3 Reminders for When You’re Triggered

Her words hit me like a train.


I remember the fervor with which she used the word “rude.”

It shook her head with its intensity and spit flew from her mouth as she said it, elongating the “R” as it came out.

I was stunned. 

I had just completed an 8 day intensive with an amazing group of 20 people taking a look at the negative patterns that we had learned from our parents and enacted in our own lives in unconscious ways. 

I had been sitting in the living room connecting with one of my peers.  I remember I was talking about the Enneagram with a young pregnant woman. I was completely engrossed in the conversation (I love talking about the Enneagram) when another woman walked into the room. She sat down on the couch across from where I was and said something to us by way of greeting.  I turned to her and acknowledged her briefly, then went back to my engaging conversation.

The brief acknowledgement had activated a deep wound within her, and out came a rage-filled rant. 

On and on it went.

She stopped and looked at me expectantly. After 8 days of intense personal development I had clear vision, I knew that whatever was happening for her had very little to do with me.  It wasn’t about me, I knew this and yet… My mind was completely empty.

“I hear you.”  I said.

I waited for more words to come, but they didn’t.

It dawned on me that I had no skills for moments like this. 

I was mentally clear (or maybe I was just frozen), I wasn’t shaming myself, but I didn’t know what to do. 

We tried to communicate for a few minutes and I quickly noticed that my body had begun to violently shake involuntarily.  It was like there was an earthquake, a big one and it was only taking place inside my body.  With a promise to discuss it later, I retreated to my room.

I decided to knock on the door across the hall where my two closest friends in the program were staying.  I got only one knock in before the door flew open and my beautiful Argentine classmate tackled me with a loving hug.  Tears exploded out of my face as she embraced me.  They both supported me while I let the fear and terror move through my body with intense sobs and shaking until my system started to settle.

I’ve reflected a lot on that day, and through my reflections I’ve learned 3 lessons on working with triggers ⎯ other people’s, and my own….

1- Learning not to shame myself is a blessing. 

It was a much easier experience not taking on this powerful experience of the other.  Normally I would have shamed myself and put my tail between my legs.  Instead I was able to access my own compassion and anger about the experience.

2- Skills are needed in moments like this. 

Clarity is not enough. 

I realized I needed actual skills to deal with situations like this AND practice using those skills in order to break the freeze.  I would need to train just like I do for a marathon to expand my capacities that would allow me to respond skillfully and compassionately to these moments. Until I did I would live in fear of conflict like this.

3- My body is an animal. 

The energy that I felt that day entered my body, and shook it like a rag doll.  I didn’t have the capacity to move that kind of intense energy through my body.  I realized I would need to train my body to take that kind of energy, process it, and learn how to disperse it effectively.  (I’ve actually learned to take that energy and turn it into pleasure & excitement!)

It’s been experiences like this that have fueled my passion to discover what it takes to be a confident, skillful leader in these really tough moments. Since then, I’ve surrounded myself with those I consider Magicians of Conflict – those who transform intensity into intimacy – and have studied them closely. My inner professor has never felt so enlivened breaking down the core concepts that make these masters so successful.

All of these discoveries has lead to the 4th edition of my popular interactive online program called “Untriggered.” This is an interactive playground where I teach the 5 core principles of how to un-trigger yourself and another- even in the most intense of moments.  I believe this is one THE most important skills every leader should have.

*Spots are limited. To learn more and register visit: https://theconnectioninstitute.net/untriggered/

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