By LYNN FRANCIS, MA, MS
—“Anything that annoys you is teaching you patience. Anything that angers you is teaching you forgiveness and compassion. Anything that has power over you is teaching you how to take your power back. Anything you can’t control is teaching you how to let go.”—From themindunleased.org
Reactivity is a useful tool for change and self-transformation. Who isn’t triggered at work by students, colleagues, administration? What if these very triggers are used for self-awareness and growth and not just left to be repetitive tapes playing over and over again? What if these triggers are a pathway for constructive action that ultimately benefits not only ourselves but others as well?
The workplace is like a big mirror. It reflects back to us what is going on inside of us at any given moment—impatience, annoyance, needing to be right, as well as contentedness, peace, joy, compassion. Even though unfairness, injustice, unawareness are happening in the workplace, noticing what is going on in ourselves is where change can happen and from that internal change, we can act in a more helpful way in our environment.
We have habit energy that we learned from our young years and that keeps repeating old patterns in a cycle of reactivity. We see through our own lenses, gender, culture, family, and personality and frequently mistake these perceptions for reality. We have lost the “now” and have returned to the past internally and we rationalize that our experience is about the other rather than ourselves.
Triggers manifest as a continuum of thoughts and feelings in the body. When triggered, we can stop, notice deeply, clear the emotion, pay attention to our thoughts (probably erroneous, old, and not clear at this point). We can process this experience, release the old, feel more joyful and compassionate, think more clearly, and act accordingly. Start with thinking about a trigger that you have had recently. Notice the feeling that was provoked; notice the thoughts that arose, and notice if that same trigger keeps repeating over and over.
I think that to break the cycle, it is helpful to process with a trusted other. We learned many of these patterns in a relationship and it is helpful to heal them in a relationship. When a trusted someone listens deeply and holds the space for us to explore, feel, understand, and be understood, we can learn to do that for ourselves. In the presence of someone who will not “abandon” us with any thought or feeling that seems ridiculous is where the healing, growth, and change happen.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”—Gandhi
As we learn to stay in the presence of being uncomfortable, there is a freedom from the suffering in the midst of the suffering. In the midst of that trigger is the possibility for growth and change. Use those triggers wisely …
P.S. I would be happy to hear from you with suggestions for this column or about your personal journey.
Lynn Francis is a part-time instructor for San Diego Community College Continuing Education. She has been a teacher trainer for more than 30 years. She also has a private practice as a life coach and licensed marriage family therapist. Readers of Inner News can reach her at lcfranci@sdccdedu.
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