When it comes to being with certain people, whether in positions of power or not, some of them can reduce you to a smaller and younger version of yourself by their mere presence.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many years you’ve worked in your field, how many good performance reviews you’ve received, how happy your clients tell you they are with the work you do for them.
Suddenly, you begin to notice an interesting phenomenon. Energy drains from your gut and intelligence and brain functioning seem to disappear too.
Maybe your mouth goes dry. Words don’t form.
Sometimes your body starts to shake.
No matter what, there’s something about this person that rattles you.
Guess what? You are not alone.
We all have someone in our lives who triggers us into feeling smaller and less-than. No one escapes this experience. If you are a human, you will have strong reactions.
It might be a type of person (loud or silent), a relative (the one who tells you what to do or with the opinion about what’s right), or someone who reminds you of someone else (your 4th grade teacher who made you feel stupid).
1. Ease Up On Yourself
The attitude you want to cultivate is gentleness and compassion for yourself.
There is a legitimate reason for your reaction. If you interpreted some event as trauma, it’s a body memory.
Maybe someone in the past scared you, took advantage of your helplessness. What matters is that you have real emotions and they are telling you something.
If you make yourself wrong about your reactions and judge them, you make the situation worse.
The more you scold yourself internally, the less likely you are to find a creative way through it.
There’s no use adding fuel to an already stressful situation. You need kindness and understanding, not self-abuse.
Trust that whatever has you reacting is authentic and worthy of your gentle attention. Whether it’s about this particular person or not doesn’t matter. You can explore it and find out.
2. Make Yourself Feel Safe
It makes all the difference in the world if you can be supportive and your own best champion.
Ruby, a director in a medium-sized sales organization, got caught in big reactions the first few times with a new VP client and had to learn to shift how she talked to herself.
“I couldn’t believe how easy it became to catch the way I deal with myself and stop beating myself up,” she said after a few sessions using the tools I’d developed for The Gentleness Formula program. “That made all the difference in how I moved forward.”
“I used to think I had to sit in those murky thoughts that were obviously not helping me out.”
“The more I listened to them, the more I believed them,” Ruby said, shaking her head.
“When I learned that I didn’t have to give them any attention and instead began connecting with my breathing, everything changed.”
“Now I talk to myself as if I were the world’s best Mum.”
“I tell myself that it’s all right and that I will take care of us. I’m an adult and this memory is old. I don’t need to feel small or afraid anymore.”
“Then that night, or as soon as I can, I sit at my laptop and tap away for 15 minutes, letting myself write whatever comes up so that I can understand and know exactly what I am feeling and thinking about the person and situation.”
“I don’t always get clear at once, but a few days of sorting through releases a lot of the emotional charge. I can call on my wiser self to sort me out. I’ve got tools.”
3. Get Curious
Think of these big emotional reactions as movies that come from the past.
Your mind will recreate the emotions of yesterday as if the threat is here today.
Your job is to let yourself know that you – the present-day adult – are not the same one who experienced the painful event before.
Connect to your breathing. Stay there for three or four breaths. That will help ground you in the present moment.
You don’t have to do anything about your reactions. Just be with them and know that they come from another time.
You’ll have plenty of space to work through and process this when you get home. For now, just observe, as if you were gliding easily and freely in a two-seater plane over a field.
Notice and say hello to what shows up.
Notice and release judgment. No self-criticism, no judgment.
Kindness yes. Gentleness yes. It’s a new habit of handling yourself. It’s not difficult. It’s like brushing your teeth. You decide to do it and it gets done.[Tweet “Kindness yes. Gentleness yes. A new habit of handling yourself.”]
New habits take but a bit of conscious effort to take hold.
Keep adjusting the dial of your inner voice to the Kindness and Gentleness settings.
Over To You
Who triggers you at work? If you became curious about your reactions, gave yourself some breathing space to process and walked yourself gently through it, how would you feel? I’d love to hear your story.
Share in the comments below.
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© Miriam Linderman 2015