Have you ever felt completely taken over by a thought or feeling, as if you're literally being shoved out of the drivers seat? And then left to feel guilty or regretful over how you've acted when you were in this triggered place. We've all been there, if we're being honest. It can be difficult to not judge these challenging moments (and ourselves) and to not feel shame. However, if we get stuck in the cycle of judging ourselves and then paralyzed with shame, it becomes more difficult to break free from these reactive patterns and ultimately, heal the deeper parts of us that are more than likely contributing to some, if not the majority, of these reactive patterns.
When I notice judgments (hello inner critic!) towards myself after a triggered reaction, I try to turn this into an opportunity to bring some curiosity to myself and maybe, if there's enough self- energy in that moment, some compassion and kindness. Remember, this is a practice. I often tell myself that I have the rest of my life to continue to be curious about parts of me and that there's no destination - healing is a life long journey (hello self-compassion!).
Curiosity starts the process of befriending the parts of us that became triggered for various reasons. I have found that the more I try to get rid of the thoughts and feelings around a trigger by denying, distracting, minimizing or shaming myself, the thought and feeling patterns tend to show up more often and feel more activating and consuming. Whereas when I acknowledge these triggered parts and bring curiosity to them, I noticed that they tend to relax. Through my work as a clinician as well as my personal healing journey, I have witnessed over and over again that the challenged parts of us, more than anything, need and want to be acknowledged and seen for their truths. It's like a young child having a moment, if we deny it or shame it in the moment, it can trigger a bigger moment for them. Whereas, if we acknowledge the child's experience, help them name their feelings and help them through those challenging moments, the child will start to decrease in activation and maybe even begin to relax a bit.
So how do we befriend challenging parts of us? It might feel counter intuitive at first but here are a few steps to start the process of befriending and un-blending from the more challenging parts of yourself:
Breathe. Repeat this process as often as needed. These steps don't take away the feeling completely, but they can help soften the activation around the feeling by externalizing this triggered part of you. When we constantly try to dismiss, deny or distract from challenging parts/feelings, we're basically telling ourselves that we can't handle these feelings - they're too big for us to face and we are helpless with them. When we befriend and get curious, we show the part of us that although it feels intense, we can handle it and can hold space for it's needs.