Rehearsing Responses to Emotional Triggers…
In the book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself”, Dr. Joe Despenza talks about rehearsing how you “want” to react to a particular situation. Just as you may visualize yourself performing a physical activity or mentally rehearsing a race or sport, you must rehearse your communication and/or responses to an emotional trigger situation. Dispenza says that if you want to be or act a certain way, create it in your mind and rehearse it.
I will use myself as an example. I have a very bad habit when someone challenges my opinion or disagrees with me to get VERY defensive and react abruptly and aggressively with a response. I don’t want to react that way, but I have been this way most of my life. Instead of giving up and saying, “that’s just how I am”, I instead assess past situations and then create a calmer, more appropriate response. I first tell myself that the person disagreeing or challenging me isn’t doing so out of hate or malice, they simply have a different opinion or maybe are simply asking for clarification. I then mentally rehearse how I would have, and will now, respond differently. I do this in my mind during a meditation and by doing so I begin to literally rewire my brain to respond better. If I just think to myself “I don’t want to snap at people, I want to/should respond better”, I am not creating dialog and a proper mental response. Like anything it takes practice, and I can tell you that it works! I have been much more successful in responding vs. reacting to situations.
Use mental rehearsal before going into a difficult meeting with a client, friend, or boss where you know you would normally be angry, afraid, etc. Create your response to other drivers on the road. One thing that helped me long ago was something my karate sensei taught us. He said “when someone reacts negatively towards you, says something rude, or someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of reacting aggressively with a counter attack think to yourself, maybe this person has had a really bad day, maybe they just found out some really bad news. Show them grace and be kind.” I have done that several times and it’s really cool how you feel after. My point with that story is CREATE your response to those situations now if that’s your trigger. Try this. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of telling them there “number one” with your special finger simply smile, maybe wave and literally say out loud “I hope everything is ok and you get where you are going safely”. Trust me on this one. It’s a really good feeling.