Triggering Example

Trigger EmotionNo matter how much I progress, I find myself becoming triggered by past problems. Every time this happens, I feel like I’m reverting back to a time when I could solve my problems. I feel like all the progress I have made has been for nothing. Again, I’m trapped in my misery with no way out. I’m trapped and stuck.

Ready for Disaster

Normally, when I’m in this bad place, I recognize it and start to write about it. Writing about gets me to a place where I can understand why I’m feeling trapped in this Shadow. Then I can Feel and Deal with my emotional pain.

For me to do this, I have a “safe” place I can go to. My “safe” place is upstairs in our room where I can lock the door, lay down and write.

We’ve recently moved. I don’t have an upstairs bedroom. I do have a room with a door I can lock. But since our move and my most reason problem of experiencing a seizure and dislocating both of my shoulders, I’ve been sleeping on the couch. My spot in our bed is taken up with clean cloths that need to be put away.

As you can see, this is a situation ready for disaster.

Disaster #1

Trigger EmotionDuring our weekly family movie night, I go to sit down in the only spot that will protect my hurting shoulders. As I’m walking to my spot, my oldest boy walks past me and accidentally bangs his head on my broken/recovering shoulder. I got into “fight” mode and yell at him with pain in my eyes. At this point, I’m triggered. I’m not certain what I’m triggered into (we’ll find out at the end).
Of course, he’s sorry and didn’t do it on purpose and I apologized for exploding. In my defense, it did hurt (more emotionally that physically as it turns out).

Disaster #2

Trigger EmotionI know I’m triggered and I know I have to deal with whatever it is. I’m feeling helpless and not in control. I’m in a deep shadow and need to deal with it.

I go to find my safe place, but my spot on the bed is covered in clothes. Yes, I can push them off, but I’m not feeling taken care of. I feel trapped and all alone. I feel that nobody’s trying to help me even though I’m yelling in pain (all in my head of course).

I’m in this shadow deep.

Disaster #3

Trigger EmotionIt turns out my wife has been dealing with the children all day and needs a break. She slips away for some quiet time at the end of the day and I’m left to put the children to bed. Of course, she doesn’t know I’m in shadow since I’m pretty good at hiding it.

This just add to my triggers of being abandoned and helpless in my pain. I am unable to reach out to her and ask for her help (this is the shadow part of me).

We end up sleeping separately and not talking to each other.

Morning Coffee

Finally, the morning comes. I’m unable to get more than 3 hours of sleep since I’m so deep in my misery. I know there’s one thing I can do to get on the good side with my wife. I can make her coffee.

No matter how bad I screw it up. I can make things better by bringing my wife a freshly made cappuccino. Nothing says “I love you” and “I’m sorry” more than waking up early and making my wife coffee.

We talk a little about our feelings (actually, she talks and I just cry because I can’t face my feelings yet). She understands I need to “feel and deal” and get’s me a pen and notebook and finds me a safe place to write.

Emotional WritingFeeling and Dealing

I start to write, but writing itself is painful (with dislocated shoulders). The main points I come up with are:

  • I’m in pain
  • Nobody can help me

After what seems hours (probably about 15 minutes), in my emotional exhaustion, I lay down in my bed. My arms try to find a comfortable spot but I can’t get comfortable. I find myself more trapped lying down. I get this sense that I’m in a lot of pain. I find I’m crying out for my mommy. I feel like nobody can hear me and people are hurting me.

I feel more pain and abandonment. Abandonment like someone who fell down into a dark pit. Nobody’s around to help. I cry out for help, but there’s nobody to hear me. Or, there are people who hear me, but they can’t help me. I’m stuck.

Realization

Then it hits me like a flash of lightning.

I remember a story Kate told me about my seizure. How I was being strapped into the gurney by the paramedics. How I was calling out for help. I was calling out for my mommy. Kate was trying to reassure me, but I was in so much pain.

I was reliving that moment. I was triggered into that place.

Once I realized this, I was able to again feel those horrible feelings of pain and abandonment. I was able to feel and deal with them.

I felt like a huge weight was lifted from me. The pain I was feeling was gone (not all the way gone, but back to my normal amount of pain).

That is what it’s like to be triggered, find the pain and deal with it. It’s an emotional process, but now I’ve dealt with it. I won’t have to deal with that painful event again. This process I found helps to find those emotionally or physically painful events in our life and finally deal with them.

Joy

Emotion of JoyOnce a week, our family has a movie night where we order pizza, puppy-pile on the couch and watch a movie. Since this movie’s main character is a 11 year old girl that mostly deal with feelings, I was worried my young boys couldn’t relate.

Boy was I wrong!

The movie I we watch is called Inside out and focuses on the emotions of a young girl who moves from the east coast to San Francisco. Each emotion is personified in some unique characters:

  • Joy
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Disgust

Since first watching this movie, my boys have seen it about 20 times watching it over and over again. This movie has some great depth to it with each watching, I discover something deeper on these emotions and how they interact.

Also, this movie is the first time my boys can personify their own emotions and how they work to form their views and understandings.

I came to a great realization about my emotions from this movie a few days ago. Just as in the movie, we are also moving from one house to another. As in this movie, we found that moving is stressful and requires a lot of work.

Jump for JoyDuring our move, my middle boy said to me, “You seem to have too much anger at your controls.” I responded with, “Okay, let’s have Joy run the show.” At that point, I changed my voice into a high pitch, happy-go-lucky voice and just shower out the joy. I mean, I’m rolling out all the joy I can gather. I’m really laying it on thick just like Joy from the movie. Especially when things get really hard, I just dig deeper to spread the joy.

At first, the other boys didn’t know what happened to me and were concerned I was having another seizure (see my Helplessness post). My oldest boy looked at me in all seriousness and said, “Who are you and what did you do with my dad?” After the shock wore off, everyone started popping with the same joy I was using. The mode of the whole move and work change from drudgery into fun and joy.

Later in the day after our joyful fun, I started feeling really down and depressed. I was feeling extra sensitive and ready to snap at anything. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was self aware to know something was wrong with my emotional state.

I said my standard, “I have to take care of something,” to my wife and locked myself in our room and lay down with the covers over my head. Once I started to get into bed, I was already starting to tear up.

“What’s wrong!” I said to myself (with the attitude of “What the hell?”). I clearly had the thought of, “Nobody ever acted like that for me when I was a kid.” “My father didn’t do anything like that for me.” “If I was a kid and I said anything like that, I’d be in trouble and get punished!”

Then, all the emotions I had came bursting out of me.

  • Jealousy
  • Anger
  • Fear

At this point, I had to feel and deal with my feelings of jealousy and anger. I was jealous that my father would have never done anything like that for me. see url Angry that my children have a father who would dig down really deep to become a joyous and fun leader to help them through their work. I was enter afraid that I was a horrible father who would have jealous feeling over his children.

Once I felt those emotions, I was able to reassure myself that I was okay. That I was going to be the father that I never had. I was able to be silly and joyful even in tough times. I was able to enjoy the fun I had with my children.

Now, I still need to exercise my “joy” muscles so it comes more natural.

Helplessness

HelplessA few months ago, I was relating to my wife how far I have come in my emotional work. We had gone a few months without any “blowups” or problems.

I was feeling healthy in my interactions with my wife and children with no emotional mishaps.

Since I am Catholic, I spoke to God about my growth and how I was a little concerned that I was not progressing. I was becoming stale. I asked for something to push me in my emotional growth.

At this point, I should point out about 10 years ago I was in a major car accident driving down the road with my wife and 2 year old first born. This accident totaled both cars involved and the officers at the scene were amazed that nobody died.

In an attempt to not hit the car that was flying sideways from the oncoming traffic, I hit my brakes as hard as I could. I’m sure we slowed down a bit, but this also meant all the impact went into my right leg and shattered the bone. I was knocked out for awhile. When I did regain conscience, it was only limited since my brain was shut off due to all the pain in my leg. I only remember waking up in the hospital hours later.

Now, back to the present moment (or I should say last month). During dinner as we lit our Advent wreath and I read from our Advent book, I suddenly looked up with a start and fell over.

A few hours later, I wake up in the emergency room having suffered a seizure where I dislocated both of my shoulders. I’m awake because they gave me something for the pain. Then they say they’re going to re-set my shoulders. Three days later, I’m back at home with both of my arms locked down for 3 weeks for one shoulder to heal and 6 weeks for the other shoulder to heal.

I am completely helpless.

We have no Christmas decorations up we are looking at moving in a few weeks and I lost the use of my arms. What is a man/husband/father without his arms? A man/husband/father who cannot hold/hug his wife/children. A man/husband/father who cannot provide for his family.

I am completely helpless.

Now I have to deal with my feelings of being helpless. I have these feelings of when I was young and needing help from my mother and father and not getting what I need. Those feelings of helplessness I have to deal with.

Now, I have to break down and ask others to help me with simple tasks. I have to ask my 10 year old to tie my shoes. I have to ask my 11 year old to help me put on my shirt. I have to ask my wife to help me put on my belt.

I have to give up all my control and ask others for help. That is a blessed curse.

Curse in that I am so helpless. Blessed in that I’m learning to ask others for help. Blessed in that I’m forced to “step out onto the ice”1 and chance that I might be rejected by those who love me. Blessed in that those who love me are willing to help me. Blessed in that I finally learn that others do love me.


1 follow url This phrase “step out onto the ice” is a phrase I got from a therapy group. It should represent a frozen lake between you and your loving home. A person is deadly afraid to step out onto the ice for fear of falling into the freezing cold water and die. Except his loving home is on the other side. It’s a choice to either stay in the freezing cold outside or risk stepping onto the ice and cross to your loving home.

Anger and Love

Of the many problems I experience with my emotions is the blending of Anger and Love. When my parents were mad at me I learned about the emotion of anger.  Since there wasn’t an expression of love in my house as I grew up, I never experience the blending of anger and love before.

Some how I equated anger with not loving.

Now my Wife enters the picture

My wife is constantly mad at me.  Whenever my wife is mad at me, that loving emotion I experience from her is removed from my world.  Since she is mad at me, I perceive that she no longer loves me (which is a very scary thing for a child to loose the love of his mother1.  At this point in my shadow world I end up using my passive aggressive skills (which end up making things worse, like pouring gasoline onto the fire):

  • Try to convince her that I didn’t do it
    • I didn’t do it
    • It’s some else’s fault for her anger
  • Try to convince her the anger she feels isn’t valid

As you might guess, these never work. I’m just a terrified child in shadow trying to gain the love of his mother.

Reality

In reality, my wife loves me very much.  She can hold an angry emotion and still love me.  During one of our fights2, my wife got really mad with me. She stormed up stairs as a total rejection of her love for me (again my perceptions/projections). She came down moments later while she was still mad, put her arms around me and said, “It makes me mad when you do X, but I still love you.”

At this point, my world crashed. I broke down like a little baby and cried and cried. I couldn’t understand how she could be mad at me, but still have love for me.

Many times, we would have arguments that would go unsolved. My perception was she hated me and wanted nothing to do with me. With our unresolved argument, my wife would go about her life like normal and ask me what I wanted for dinner (or something inane like that). I’d stare at her in disbelief. One time I even mentioned, “How can you ask me that? Are you not aware that you’re mad at me?”

I never understood the combination of Anger and Love.

Mixing Anger and Love

Anger and Love
You can be angry with someone and love them at the same time.

After many fights/arguments, my wife realized she needed to use the phrase3, “I get really mad at you when you do X, but I still love you.” After she used it on me, when she came down (from upstairs) and gave me a hug, she looked me in the eye and told me this. That’s what really broke me down. This phrase is used constantly in our house; with each other and with our children.

I’m beginning to understand that a loved one can be angry with someone and love them at the same time. My second born is at the age of understand that I seem to be stumped at. He also cannot understand the mixing of anger and love. There have been many times when I’m mad at him and he responds with the same anger. I tell him, “I’m mad at you when you do X, but I still love you.” He responds with, “No you don’t! You don’t love me! You’re mad at me!” My only response is to give him a big hug (which is a bit hard when you’re mad).

This concept really hit home when my wife found a picture of an angry old man. This man in his anger was still holding an umbrella to protect his wife while he sat in the rain. With all the anger this old man had for his wife, he was still loving enough to protect her.

It’s amazing how an image can explain the mixing of such emotions.  Now we use the phrase, “I’m mad at you, but I still love you.”  Or we hold up an imaginary umbrella for the other person and that explains it all.


1 Yes, she’s my wife but she is also a mother figure. At this point, I’m in shadow and dealing/projecting childhood emotions, so she is a mother figure. This might be great content for another post.
2 I’ve forgotten what the fight was about, but I probably did something wrong, got caught and tried (as a terrified child) on of my passive aggressive methods to bring back my mother’s love.
3 source It still makes me tear up just thinking about it.

Seeing Other Shadows and Monsters

It’s hard being in reality

Shadow Monster
Seeing other people’s shadow sheds light on my own shadows.

After taking the red pill, find myself staying on the actual side of reality. I usually stay on this side of reality unless I’m triggered and end up in shadow. When I’m in reality, I ketch glimpse of others who are in shadow and I feel like Neo1 who understands how the matrix works and sees people trapped in the matrix.

It’s really hard not to engage people in shadow since I feel I’ve been where they are at. Unfortunately, I also realize being in shadow alters your perception of reality. No matter what I say, there’s not much that will break them free from the world they are in.

Here’s what I saw

As a treat, my family eats at Baja Fresh (a Californian/Mexican food place).  As an additional treat, we visit the local bookstore and buy each kid a book. While in the children’s section of this big book store, a father found his lot 4 year old daughter. Of course, I’m not certain how you con loose your children when they are in the “Children’s” section of the book store2.

This father proceeded to scold her for being lost to the point of making her cry.

Now let me add that it’s a scary experience to loose a child. Any parent would be in panic mode with the thoughts of what would happen to your lost child.

But, is it necessary to make your 4 year old daughter cry because you were scared?

Past Emotions Projected onto the Present

I’d imagine that father was experiencing past emotions. It seemed that father was re-living a past memory when he was made to cry after being lost.

I’m sure a balanced father would experience anger, but I would hope a balanced father would not actively participate in making his 4 year old daughter cry.

I find it’s a major clue a person is in shadow when their reasoning isn’t sound or is child like.  This father was defending his actions to his wife with the childlike excuse of “She made me do it!”

I would like to think I’m at the point in my progression where I can see myself and others “in shadow.” My wife gives me a look and is able to say, “There’s something else going on here that you need to deal with.” If it’s a very deep emotion, I’ll fight my instincts and hold onto that shadow reality. In the end, I end up facing the truth of reality. I just hope I don’t look that pathetic as a father making his 4 year old cry.3

It seems once you’re able to see past the primal emotions of others and realize they are having the same problems I have helps to relate to the world.  I don’t see it as an excuse (“he’s doing it too, so I should be able to”).  I see it more as the progress I have made and I am at the point where I can see it in others.  I can see myself in them.  It reminds me how often I can slip back into that role of being the monster.

1 source link I am not trying to equate myself to Neo nor some Christ figure. In no way am I capable of Neo’s skills nor Christ’s everything.
2 Hello!? It’s a book store with a children’s section!? Reminds me of when Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the Temple and Jesus answers with, “Hello!?, I’m in the temple!? Where else would I be?! Of course, he didn’t say this, but I paraphrased Luke 2:49
3 source site No matter how hard I fight against the truth of reality, I always end up looking like a little boy throwing a temper tantrum. Not like the man I’m created to be.

Redirection – the Art of not Feeling/Dealing

Emotional Redirection
Emotional redirection is used to mask our true emotions since those are more difficult to deal with.

My wife caught me redirecting.

I’ve been pretty good at dealing with my feelings lately and catching potential problems and Feeling and Dealing with emotions. Every-so-often, something slips through and I get triggered.

What I mean by “triggered” is something happens in the present that sets off alarm bells from the past. The best way to explain this involves something happening when my brain is brought back to a point in my childhood along with the emotions I had in the past.  This sets my brain in an emotional state in my past while I’m experiencing the present moment.

In this case, I came home and was disappointed that my wife didn’t do something for me. Before this disappointment, I was feeling some great happiness because I got a new toy I’ve always wanted.  Now with this mixture of happiness followed by disappointment triggered me back to my past when I had the same emotions except things went fro okay to bad with no normal explanation for my young brain to figure out.

So now, my emotional state is that of extreme fear.  Something really bad is about to happen to me. I was happy, and now I’m disappointed.  These emotions usually followed me getting in trouble and spanked.

I was in extreme fear mode.  I had to divert attention away from me before I get in trouble and spanked (see, my mind’s in the past – adults needn’t fear spankings).  Someone is getting spanked and it’s not going to be me.  This is when I am most deceitful because I’m in a life or death struggle to not get spanked.

By the way, this is all in hindsight.  Now that I’m out of this mode, I can look back and understand my mindset was in the past.  There is no father figure that will spank me.  I’m not a little kid who’s in fear of his life because he’ll get a spanking.

If, at that moment, you asked me if I was having a problem, I would flat out deny anything was wrong.  You see, if I actually admitted I was having a problem, then I would surly be in trouble and the world would truly come to an end for me (again, I’m in my shadow world or living in a past emotion).

This is when I am the luckiest man in the world. I have a wife who I’ve come to trust. She is strong and aware enough to recognize when I’m in this shadow. I trust her enough that no matter what’s going on in my head/world, she can just say:

  • I think there’s something you need to deal with.
  • You seem to be having problems.
  • Something’s not right.

There are definitely times when I go kicking and screaming that nothing’s wrong (which is a sure sign that my emotions are in the past). At this point, I have to feel it and deal with it.

Downfall of Improvement

Emotional FodderThere’s something to be said about trouble emotions.

The are great fodder for topics to write on.

I understand now how artists find their muse from their emotional turmoil raging inside them.  When I’m having emotional problems, I just throw-up my emotions in word form and I can come up with posts without much effort.

Now that I’ve improved my feeling and dealing with my emotions, I have less torment to blog about.

I do have pages and pages journaling my emotional progress (or problems).  I’ll have to bust those out for inspiration.

Hardened Heart

Something I noticed the other day that came to me during done reading I’ve been doing on the saints (Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila). I have a hardened heart.

You might ask what is a hardened heart? This is a heart that doesn’t take pleasure in anything. It’s a heart that isn’t allowed to experience joy .

I do understand the concept of pleasure is and joy. I understand there are times when I should be experiencing these emotions. When these emotions happened to me, I would acknowledge as an outside observer and never accept these feelings of pleasure and joy.

Hardened Heart
Accepting your own emotions allows your heart to feel again.

With a hardened heart, it was like someone giving me a cookie that I would graciously receive, but never allow myself to eat due to some twisted sense of unworthiness.

With my hardened heart, I was unable to receive these freely given pleasure and joy. As if my heart was encrusted in a rock shell that protected it from damage it received in the past.

Recently, I realized my heart had this rock shell surrounding it. I didn’t really know (or want to know) how to break my heart free.

When you have a tough steak, there is a special mallet used to bat the steak to tenderize it.

All my emotional situations have become perfect ways to tenderize my hardened heart. For the last week, whenever I had an emotional problem, I used those moments to breakaway the rock surrounding my heart.

It has been a painful process, but I would imagine such a process would be painful. After all, anytime there is growth, there is always some pain involved.

With my tender heart, I am beginning to finally enjoy some pleasurable moments.

Emotional Strength

I always thought I was presented with emotional situations as a torment in my life. Every time I find myself in an emotionally jealous situation, I feel in a bottomless pit of despair. Some part of me aches for a reason I’m put in this situation.

During my morning walk, the true reason came to me.

All of these situations I deal with are strengthening my emotional health in some way. With each of these emotional episodes, I find them a little easier to handle than before.

Emotional Strength
Emotional moments are just opportunities to strengthen our emotional muscles.

When I find I’m having problem with my emotions, I feel set back in the moment. As if all the work I’ve been doing for the past 10 years has been for naught. After I feel and deal with my emotions, I realize my emotional outbursts weren’t as bad as previous times.

It’s like I’m going through a training program to improve my emotional strength. As if there is some future emotional triathlon that I need to train for.

I would imagine if someone saw the patience I now have with my family and emotions, they would think I’m some kind of emotional super hero. I’d just say, I have had some good training so far, but I do have my bad days (just like everybody else).