Oftentimes we find ourselves overly stressed by scenarios in which we cannot understand why we’re suddenly overwhelmed with intense, impassioned emotion.
“My husband made a comment and I exploded.”
“My boss gave me this feedback and I completely crumbled.”
"My friend offhandedly mentioned something and I deteriorated."
The list is endless.
When we find ourselves in these triggered states, I like to ask folks a strange question:
“How old are you feeling right now?”
I almost never hear, “I feel my age.” It’s often, “I suddenly feel like I’m five,” or “This humiliating moment in middle school is pulsing through my body.” When triggered, if we suddenly feel young inside, (IE defensive and almost feral), there is an invitation to ask what was at stake in those young moments. Did that comment catapult you back into moments where you felt immense pressure to be perfect for a parent’s affection? Do you feel terrified of disappointing others because that meant less love for you in your family?
Next time you’re overwhelmed, if you can grasp onto this handhold (hard to do when we’re feeling flooded and our hearts are racing, but not impossible), ask yourself, “How old do I feel?” And whatever the age, take a moment to give your young parts the care they desperately needed and never received. Don’t challenge your childlike needs or hate yourself for having them. A kind word, soft physical touch, a place to shed a tear at the right time are all absolute necessities for young ones. Not having them leaves a gap that requires nurturance later. Furthermore, when we do this for the past, we often find the present stresser lessen in intensity. Resourcing the malnourished parts of ourselves is rarely an easy or enjoyable endeavor (especially in the moment), but the cost of having undealt with pain adds up so much more quickly than the temporary pain it takes to learn to care for ourselves more effectively.