NVC Deconstruction of Emotional Triggers

Emotional Triggers Can Be Resolved

Many of us, as mortal human beings, have hot buttons or “triggers” as they are often called in NVC circles.  Some of our hot buttons have become so hot, I call them red-hot, “nuclear” emotional triggers.  These are the things on observing which you feel so irritated, annoyed, livid or freaked out that you just don’t know how to cope. You have a sudden meltdown or you act out.

There’s a wide range of red-hot emotional triggers that inspire anger and even hatred. Though hate is a strong word that is politically incorrect, some of us absolutely hate rude words or deeds. Some just hate to hear criticism or judgment. Many hate certain kinds of music or movies.

How Emotional Triggers Develop

Ordinary triggers can morph through a sort of attention-mutation into red-hot emotional triggers. Here’s how that happens. Let’s say there’s something you feel annoyed or irritated by. Each time you see or hear it, you continue to focus your attention on the irritation. This happens over and over and over. You try to find an effective strategy to protect yourself from it. You try but fail to transform it into something minor or harmless.

Voila: you now have a red-hot emotional trigger!

A Personal Case Study

Here’s an NVC in Real Life example from my own experience. I’ve enjoyed listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR for several years. The slow, wobbly quality of her voice is due to a vocal disorder. Diane’s voice never bothers me.  But the theme song with its very intense, rapid piano arpeggio, just seems to hammer at my brain. Hearing it repeatedly, I’ve felt annoyed and irritated. Focusing my attention on this glaring bit of music repeatedly, the minor irritation grew into a red-hot emotional trigger.

I found myself one day turning down the radio’s volume when Diane’s theme music played.  Other days I would actually turn the radio off until the music was finished. I’d created a red-hot emotional hot button all my own!   I’d never heard of anyone else having the same challenge.

My Own Nuclear Trigger Meltdown

At one point I felt so annoyed that I sent an email to the radio show’s producers. I explained that Diane Rehm has a very gracious, gentle personality. I was confused and deeply annoyed that her theme music is so intense. Heck, it almost sounds “mad” or “manic.” I needed some understanding. Why is her music not in harmony with her personality and show-moderation style? I requested that they consider replacing her theme music with something that reflects who she is.

I wasn’t surprised to receive no response to my email. But this only compounded the annoyance and irritation I felt with the music.

Stubborn Emotional Triggers, Finally Deconstructed

One day, as her theme music suddenly played, I was just too tired to rush across the room to turn down the volume. I relaxed and observed it more calmly. It was clear: throughout the “manic” arpeggios that I felt so irritated by, there was one constant, steady note. I refocused my attention away from the arpeggios and into that one base note.  I felt far less irritation, far less annoyance.  With practice, I got to a point where I could finally “face the music” with a measure of composure. I simply trained myself to focus on that steady, underlying base-note. By doing so, I believe I deconstructed my emotional trigger’s hot button. I chopped it back down to size. I had built and created it myself; I discovered I had the power to deconstruct it. Honestly, I still don’t care for that piece of music, but it has no power to irritate or annoy me so deeply anymore.

An Analogy to Divine Consciousness

Since my background is in mysticism, I can see a clear spiritual analogy here. Those wild piano arpeggios could be compared to the unstable cacophony of the world. The escalating arguments going on in the minds of millions, every moment of every day. The unsettled energy of sharp attitudes and cocksure opinions, rooted in the egoic mind.

On the other hand, the stable, underlying base notes are deep, strong and calming. I compare them to the universal mantra of Nature, Source, Spirit, God or whatever term you prefer. By simply focusing on those stable notes, I feel stable and calm.  It’s similar to meditating and stilling the mind while all around you are caught up in painful dramas of the egoic mind.

Defusing Your Own Emotional Triggers

People in your life may say or do certain things that begin to annoy you just a bit. Over time they just irritate the heck out of you. You focus on the annoyance and irritation repeatedly, for months or years. Just like discovering you’ve put on 5 or 10 unwanted pounds, you don’t realize exactly how it happened.  It may be an unconscious process, but one day, much to your horror, you realize you’ve created some red-hot emotional triggers.

This causes all kinds of hell for you. As Marshall might call it, “a festival of pain.” It also tends to create stress on your relationships.

Your emotional triggers can be deconstructed. Start with a very clear, objective observation of exactly what started to inspire the irritation in the first place. Write a short list of your own personal triggers. Note what you feel and what unmet need is underlying the painful feeling. Try to find a creative way to deconstruct one of your emotional triggers. Refer to my story above as an example. If you succeed, my guess is you’ll feel delighted, relieved, and powerful. I’d love to receive your comments about your difficulties or successes. Please reply in the box provided below.

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Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also referred to as Compassionate Communication. It’s based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands. For more on services offered by Steve Pollack, please visit www.mediation-usa.net

In the Miami area? You can attend Steve’s NVC Support Group by visiting www.nvccoachmiami.com

About swpollack

I’m an independent mediator and collaborative communication coach who can help you to co-create greater ease, connection and mutual understanding in your personal and professional relationships. As a non-traditional specialist, my aim is to get concrete results for my clients in a fraction of the time usually required by traditional therapy and counseling. Please visit my business website: www.mediation-usa.net . The emotion-based coaching work I do is deeply therapeutic, yet I am neither a psychologist nor a psychotherapist. Instead I work with a holistic, empathic process called compassionate, nonviolent communication. I also facilitate ongoing support groups for people who want to learn this organic process of nonjudgmental communication to help build bridges of connection, harmony, collaboration and understanding. For more about my Build Compassionate Relationships meetup group, visit: www.nvccoachmiami.com . I’ve been offering these services to the public since 2000 in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, as well as by phone and through Skype conferencing. . Nonviolent Communication is a process developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It’s based on a very pure, nonjudgmental language of feelings, needs and requests. I’ve found this to be a powerful tool in my mediation work which involves bringing two or more people together despite a painful history of conflict.
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