” maybe my anger is telling me that I need more consideration or care.

3) Once I get more clear and self-connected, I might genuinely become curious enough to hear what the other person is saying, without receiving any projections personally.  When I listen from that place, I can gather information and glean more compassion.   Easier said than done. 

Yoga is about relationship.  The quality with which you navigate your inner terrain can improve your engagement in the world.  Learning to translate judgments is a muscle that needs ongoing practice. 

Life offers many opportunities to decode your conditioning and update your previously helpful coping mechanisms.  At a time when more and more anger is being expressed (which might indicate an underlying fear, sadness, or anxiety), I invite you to excavate deeper with empathic ears. “Blame on you, shame on me” thinking can therefore become a new gateway back to yourself.  You might just find the gold in your familiar stimulus package.

Happy Septembering!

Cat From The Mat
September 2016