Someone in your life has just said or done something that has pressed your buttons in a big way – triggering a response that’s over the top for the small thing they just said or did…
What on earth just happened? You know you’re over-reacting to this but the feelings are huge, overwhelming.
An apparent over-reaction today probably has roots in an unexpressed reaction in the past.
We’ve all heard about the ‘fight or flight’ response; our instinctive way of meeting a perceived challenge to our safety. But there’s another reaction that is triggered by an overwhelming threat and that is the ‘freeze’ response. An animal, that is being chased down by a predator and cannot escape, will drop into a dead faint at the last moment. It’s a protective mechanism that prevents any more pain or distress.
If we are involved in a dramatic experience or suffer a shock, we, too, can shut down or ‘freeze’. And part of us may stay in that frozen state for many years, only occasionally reaching out across time in flashes of apparently inappropriate distress.
Of course, we try to talk ourselves round, using logic and rational ideas. And we expend precious energy on controlling the turbulence of all that messy, illogical emotional stuff.
Most of us learn very early on that a ‘stiff upper lip’ is preferred by those around us. Before the age of seven, we simply absorb the values and standards we see around us. It’s just the way life is.
These rules may be expressed in all kinds of ways, not necessarily stern or harsh. My grandmother made her point by mockingly pretending to weep and wail whenever she came to a road sign that said “Give Way”. This was a very funny sight, of course, but the message was clear. Giving way to emotion was ridiculous and undesirable and that basic belief was underlined by other important people in my life, in their different ways.
So, what do you do when a big thing happens to you as a small person? You probably hold it in. But now you’re a big person to whom a small thing has just happened – and you can’t hold it in any longer…
Here’s the good news – every time you’re triggered, it’s an opportunity for healing.
For clearing the feelings that are still held in your body from that time and for releasing the pain, layer by layer. For absorbing the learning. For understanding the beliefs you formed about yourself and the world on that day, and the decisions you’ve made as a result. For taking the first steps to redrafting those beliefs into something that serves you better from now on. For letting it all go and making space for something better to come in its place.
So don’t beat yourself up for over-reacting. Of course, you may not want to actually thank the person who triggered you! But please do use the moment to help yourself to heal a little more – keep peeling that onion, layer by layer!
If this post resonates with you, I’d love to hear your views so please do leave a comment in the box below. And if you think that I may be able to help you peel that onion, you can get in touch here for a free, no obligation chat about your situation.