How to Get Through an Emotional Minefield
T is for Tranquil EyesBecause all our destructive triggers are fear-based, reducing fear—in other words, tranquilizing—is always necessary for clearing minefields. Though chemical tranquilizers can do the trick, it's easier on your liver just to revise the thinking around your triggers. Then you can regard formerly alarming situations with tranquil eyes, which work even better than drugs.
To begin the tranquil-eyes-ing process, imagine your present self walking into an early trauma-drama. If there's a bully present, like Mary's mother, Angie's father, or Shauna's classmates, shoo them away. Then imagine sitting down with your wounded self and saying what you'd say to a dear friend who'd been hurt in a similar way. The right words are the ones that bring you tranquillity. Keep searching until you find them. Then repeat them mentally, often. It helps to write them down.
Once you feel somewhat calmer, examine the situations that trigger negative emotions in your current life, and begin listing differences between those dramas and the traumas that originally wounded you. There will be similarities. Refuse to focus on them. Put all your attention on the differences. Again, I'd advise making a written list.
Finally, imagine yourself walking through a potential minefield with no fear whatsoever. No anxiety, no apprehension, no dread, no tension. Just tranquillity. Picture a potential situation several times, stopping as often as necessary to relax and release all fear. No one said de-mining is quick or easy. But it's so worth it to have a life free from emotional triggers.
Taking it to the Real WorldIf you repeatedly recognize, analyze, and tranquil-eyes your emotional minefields, you'll gradually find that you don't create as many trauma-dramas or react so explosively. Your negative behaviors will occur less frequently and lose intensity. It's working for Mary, who's becoming more hopeful about her future. At Angie's house, de-mining has led to less shouting and more smiling. And Shauna, with her therapist's help, is gradually becoming downright chatty.
One day you, too, will watch yourself hit a familiar trigger—and calmly choose a wiser reaction. Eventually you may even become an expert at disarming explosive situations before anyone gets hurt. At that point, pat yourself on the back and have a banana. You'll be making the world a safer place.
Martha Beck's latest book is The Martha Beck Collection: Essays for Creating Your Right Life, Volume One (Martha Beck Inc.).
More Advice from Martha Beck