I like to think that this is not for “dummies” but for “smarties”. I like to think that we can all be mindful and intelligent when discussing topics such as mental health. This is in no way meant to substitute or stand for professional health care. I am merely offering some tools and a perspective on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and how we deal with our daily lives.
Did you know that your mental and emotional triggers can dictate your day and your life?
Did you know that the synapses and patterns that you carry out, that shaped the basis of your conscious and sub-conscious routine, have an important influence on how you live your life now and tomorrow? You can therapeutically affect and treat your inner processes and shift your psychological paradigm, so to speak.
When I think of this, I think of all the times I was so excited as a child. I think of the vibes different celebrations brought and all the “happy triggers” certain repetitive, and constant occurrences had in my life. I also think of all the negative triggers. Sometimes I do this by going back in my memories, other times it happens because I feel something happening and then I make the connection. We all have good and bad associations and triggers. We have positive and negative patterns and conditioning.
As boring as it may seem to go back in your mind and identify certain paths of thought and emotion, as I call them, it can actually be extremely beneficial to your mental health.
This is about the WHY
Analysing this sort of thing enters into the WHY of the things you do, think, and feel. Similarly, Cognitive Behavioural Theory deals with this kind of analysis. It helps you map out your patterns and processes from initial trigger, stimulus, or defining moment, then observing what said occurrence did to you on a mental, physical, and emotional level, to then determine how this affected you afterward. Then, you analyse the new habits and conditioning you perpetuated because of the initial stimulus, examining your synapses, even changes in your brain’s chemical cycle, in order to define why from one moment to the next, your triggers are as they are and WHY what you do with this emotional, mental, and physical set of symptoms dictates your next action and HOW you can change this.
What you can do today
But today we focus on why. Try to focus on why certain things make you happy and why other make you sad, or angry, or anxious. Go as far back as you can. Map out every thought and sensory stimulus. Recall as much as you can. Write it all down. Sometimes even drawing it can help. You are safe and it is your personal journey of exploration so take it easy, be gentle with yourself, and discover. That’s all you need to do this time.
For example, say I don’t like loud noises. I don’t like when people make loud noises or slam things for nothing. I find it stressful. I don’t understand it. I also find it demonstrates a significant lack of self-awareness and a lack of awareness of one’s surroundings. We are all different, and to an extent this is all relative, but there comes a point where it becomes too much. Now say I get annoyed when I hear people being that way. It makes me react in a physical way as well. I want to tell them to relax and calm down. I want to tell them to stop being so aggressive. Great, not we work with that. I want to identify what is happening to me physically and emotionally. I now want to examine WHY I feel this way. I know why it does what it does to me. Explore it. I know I sometimes still feel this way. I get slightly triggered by aggressive people.
To treat it, I simply remind myself that what is happening now, is not what was happening then. In other words, if stimulus A caused symptom B, and that caused conditioning C, that does not mean that every stimulus similar to A or even another stimulus A must bring about symptom B and perpetuate conditioning C.
In time, when you feel annoyed or even angry at those sounds or habits in people, you can remember that you are separate. That is their way of doing things and you have yours. I have also untangled all the triggers in me that only belonged to the past and not to this given moment. Eventually, I realised there was no “threat” or need to protect myself. I was protected and safe. Not only because they were different situations, but because my life had changed and I will always keep myself safe and this was no longer a threat to me. Until there is a new threat, I will lower my guard, go with the flow, and reside in serenity. So remember that. Reside in the knowledge and understanding that it is not like it was before. The same applies to anything that triggers you, I just chose a simple one.
Another example might be in a relationship, you may be used to your significant other lying or cheating. He or she may have made promises to you that suddenly fell through. He or she may have often let you down so you became used to being disappointed. It is important not to let this take away from your excitement about happy events in the future. It’s also important to remember that even if your new partner does this, that it is separate from what you went through in the past. You cannot link the two, and must most certainly not find this similarity to be a problem within you. Analyse each situation for what it is and not what other situations have been. Use your past as lessons learned and build on it. Scars remind us of where we have been, but they do not define where we go.
Just like the stages of grief, this does not work in a straight line. There is also no timeline for this kind of therapy. Take it easy, take it one day at a time and one instance at a time. Every “test” or trigger will be different. In time, you will create a natural flow allowing you to take on each one more easily, until one day, you may not even be affected by certain things anymore. Now, I am one to believe that we never forget these things, just like heartbreak and loss. But we learn to live with them and are associations change accordingly. In fact, a significant transformation of this kind can actually lead you to getting a positive feeling instead, because you feel stronger and happy that you have overcome said challenge. Depending on the circumstances, you may find room in your heart to smile and remember some of the good times you had pushed aside.
So that’s it for today! Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or need some assistance.