How to Deal with Problematic Triggers
As a psychologist who spends most of my professional life delivering presentations for organizations around the world, I always like to start by allowing my participants to identify the aspects of their lives that we call “problem triggers.” This is important because it represents what most want from my presentation, i.e., some new way to deal with these difficult people and/or situations. Once this is done, however, it will be critical to demonstrate that these triggers are not the problem… not the cause of our stress, anxiety, frustration, etc.
In other words, most people mistake the “what” (the triggers in our life) for the “why” (the reason we react the way we do), and this can trap them in an ever-escalating cycle of stress and frustration unless they are able to change all of their triggers. Of course, when we can change some external situation so that we feel better, I’m all for that. However, when we are dealing with situations (traffic, deadlines, difficult people, etc.) over which we have no control, then needing to change the trigger will become a trigger in and of itself.
Instead, I help people find the true “why,” or the real reason we react to certain situations with stress and anxiety, and then give them a system for influencing this intervening variable so that they can have more influence in the life they are creating. I call this system, “Life from the Top of the Mind” because it incorporates the latest brain research, and helps people understand their reactions from a new perspective.
Basically, this new system identifies the function of the limbic system (the middle brain) as a scanner, processor, and router. It scans incoming data, which could either be what is happening around us or simply thoughts that pop into our head, and processes or interprets this data as either positive, neutral, or negative. The positive or neutral data is seen as non threatening, and therefore is routed or referred to the upper 80% of the brain (what I call the Top of the Mind) for further evaluation.
However, if the middle brain senses anything or anyone it doesn’t like… anything or anyone it determines to be a negative trigger, stressor, or threat of any kind, it immediately engages the lower 20% of the brain while numbing or bypassing the upper 80%. This brainstem reaction is designed to allow us to react to physically dangerous situations without thinking, and when we are dealing with something or someone that requires a fight-or-flight reaction to be safe, this is the perfect part of the brain to engage.
The problem, unfortunately, is that we engaging this lower, reactive brain in situations where we need access to our best interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, clarity, confidence, creativity, etc., and because this lower brain is incapable of responding in this more purposeful way, we become less effective at dealing with life. This lack of effectiveness then becomes one more negative trigger, and the cycle of stress and frustration is born and exacerbated.
This is the “why,” the intervening variable, or the real reason we find ourselves feeling, thinking, and acting in a way that traps us in an ever-escalating cycle… our middle brain is misinterpreting some negative person or situation as dangerous, and throwing us into the part of the brain that is designed to deal with danger!
Of course, what most want to know after they learn the “what” and the “why” is the “how!” In other words, how do we shift from this old, reactive brain to the clear, confident, creative brain so that we can access our best and have the most influence in the life we are creating?
This is what my Life from the Top of the Mind system is designed to teach… not only how to shift to the part of the brain that allows us to access the best of who we are, but how to rewire the brain to make this Top of the Mind perspective our new habit, and finally, how to engage others who may be resistant to what we are saying, so that they shift from their resistant brain to their receptive brain so that we can create true solution-focused conversations.
If understanding and influencing the “what,” the “why” and learning the “how” is important to you and/or your organization, I suggest that you contact me, because as long as we continue to make the triggers the cause of how we think and feel, we will continue to be the “effect,” and forever trapped in the part of the brain that is incapable of solving the problem.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill