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A Prescription for Change: 3 steps to changing your patterns and working with triggers

I recently created a post for social media {link here!}that challenged people to share about an area in their life where they have experienced important growth in a way that felt really hard but had an outcome that was totally worth it.

 

Here’s what I noticed as I wrote the post:

 

I’ve come a long way and it has all been because I followed 3 basic steps.

 

About 10 years ago, I was trying to learn my way to growing as a person. Today, I know that real change doesn’t happen from logic and academics.

Use my experience as just one example. I could offer many!

 

Back then,

  • I believed that all children need firm boundaries and lots of guidance if parents want to raise children who were successful and contributed to the greater good. If I raised them this way, it was proof that I loved them unconditionally in a way that assured they’d turn out the way I wanted them to {I am so aware now of how flawed this logic was and it is humbling to share it}.
  • I had a blind spot or two. I was providing firm boundaries, but I was also yelling at them, creating lots of rules about the friends they hung out with and the activities they did, and could switch gears with my moods or my actions with no rhyme or reason. Firm boundaries are one thing, but inflexible, rigid, walls of steel are another. If I could see my own behavior, which was rare, I justified it as good parenting. I couldn’t see that if I didn’t also provide the safety of a warm, nurturing, and accepting home, my kids only saw a strict, loud, inflexible mom.
  • I’ll even take it a step further: when I was blind to my own behavior, I was judging you for NOT being as firm as I was. I saw the yelling as my form of caring. If you weren’t yelling at your kids, you were being their friend and “kids don’t need friends like that.” Yelling had nothing to do with caring. I was simply losing my shit and, although I had excellent intentions and truly believed my own story, was justifying my reactivity (which is the same as a trigger). I wasn’t consciously parenting in those moments at all. I was actually triggered by my kids’ behavior which was my problem to solve, not theirs.

 

So what are the three steps? What is different about how I see my role now?

I’ve done a shit-ton of work on myself.

 

Years ago, I had a self-image of being a happy, warm, nurturing parent who was a good parent raising great kids.

 

But I also knew I was frustrated a lot and I blamed everyone else for my short temper and raised voice.

 

I finally said “yes” to a helping professional because I thought she’d help me fix everyone else. Instead, she pointed out the places I could do things differently, but she never told me I was wrong. She helped me hold space for more than one truth that included “my kids need boundaries,” and “I’m triggered when they don’t do what I want them to do.” Most importantly, she helped me see the areas where I was afraid and anxious and had no idea how to ask for help. She helped me find my own answers which involved seeing more than one truth.

 

I saw choice where I hadn’t before.

Knowing how to parent didn’t make me a good parent. It took letting go of  things of which I felt certain and trying new things. Now, I’m only certain that there is never only one right answer.

 

If I boil it down, the transformation in my family required 3 things.

 

1. It required that I honestly and consciously observe myself as often as I could remember to do so. This meant that I self-observed my actions and emotions without having an opinion about or a judgement of them.

What this might look like for you:

  • Take an inventory of what actually happened without your interpretation or story layered on top of that
  • Allow whatever feelings you have to be there even if they are things like anger or fear or shame or something else uncomfortable (and know you don’t have to do anything other than experience them as the physical sensations they are meant to be). Emotions live in the body and that’s where you can feel them. What we often refer to as “emotions” are actually our reactions to these physical sensations. Some ways these reactions show up include rage, people-pleasing, avoidance, and perfectionism.
  •  

2. It required me to receive honest feedback from others without defending myself or justifying my behavior.

What this might look like for you:

  • Again, be aware of the physical sensations as you receive the feedback. Sit quietly and make a commitment to simply listen. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but you do have to receive it. Allow yourself to be impacted by the feedback, consider it, and then you’ll know how to respond to it without reacting to it. This is what it means to use the intelligence of your head, heart, and body. Be aware of the stories that you tell yourself as you hear it. Are they true? Can you be absolutely sure they are true?

 

3. It required me to, the next time, integrate whatever feedback I was willing to integrate, and self-observe again.

What this might look like for you:

  • allowing your teenage child do something you wouldn’t have before and being open to the possibility that they won’t end up in a ditch on the side of the road
  • letting go of a resentment even if it means they don’t know how much they’ve hurt you
  • apologizing to your boss without saying the transgression happened because of their leadership liabilities

 

Before you know it, your brain has rewired itself and given you more options. You are no longer defaulting to the familiar pattern that developed from experiencing the world through that familiar lens you’ve crafted over time.

 

The only meaningful growth and change that I’ve experienced has been really, really uncomfortable and it has made miracles happen.

 

Every relationship in my life has improved as a result of making micro-changes that I practiced over long periods of time in community with others.

 

While it may sound counter-intuitive, working through these situations and developing new ways of responding to the world takes the shame out of it.

We are all a bit flawed and we’re all just trying to do life better. Community helps us to normalize that.

 

If you want to join a group, check out my website here. In fact, the next session of Remember Who You Are starts this week.

Christina Granahan

Christina Granahan

Enneagram-informed coach + therapist

I teach you how to use your Enneagram type to realize the relationships and success that you’ve been chasing at work, home, or school. Let's connect and see how I can help you.

You have one life. Let’s get you living it.

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