Emotional Triggers: Recognizing Our ‘Land Minds’

emotional triggers
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As lawyers, we all have to deal with unpleasantness. Our careers resemble a noble quest beset by unreasonable people, unexpected results, and often at the worst times in people’s lives.

Problems arise when this unpleasantness causes (triggers) an adverse emotional response in our subconscious which manifests as uncontrollable anger, fear or panic. We can have physical sensations of emotional, physical or mental pain.

Emotional and mental health exhibits confidence, resilience and flexibility. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune glides off our countenance like water on glass. Unkind comments and criticism do not bother us, for we are proud warriors serving the innocent and deserving.

Unfortunately, in reality, we live in a world somewhere between emotional and mental health and panic or depression. We can measure our mental and emotional health by our ability to control stress, anger, and depression. It is a work in progress.

The truth is that our emotional triggers often blindside us. We don’t expect them, many people don’t even know they are there. When we get triggered, it is too late. Tempers flare, angry words erupt, and we say or do things we regret.

It is important to think about why we get angry or lose our temper. Remember the last time you did, and ask yourself “what made me angry”? This is the first step of self-realization of what your triggers are and how deep they are buried.

Most triggers are caused by traumatic events that we may not remember. Try to remember the first time you were angry and what made you angry. This is a clue to the source of your emotional triggers. If your trigger is being told “no”, or not getting what you want, then your trigger definitely was installed in your childhood.

Resilience is the ability to adapt to adverse conditions and succeed. As lawyers, we are often told the word “no,” but the key is how do we react to that? If we get triggered, we will waste a lot of time dealing with a wounded psyche before we can start searching for solutions and get back on track.

Do politics make you angry? Do victims make you angry? Do finances make you angry? Finding solutions is a healthy response to politics, victims and finances. Anger is not. What is the hook that pole vaults you from rational thinking to raw animal emotions? These are the symptoms of triggers.

The secret to emotional and mental health and resilience is getting to the bottom of these seemingly uncontrollable emotional outbursts. When we fall prey to our emotions, we end up getting depressed and fatigued. If we get angry on a regular basis, we are on the slippery slope to attorney burnout. Being triggered is exhausting.

Think of triggers as emotional hand grenades or landmines (aka land minds) that live in our subconscious just below our rational mind. It may be a traumatic memory, a painful experience or unforgiven behavior by an authority figure. It could be something you witnessed as a child. It could be something that never really happened, you just think it did. When something happens that reminds you of that experience, the grenade or landmine goes off.

The process can be something like going down a rabbit hole. Here is an example of my process. I used to hate April 15 because I loathed paying taxes. There were some years I had to get on a payment plan with the IRS because I did not have the money to pay my taxes. I could not understand why I would get so upset around April 15, so I started meditating on what could be causing this irrational reaction.

In searching my memory banks, I realized that I had a lot of fear associated with money, especially the fear of not having any. By not budgeting my spending to allow for taxes, I would not have the money to pay them. In my family, not having money was equal to failure. Thus, I was a failure. There was a simple solution to avoid the stress, anxiety and depression I was experiencing around taxes. I admitted that I was in complete control of my finances and started acting accordingly.

Honestly, I have a lot of emotional triggers, healed or yet to be discovered. Anytime I have feelings of anger, fear, panic, stress, anxiety or depression I know a trigger is lurking just beneath the surface.

It is an ongoing process, but the rewards are worth it. I am calm, confident and composed. My neuroses are my friends. Life is good.

Gray Robinson

Gray Robinson, Esq. is a lawyer, writer, speaker, mentor, consultant and coach for lawyers who are struggling with their practice of law. He was a divorce lawyer for 27 years and handled hundreds of cases. He quit in 2004 due to stress and burn out and has devoted his life to helping lawyers and clients deal with the pressures of practicing law. Gray is the founder of Lawyer Lifeline, a restorative program that guides legal professionals through anxiety and stress to fulfillment and passion. You can learn more about Gray Robinson and his work by visiting www.LawyerLifeline.net and/or write him directly at [email protected].

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