It’s been a year!
52 triggers and how NOT to react to them
It has been fifty two weeks of writing these blogs, which, I have to say, feels like an achievement! While at the beginning I aimed to address wider themes and trends and their links with psychology, they have increasingly become an exercise of processing key material from my life and practice each week. Following Jung’s principle of the collective unconscious, I hope and anticipate that this material, as much as it might have corresponded to my individual circumstances and experience will also resonate with at least some of you.
This last week has been strongly triggering for me in more than one ways. Just a glimpse of the news persuades me that I cannot possibly be the only one who is easily triggered during these late days of the never ending pandemic. In a humorous attempt to celebrate these fifty two weeks of blog writing, here is a list of fifty two possible triggers and how one can best not respond to them! Each of us will possibly have our own little scenario for each of these triggers and some lucky ones may not find some of the below a trigger at all. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that to be triggered is to be alive, and so the question is not how to not feel the kick, but how not to lose one’s footing and get kicked over for good.
- Dangling the carrot
This is when someone says, sorry to disappoint you, but you can’t have the carrot you want.
Tip: Find another desirable carrot!
- Being ignored
When you are standing at the entrance of a busy post lockdown restaurant for ten minutes having made a reservation already, but all waiters seem to be short sighted.
Tip: Proceed to the inside of the restaurant looking like you are about to sit down.
- Trekking in the dark
Someone you care about has just vanished or stopped contact, but for whatever reason, you do not want to ask them what’s going on.
Tip: Ask yourself, what you have got to lose if you ask them or choose a different path while waiting for the fog to clear.
- Herding cats
Those people in your life who never deliver what they promise on time or ever, even though it seems to be in their own best interests to do so.
Tip: Do you have to be their mummy prompting them to do homework? Stop focussing on them and ask yourself what matters to you instead.
- Being set up to fail
Those people with whom you will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t and who will keep moving the goalposts and getting you to jump over hoops.
Tip: Keep strictly to the frame and remind them of the location of the door.
- Upping the fear factor
Very popular these days with some of the experts in various fields, as death is everywhere around us.
Tip: Being scared of dying will not make it any less likely, using your best judgment for taking care of yourself might do.
- Endless waiting
There is a cultural adoration of queues in the British context. Sometimes, people love to join the same long queue in the super market, even when some of the tills are free! Being able to wait may well be a virtue sometimes (certainly not one I profess!), but it can also be to one’s detriment.
Tip: Remember that our life is time limited and never endless.
- Incompetence galore
Have you tried calling any electrical, gas, furniture or online services lately? Those that seemed to work very well before the pandemic? Were you told your order could not be found or would be delivered in the next year, or they are terribly sorry, but they have no idea what happened to it?
Tip: Minimalism (how many services do we really need in our lives and aren’t those usually the ones who have a good track record of serving us well?)
- Give, give, give and no take
This has been a particularly sore one for me in the last couple of weeks.
Tip: Remember, resentment is much more draining than choosing to give in good grace and (sometimes) not receiving your due back.
- Wearing the emperor’s clothes
Have you been promised an exquisite product that will make you look more beautiful, more potent or confirm your status? Are you met by stony silence by your friends when displaying your new acquisition?
Tip: Wear clothes that you love, as then you will feel beautiful in them even if nobody compliments you (but you will be much more likely to get the right attention)!
- Pushing myself too hard
Another one that is a usual pitfall for me. The problem with this is that it sets off an inevitable counterforce, as explained in physics, whatever item receives too much pressure is likely to release pressure violently.
Tip: Ease off.
- Not pushing myself enough
I have to admit that the reason I am so liable to the above is that I find inertia utterly depressing. It can lead to a semi-alive state of existence.
Tip: Find your reasons to get out of bed upon waking up each day.
- Being messed about
There is so much of that around at the moment that we should all compile a document for how to navigate the frustration that repeated unreliability from those around us creates in our lives.
Tip: See above, create your own set of principles of what is acceptable behaviour from others and what is taking the piss and keep away from those who seem to do the latter.
- Mirror, mirror in the wall
A common pitfall, especially for women. So and so is always more successful, beautiful, better turned out, popular and so on.
Tip: Comparison is the murder of creativity. You can only ever be yourself.
- Out in the cold
And it is particularly freezing out right now! Being out in the cold emotionally, particularly when instigated by someone we wanted to be close to can be a sorrowful state.
Tip: Where and with whom do you feel warm and cosy in your life right now?
- Those with the moral high ground
This is a particular irritant for me on social media. There are those who always do good, know better, teach others how to live their lives and they are just overall simply amazing!
Tip: Don’t judge a parcel by its wrapping.
- Spoiling for an argument
What about the person in our lives who will know too well what our triggers are and will always go for them within five minutes of conversing with each other? Some teenagers or the teenager within us love to see if they can make others react and lose their temper! After all, a reaction is better than lack of engagement!
Tip: Take a deep breath and connect with your loving feelings for the perpetrator.
- Expert advice
Do you have a friend who loves to be the expert or who loves to recite experts to assert her opinions? Some of us find experts reassuring, especially in the times of chaos and uncertainty we live in. For others, like me, it is an irritant.
Tip: Be an expert on knowing yourself and what feels right for you.
- Being a burden
There are some clients in my practice who will never arrive even a minute early and who will quickly spot the clock in the room and make sure they get up and end the session when the fifty minutes are over and before I have indicated so. They are terrified of being a burden.
Tip: What would it feel like to rely on somebody? Could it possibly bring unadulterated pleasure?
- Being answered by the robot
That’s a familiar one when calling any services these days. Has it happened to you that you receive a phone call and the voice on the receiver is so robotic that you cannot determine if it is a real human being on the other end of the line or a machine?
Tip: Terminate the phone call!
- Paying for services you don’t get (increasingly popular nowadays!)
Tip: Getting your money back can prove onerous, but particularly satisfying!
- He didn’t text me back
People using dating apps seem to suffer acutely from the ‘will he text me back?’ syndrome, so much so that there is a whole dictionary of new terms around interpreting electronic communication in the romantic field.
Tip: Move on.
- Missing a deadline
Have you just spotted your favourite self-development course or competition, the one that will change your life for good and yet, you have just missed the deadline? Does it feel like you have missed the boat for ever?
Tip: At least, you know what you want and what makes you tick and most of the time, there will be another deadline that you can meet.
- Meeting a deadline
There is nothing like the thrill of working under pressure to meet a deadline. Some people seem to only be able to work in this way.
Tip: What happens after you have met the deadline? Mind the adrenaline comedown.
- The put down looks
Have you ever walked into a posh boutique or exclusive club and the person at the door gave you one of these looks, like a laser scan up and down your body, the clear message being that you just don’t measure up?
Tip: Proceed with confidence and assert your difference.
- To be gotten rid of
This is often linked with the ‘being a burden’ complex, as if one fears that they are a burden, consequently others will be likely to want to get rid of them.
Tip: What was the last time that someone truly got rid of you? Was it perhaps in the distant past?
- Never good enough
The ‘good enough’ mother is a very popular term by the psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, which highlights the fact that mothers are at best ‘good enough’ and never, ever perfect. Do you have a friend for whom nothing and nobody is ever good enough or are you one of these people who finds that something always lacks in what you get from others?
Tip: Is the imagined perfect other a recipe for always feeling alone and unsatisfied?
- The Instagram beauties
Instagram is the kingdom of the alluring image. The problem with such seductive imagery is that it always feels out of reach.
Tip: Which out of these images touched your inner sense of beauty and harmony? Carpe diem.
- The salmon effect
The only thing I know about the salmon, other than the fact it tastes great, is that it likes to swim against the current. Do you ever have one of these days where everything takes so much effort and never quite yields the desired results?
Tip: Going against the grain can be very difficult, but sometimes deeply meaningful and life asserting.
- Striving to be perfect
Are you terrified of making a mistake? What would happen if your imperfections got exposed? Will you be put down, ridiculed, humiliated? This week I discovered that my work answer phone still had a recorded message stating that ‘I am on my summer break and will get back to you upon my return.’ Nothing made me laugh so much, as my slip said a lot about unavailability during a protracted time of an unfolding mental health crisis that has been taxing for all of us working with emotional suffering.
Tip: Could our imperfections be the best premise for being human in authentic relationships with other humans?
- Letting go
Letting go is a very trendy mantra. If only we could let go of our obsessive and negative feelings, we would be so much better off. Yet, letting go can be a major trigger when what we have to let go of has been important for us.
Tip: Sometimes, we have to let go of something or someone and allow ourselves to mourn what is no longer there.
- Never letting go
Obsessive suffering is like constantly scratching an open wound. It is an irritant and it produces inflammation and even possibly a fatal infection.
Tip: What is it you cannot face up to that the obsession covers over?
- Tear flood
Do you ever have one of these days when the floodgates seem to be open? Sobbing for many hours after a certain age is not conducive to skype or zoom meetings with the camera on. Also, have you experienced the effect on sore eyes of hours of staring at the screen? For some people being overwhelmed by tears, especially when they are not clear what they are crying about can be a debilitating symptom of depression.
Tip: Put your tears into words.
- Tear draught
Emotional constipation can be as draining as the real one. Everything is stuck and blocked inside and you feel bloated and intoxicated.
Tip: A walk in fresh air or a good movie, especially if it is of the dramatic kind, can do wonders in unblocking what needs to be released.
- The restless nights
Is there any of us who has never experienced a wiry night? Our mind refusing to wind down or waking up frequently or feeling unwell in our sleep or waking up far too early and not managing to go back to sleep.
Tip: The most intoxicating thought when that happens is to keep being anxious about how you are going to cope with the following day after a restless sleep or sleepless night. Let go of that thought. You will take the next day as it comes.
- No reason to get out of bed
When the going gets tough, this can be a pervasive reality. I found that especially during the early strict lockdowns, staying in bed could be a very alluring premise. The world had shut down on us.
Tip: Everyone needs a day under the duvet now and again. Yet, too many of those can be deadly. The key here is to have every day peppered with moments of pleasure or fun that one can anticipate. For me, my first cup of strong black coffee is especially motivating and life affirming.
- The zombie state
My worst kind of weather is what is described as ‘widespread cloud’. No rain, no cold, no heat, no wind, no change. There are times where everything feels particularly deadened and on those times, the zombie state of mind, the alive dead state can be all pervasive.
Tip: Break the monotony. Dare the unexpected.
- Feeling too much
What is feeling too much? Is it a real excess or a fear of being in touch with our feelings and what this will do to us?
Tip: Dare to feel in excess.
- Being numb
Feeling numb is often connected with trauma, when indeed feeling the full impact of what happened can be dangerous and overwhelming. Yet, being numb in the long term can become a handicap.
Tip: Where and with who it can be safe to begin feeling again?
- Wordless panic
Panic is particularly debilitating. It can be like a heart attack, like losing one’s mind, fainting, being disorientated, dying in an instant. Panic mutes us.
Tip: When does panic arise for you? What is it in that premise that’s not safe?
- When the body speaks
Often our bodies begin to speak, when our minds have not found access to words for quite a long time. Who is a headache for us, who gives us a time ache or the runs? What about an inflammatory encounter or someone that makes us lose our footing and take a tumble?
Tip: Our bodies try to get us to listen to our thoughts and take them seriously.
- Being scapegoated
Scapegoating is popular in dysfunctional families or other groups where aggression cannot be contained. People who have been scapegoated in their childhood in any context are very likely to become scapegoated again in adult life.
Tip: What is it you are receiving that is not about you, but about what others do not like to face up in themselves? Can you return the projection or stand your ground and not allow for the intrusion?
- Not being the chosen one
What would it be like to be loved, cherished, preferred, to be daddy’s little princess or mummy’s adored prince? Family life is traumatic even under the best circumstances, as love is always at short supply. For some of us though our histories convince us that someone else will always be preferred over us.
Tip: Assuming you are not the chosen one is a self-fulfilling prophesy. What about choosing what you want for yourself rather than waiting to be chosen?
- Fight and flight
The so-called fight of flight state is adrenaline and panic fuelled, it is about the ultimate threat on our survival. In its most acute version we are both driven by constant irritability and we also try to avoid the perceived source of threat.
Tip: Take a break, have a KitKat!
For anyone who lives in London, especially during the pandemic times, it only takes a short walk in the neighbourhood to encounter someone who will prompt us to cross to the other pavement, as it will look like they are likely to attack us or at least we would rather avoid such eventuality. What is it that forces some people to respond to life with permanent aggression?
Tip: How vulnerable are you feeling under your lion demeanour?
City life is fuelled by addiction and escapism. What is it that will give us our next kick and will help us cope with being constantly inside the pressure cooker?
Tip: Release the pressure rather than try to escape it.
- Not making decisions
Some people are so fearful of making decisions that they can live their lives in a state of emergency over the next decision they haven’t yet made that is hanging over them. This is a perfect recipe for never quite living in the present and never enjoying life in the here and now.
Tip: What is it about your desires that is so frightening to be in touch with?
- Making the wrong decisions
Impulsivity has been one of the traits that has been particularly prominent during the pandemic. In the face of multiple frustrations and deprivation, some of us felt that getting what we want any way we can was the only safe course of action, even if it meant damaging ourselves and/or those we were in relationships with?
Tip: Think what it may feel like the morning after that wrong decision.
- Being suspended
This is one I find particularly difficult. Feeling suspended, such as when waiting for important news that may be determining of your future is agonising.
Tip: Is there any safe ground you can rely on while in a state of suspension?
- The state of the world
This is a very sad one for all of us at the moment, but especially for young people. The state of the world has not shown much promise for quite some time now.
Tip: The state of your own individual life will make a significant difference to the state of the world, especially if many of us begin from the safe base of trying to make good choices in our own lives.
- When is the world going to be a better place?
Waiting for the pandemic to show signs of ending, for climate change to show signs of improving, for the newly emergent populist and fascist political tendencies to show signs of lessening can be an exercise in despair.
Tip: What is it you have access to today that gives you a sense of pleasure and connection with the world?
- Why don’t we all kill ourselves?
(This is paraphrasing the title of the introduction in Brett Kahr’s new book, Freud’s Pandemics, which I am intending to review in one of the following blogs). The above title made me laugh out loud in bed, a rare phenomenon just before falling asleep! Though I have not yet properly read the book, my understanding of the central argument is that processing our feelings in depth like Freud did through his invention of psychoanalysis is a true antidote to the darkness of the world and the pervasiveness of human suffering.
Tip: Ask the question again and again and keep laughing!
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