When my daughters were little and would fight, I’d tell them they had a right to their anger. They never had the right to be cruel or mean or unkind.
Words hurt. Actions matter.
My goal was to teach them how to be accountable with their words and actions. To recognize that anger and any other emotion that triggers negative feelings is okay, It’s what you do with those feelings that matters. Just because you’re feeling hurt or angry, it doesn’t give us license to spill our ‘ill-will’ onto others.
Making ourselves feel better by making others feel worse is not okay.
It’s a lesson I am continuously learning.
When triggered by something someone else has done or said, or something that happened, be it on the news or in my community, or work, home, acting out is not okay.
Being 100% accountable for my words and actions is vital to creating the ‘better’ I want to create in the world around me.
Recently, something happened at work that triggered a memory I hadn’t thought of in years. It wasn’t a pleasant memory. In fact, it was extremely uncomfortable.
At the time of the incident, I didn’t remember the memory. But, as I drove home later, it flashed through my mind with the speed of a comet streaking across the sky.
I had a choice. Acknowledge it. Ignore it. Or let it trigger me into acting out.
I chose to acknowledge it.
Ignoring it would only have given it more power to interfere with my peace of mind.
Letting it trigger me into acting out would only have created situations where I’d probably have to go back and clean up my mess. I’ve grown tired of the need to have to apologize for my bad behaviour. It’s so self-defeating.
Instead, I acknowledged to myself that the incident had triggered a memory from a dark period in my past. “That was then. This is now.” I gently reminded myself. “You are safe in the here and now.”
Over the next few days I repeated the mantra I use to remind myself that I have the power to re-wire my neural pathways towards the light, not the dark. I developed this mantra with my therapist a few years ago when working on PTSD that had been triggered when I was encircled by an angry mob at a community engagement session I’d been part in my work to end homelessness in our city. The crowd didn’t want us building a 20 unit affordable housing apartment in their community. They got really vocal and almost violent in their response. In the moment, I stood them down and walked away. Afterwards, my mind went into overdrive connecting dots in the here and now to terrors I’d experienced in the there and then.
My mind wanted to remind me of how unsafe I was. My heart wanted to hold me in peace.
I went back into therapy.
My therapist explained how our minds are comfortable with habitual thinking. Following the neural pathways to the dark can be easier than flowing into the light. But, she said, you can retrain your mind to travel to the light. We talked at length about what was triggered by that event until it became really clear that the inciting fears were connected to old childhood beliefs.
In the here and now of that event as it was happening, I felt unsafe because I was.
In the here and now of the aftermath of that event. I was safe but was triggered by fears of lack of safety, lack of support, lack of belonging that were deeply connected to an unprotected childhood.
In our work together, I explored what was at the root of my feelings of lack of safety (the dark place) and developed a mantra to retrain my mind to take the path to the light (the peace of mind space).
I am grateful for opportunities where I am reminded of my power to choose the light. To choose the path to well-being over darkness. To choose to be kind to myself, and thus the world around me, so that I don’t have to then empty my shame bucket by apologizing to those I’ve hurt with my words and actions because I was triggered and felt the need to act out in my own defense.
The mind is an amazing place! It has the power to hold us in the light of truth and beauty, honesty and Love. Or, it can drag us down into the dark places holding us captive to our fears.
Guiding my thinking back to the light makes my world a better place. It creates lightness of being and ease of mind.
I like it here.