Awareness is key when it comes to living – and loving – authentically. A key aspect of awareness is getting to know, and understand your self and life around you, and one thing that involves is being aware of what triggers you. In Part 1, being authentic was described as a gift, and in a previous post, the secret to being authentic as a conscious way of relating to yourself and life around you.
To live in balance and harmony in your relationships, you need to know how to calm your mind and body, to feel safe enough to set judicious limits in your interactions with others, for example, to say or hear the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without getting triggered.
The first step in setting limits is identifying the specific situations that challenge or trigger you when it comes to either standing up for yourself with courage and, or doing so in a way that treats the other (thus also your self) with dignity.
Generally, these are certain situations or actions by others that unnecessarily trigger your body’s survival response. They may result from a missed opportunity to express your feelings, to say what you did or didn’t like, or to make a request. In other cases, you may have “stood up” for yourself, however, you did so in an impulsive way that blasted, belittled or demeaned another, thus, it left you feeling worse than before.
The purpose of the exercise below is to identify your triggers, that is, the situations in which you do not set healthy limits at this time.
Exercise: Identifying the Triggers
Instructions: Below are four incomplete sentences followed by examples of possible responses. For each sentence, check all responses that are true for you, and feel free to add any of your own in the margins.
- I feel guilty when …
“I see look of disappointment on a loved one’s face”
“I’m asked to do something and do not want to”
“I say no”
“I notice someone I care about looks angry”
“I get angry and say hurtful things”
“Others do more than I do”
“A loved one looks hurt or unhappy”
- I wish I had more courage to ask for …
“Quiet time for myself”
“Someone to stop yelling or making demeaning statements”
“Help around the house”
“More information before a purchase”
“Someone to listen without judging, giving advice, or trying to “fix” things”
“An apology when someone has acted in a hurtful way”
- I get frustrated or resentful when …
“Someone dismisses my opinion”
“I am not included in an important decision that was made”
“Someone takes me for granted”
“I say yes when I want to say no”
“Someone says no to one of my requests”
“I get overwhelmed by too many tasks”
“Someone talks over me or interrupts me when I talk”
- I wish I had more courage to ask others to stop …
“Blasting me with their anger”
“Invading my personal space”
“Criticizing or judging me”
“Going through my personal belongings”
“Putting me down, correcting or humiliating me in front of others”
“Avoiding discussions to solve our problems”
“Making off-color jokes or comments in my presence”
“Blaming me or telling me I am responsible for their unhappiness”
Look over the triggers you underlined or added above. Then rank order the triggers from the most challenging to the least, with “1” being the most and “10” the least.
The “triggers” you identify here are the specific situations you want to work on, eventually, to develop an action plan for, more and more, being authentically you. Thus, in moments when you need to face core fears that surface, you can do so without triggering your body’s stress response, also known as the “fight or flee” system, which puts your brain in ‘protective mode,’ and you in a defensive mode.
It takes courage to live and love authentically. Essentially, authenticity is a continuous balancing act. It requires you to be willing to remain empathically connected even when you – or others – are seemingly unlovable. It’s a conscious way of feeling safe enough to get to know you, and to love – give authentically – with your whole heart.