In my long history working to help people resolve their most painful problems, I’ve learned that virtually 100% of our suffering is caused by thinking that our worth as a being depends on our satisfactory performance in the eyes of others.
Most of us were trained in these unfortunate habitual ways of thinking in childhood. Children don’t usually recognize they are being habituated to follow arbitrary points of view and rules of etiquette. They trust that whatever they are being taught is true and right –– even though, on close examination, quite a bit of it turns out to be utter nonsense.
A child’s worldview is bounded by their experience of home and family members. And a child can’t recognize possibilities they have not been exposed to. For this reason, sadly, if we learn to think, believe, and behave according to negative concepts deeply ingrained in childhood, we may end up allowing such thoughts and behaviors to govern our lives.
For example, hearing, “Oh come on, that didn’t really hurt!” delivers the message, “You are not the authority about what you feel. You can’t trust your own physical or mental experience. You must rely on me to tell you what you feel.”
It isn’t hard to see how internalizing this self-message can cause serious problems if it remains unexamined in adulthood. Living according to this message, we constantly look outside ourselves for answers about who we are, what we deserve, and what we “should” feel and believe. It’s never going to work! And yet it keeps us in a state of perpetual worry.
What Do We Have to Lose? Only Everything
When we habitually worry about what others think, we are vulnerable to a herd mentality in which we give away our human dignity, our power to choose, and our ability to collaborate. When this is the case, as soon as we encounter unfamiliar ways of thinking, believing, and behaving, we’re likely to feel threatened and react with fear, anger, and bewilderment.
These days, do you find it harder to maintain a peaceful, uplifted attitude when you see hostility increasing in situations where civility used to be the norm? Does it now seem harder to have a discussion with friends or family over differences of opinion without name-calling and angry outbursts?
Many people experience such intense harshness and emotional turmoil as a new and disturbing phenomenon, attributing it to the misuse of modern technological connectivity. Some, however, find this chaotic, hostility to be familiar and oddly comfortable. They feel right at home, as the hostility replicates their experience growing up in abusive families, including those that presented themselves as paragons of family values.
What keeps this chaos going? Our emotional triggers.
We get stuck in them. To get unstuck, it is essential that we see clearly how our emotional triggers work –– how they sustain unnecessary suffering and conflict for us personally, and how we can dissolve them and stop the harm from spreading through our society. In the broadest sense, we must dissolve our emotional triggers if we are to save our humanity. And by extension, we must do this work so that humanity as a whole will survive.
So, how can we stop repeating destructive patterns of thought and behavior –– especially if we’re not fully aware we’re doing it? What do we need to know, in order to dissolve these emotional triggers?
Here are some key trigger-dissolving perspectives that have helped me and those I work with.
1. We think the outer world is what makes us upset. But once we realize that most of our upset comes from our desires not being met, we can go forward with self-compassion and this new awareness: We can keep our desires and clear out our upset feelings.
2. Taking things personally is always a mistaken assumption. And when we believe this assumption, we find ourselves frequently engaged in harsh conflicts: “Your disagreement is a threat to my personhood, and I must defend my territory!” But once we are able to think clearly and drop this assumption, we stop perceiving people and events as a threat. We eliminate unnecessary fear and pain.
3. Most of us know the sweet taste of personal praise (“I’m great, or you’re great”). It’s as strong as our distaste for blame (“You’re wrong, or I’m wrong”). Once we learn to recognize praise and blame as delusions in our thinking, we can properly evaluate our experiences objectively and constructively.
4. Similarly, personal guilt and shame are always mistaken judgments. Such mistakes in thinking are usually caused by interpreting our experience through the filter of early habitual training that our value as a person was dependent upon our performance as judged by others. When we believe that our mistakes are somehow justification for devaluing our humanity, it leads to hellish personal suffering: “I can never forgive myself for not doing more,” or “No wonder he hit me. I deserved it.”
5. It is immensely helpful to recognize that emotional turmoil and self-attacking activities can only occur when we’re absorbed in immature states of mind where our reactive triggers originally formed.. Once we become able to catch ourselves in such mind states, we also discover there is an alternative state we can cultivate –– nonhabituated Adult Consciousness, also known as our True Self.
6. The more clearly we see through the lie of habitual experience (“I’ve heard it so often, that it must be true”) the more readily we understand that “familiar” and “comfortable” do not equal reality. This motivates us to stay in Adult Consciousness no matter what is happening, however unfamiliar and uncomfortable it may be for us.
7. Once we understand the difference between “responsibility” (to the lies embedded in our early conditioning ) and “the ability to respond”(with Adult respect for oneself and others) we can easily save ourselves from a lot of unnecessary suffering and confusion. Staying in Adult Consciousness is the lubrication that dissolves the structure of reactive emotional triggers altogether.
Did you readily understand the points above? If so, congratulations! You’re free of a great deal of the irritation and worry that plagues most people. But if you find that you are often triggered and in emotional turmoil, and if tragic world events seem to add to your personal struggles, you will learn to dissolve them in my upcoming webinar, How To Keep Your Emotions from Blocking Your Intelligence.
Join us beginning this Wednesday, April 20th and learn to apply powerful healing insights and tools to relieve your own personal suffering as well as extend your growing sanity and goodwill to the world.