I have been exploring how it becomes possible for a couple to create an extraordinary relationship – and what is necessary for each in the relationship to be able to be fully present and love to their greatest capacity.
I spoke about the three primary ego states (the critic, the wounded child and the Aware Self) that we most often relate to each other from – and that our Aware Self is the place in which we can be our wise authentic self, capable of true love, respect, honor, and trustworthiness. We can learn to become more conscious and step into our Aware Self with some skills and healing practices.
Now, in the previous blog article, I explored how we can know the difference between the Aware Self and the critic. In this article, we’re going to explore how we can know when our wounded child ego state is coming up. You often go “unconscious” in this way when you get emotionally triggered. I will explore a little further how you can recognize when you get emotionally triggered in relating with a loved one.
Some obvious signs that you have been triggered are when you start to feel badly about yourself – and you seem to lose some of your reasoning capacities. On a physical level, your breath gets shallower – and signs of being upset or angry occur such as your jaw tightening or you get hot in the face &/or neck. Really, what is happening is that the amygdala – that part of our limbic system often called “our lizard brain” has taken over in what Daniel Goldman coined “the amygdala hijack.”
Dr. Peter Levine, one of the foremost experts in the world on trauma – and author of Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, was interviewed on Neil Sattin’s Relationship Alive program to explore what happens when we get triggered in our intimate relationships. (Listen to this interview at: https://goo.gl/ECeX6y )
In this interview, Dr. Levine talks about how our partner may do something, or not do something, give a look – or say something, and all of a sudden, our body reacts by developing a knot in the stomach, a tightening in the shoulders, faster heartbeat. Our brains look to find causation for this symptomatic response, and often, will attach blame to anyone nearby! We might then begin believing this must all be about our partner – when in reality, it is most often the result of an echoing of earlier memories stored in our own body. A relationship and interaction will go nowhere when both people are stuck in a trap of blaming and shaming.
“Somatic Experiencing” (a form of therapy developed by Levine that addresses physical trauma-related problems) helps people learn to experience their emotions and sensations in their body and notice all that goes on without having to react. It helps people go from being closed and defensive to open and curious – which is KEY to trauma recovery!
When we do drop into our wounded child ego state and get triggered, this is actually an opportunity to heal! Our intimate relationships are ideal places to have our traumas arise, because we can face our memories and reactions with a trusted person who can share it with us, hold us, and be with us as we release these traumas – and experience greater aliveness, joy and connection.
Now that we have explored how we can recognize when we or our beloved partner has gotten emotionally triggered – and why it is not a good idea in such a state to attempt to resolve challenges with our partner, I will be exploring in my next article what we can actually do to help our wounded child to heal and restore ourselves to the adult Aware Self where we have access to all of our heart, wisdom and skills to be able to resolve whatever challenges we are having with our beloved and to give and receive love in our greatest capacity.