Welcome to season five of The Shine Podcast. This season is going to be focused on leaders and topics related to how we continue to move through the challenges and the complexity that we are all navigating in our workplaces, our home life and the greater world. In today’s episode, I will share what I know about the science on triggers, why they are caused, and where they’re coming from. I am going to offer you a few helpful practices on how to calm emotional triggers that you can use in your life and share with others. My goal is to help you learn how to cultivate a strong inner game that will enable you to navigate triggers skillfully. The inner game rules the outer game, and the six qualities of the inner game that I’ve identified and highlighted in my new book really support one to navigate triggers skillfully, create healthy boundaries, and then have the brave exchanges so that the patterns that cause the trigger are minimized, and/or maybe even uprooted.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Imperfect Shownotes
Carley Hauck 0:01
Hi, my name is Carley Hauck. Welcome to another episode of the SHINE podcast. This is the first interview of season five, which will total out 2021. And for those of you that are just joining, I’d love to give you a little backstory on the SHINE podcast and how it came to be.
It started in May 2019, where I was finally sharing lots of interviews that I had previously conducted with incredible leaders as part of the research for my new book, which I spent almost five years writing and debuted this year, February 23 2021, Shine: Ignite Your Inner Game to Lead Consciously at Work and in the World, my publisher is Sounds True.
And I have been really delighted by the response of people to the book, but the podcast continues to go strong. And the podcast is really about the intersection of three things: conscious, inclusive leadership, the recipe for high performing teams and awareness practices. And I go into the science, the spiritual perspective, and then the actual application of this into your life. I will be facilitating two to three episodes a month. And before I tell you about our topic today, I’d love if you could go over to Apple podcasts, hit the subscribe button. And if you love this episode, or any previous episodes that you might want to tune into, if you could write a positive review, it helps so much. And it supports people to find this podcast. Thank you.
This particular season is going to be focused on leaders and topics related to how we continue to move through the challenges and the complexity that we are all navigating in our workplaces, our home life and the greater world. We are in a spiritual and collective awakening, I am sure. And I hope that this podcast will be the light that will support you to shine your light. Our topic for today is how to calm emotional triggers at work and in life. And this is going to be by yours truly.
Carley Hauck 3:10
Has this ever happened to you? Listen to some possibilities. You’re at work. You had an experience where most of the day was off, maybe you woke up late. meetings were suddenly canceled, rescheduled but you were prepared. Other folks were expressing impatience, frustration, and communication processes were not easy. And you felt triggered.
This might have happened at home. You could be navigating challenging children, you’re working from home. They’re at home too. Maybe you have a sick parent in your life, you’re feeling under the weather yourself. Or perhaps you’re navigating flash flooding, or smoking fires due to climate change. And it’s throwing your inner calm and balance off. You feel triggered.
What I’m speaking to is pretty normal. And especially in a highly complex and always changing workplace and world. We are all navigating so much right now. We have been and it’s been highlighted in the last 18 or so months since the beginning of the pandemic. Many of our so-called freedoms have been taken away. We’re still wearing masks in most public places. We’ve been more socially isolated than any other time. And as a result are being forced to be on technology more than ever to meet our social needs and to be high performing leaders at work or just folks at work. Being connected to screens and technology is not something that we should be on this many hours a day.
Why? Because when we look at our hunter gatherer ancestors, they were living in community, living in deeper harmony with the land with their food systems. They were engaging in regular exercise, dance song, and expressive arts. Now we are a far cry from living like that. But our nervous systems aren’t used to this much arousal. And what I mean by arousal is, when we are on our technology, our devices, these EMF that we’re pretty much bombarded with all day long. Guess what it does to the body? It raises our blood pressure or heart rate, and therefore, our arousal, our nervous system response, and we may be perceiving things to be stressful when they actually are not. It is easier under the conditions we are living in to become more triggered, versus calm and responsive.
Carley Hauck 6:21
And so in this episode, I will share what I know about the science on triggers, why they are caused, where they’re coming from, and a few helpful practices that you can use in your life, and also share with others. I have been teaching and leading a certain practice around triggers for the last few years, and I have shared it with thousands of folks and leaders in reputable companies. It’s also listed in chapter two of my book. And in fact, just about a week or so ago, I shared this particular practice on a training that I facilitated with leaders on increasing empathy and emotional intelligence with some amazing folks at Capital One.
To tell you why I know a lot about triggers and why I developed this practice, I needed help with triggers. I needed help with my own triggers. And so this is where it began. I was dating a man, this was in 2017. We were in a relationship for a few months, and we were deepening into intimacy. And guess what, when intimacy happens, and the veils start to come down, you’re going to trigger each other, there’s going to be conflict, conflict is part of relationship, it’s part of life. And if you’re not having conflict in your relationships, then there’s probably not a deeper connection. And conflict doesn’t have to end the relationship.
In fact, by having the relational skills to navigate it with care and wisdom, it can create more trust, more psychological safety, more intimacy, more connection, more collaboration, even more innovation.
So back to this relationship experience, my partner was triggered. And he did and said some things that then created triggers in me. I am always up for staying in the midst of difficulty and staying in relationship and repairing. And, you know, trying to heal, that’s just my orientation. I am a person that really values harmony. And it was a real struggle to do that in our relating. Because he would get triggered, he would go into avoidance, I would get triggered, and I would freeze. And then I wasn’t able to do or say the things that would hopefully calm him down, calm myself down. And it was horrible to watch myself.
And the relationship ended. And it was meant to end, we wouldn’t have been good partners or people for each other. And I knew that shortly into the relationship but you know, it was only a few months you’re figuring it out. Again, conflict is normal and it’s normal at work, and it’s definitely normal in dating. Conflicts and triggers will arise but it can actually be something that helps you to grow closer, if you have the skills like I’m going to share with you in this episode.
Carley Hauck 10:09
So I developed this practice that I’m going to share with you in a couple minutes. Because I can only choose how I respond, I don’t have control of the other. But in the moment that I feel scared, I feel triggered, I can choose how I want to respond if I have awareness and if I have the tools. And so shortly after I developed this practice, I wrote an article on this process. And the article is called “How to Deal With Anger at Work”.
And it was with the digital magazine conscious company, which is now part of socap. In 2018, this was one of the top 20 articles read that year. I felt very proud of that and thought, wow, lots of people need help with triggers, so it felt really lovely to be able to be in service in that way.
So what is a trigger? I’ve been saying this word a lot, a trigger is in current time, or a cue, or an event that re-stimulates sensations of the past trauma, it can be a word, it can be a verb. For example, a loud voice can be a trigger, a person’s fear of being controlled or overpowered. That may have come from early childhood experiences. Additionally, another trigger could be a lack of response, you know, you reach out to someone, or you’re trying to have a communication and there’s no response. And that could actually create a trigger of abandonment or neglect, so to speak.
And so in the midst of the pandemic, we are becoming more comfortable speaking about trauma, and you heard the definition that I spoke to it could be something that’s happening in current time, a cue or an event that really stimulates sensations of the past trauma. So we are becoming more comfortable talking about trauma, talking about mental illness in the workplace, it has always been here. But due to the increased pressure, the social isolation I was talking about before, and the large challenges we were navigating at work and in the world. The symptoms that maybe we were suppressing, maybe we were covering with unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol or shopping, or who knows, that can only be pushed down so long before it starts to fester and come to the surface.
Carley Hauck 13:02
And so I want to just preface that if you notice that you’ve been more triggered recently, in your life, this might be an important time to do some deeper inner work to go into, why is this happening more and more. Most of us have emotional healing to do. And that often affects what we are triggered by. And if we don’t acknowledge what is causing the trigger, then those patterns continue and we won’t be able to heal or navigate them with more skill. And I speak from experience here one I noticed myself, I’ve been more triggered recently, in the midst of the pandemic, I have been navigating some very uncertain and complex challenges, more so than normal. And I won’t get into all of that. But just to just a preface. I am there with you if you’re feeling this too.
And prior to my work and leadership and organizational development consulting, I was going through a very rigorous training, thinking that I might want to be a full time therapist but I actually decided that I wanted to do coaching and consulting more and was already starting to do that. But along the way I I went through lots and lots of supervised hours.
As a marriage and family therapist intern in the Bay Area of California I actually conducted over 3,000 supervised hours as I was learning how to be a therapist, but I was also working as a coach and getting supervision as a coach. I worked specifically for an entire year with men who had deep levels of PTSD and trauma who had been living in San Francisco’s in the 80s, and had contracted HIV and AIDS. And so I bring that up because I have worked deeply with folks that are suffering from trauma. And I also worked with families and couples, and was watching the attachment trauma.
Now I bring up attachment trauma, because it actually is related to triggers. So trauma can also have lasting effects in our nervous system in our bodies, if the traumatized person doesn’t have an opportunity to process the event, to talk about the event, or be comforted by someone else, right after the event. So we can imagine if this is stemming from childhood, and we didn’t have the words and we didn’t feel safe to talk about it, and we didn’t feel soothed by that experience, then we’re probably still holding it. So these are all things to think about when we are thinking about triggers.
And one of the things I also just wanted to preface here and I don’t have any answer, before I move into this process is I have worked with a lot of companies and leaders in the last decades around reworks. And reworks, for the most part, are not done very skillfully. The communication I find very harsh, it’s not caring, people will have been working at a company for 20 years, maybe 10 years, maybe eight years. And suddenly, they’re laid off, they didn’t see it coming. And the family at work that they’ve been a part of that they’ve been putting their life force, their energy, their love their service, and is no longer there. And there were many layoffs in 2020. That can be traumatic for folks.
And I’d really love to invite workplaces and leaders that are listening, that let’s create a different way of treating our people and caring for our people. When we tell them that it’s time to go. No, there’s this process that happens where when someone is getting laid off, they immediately don’t have access to their computer or their files. And some people don’t even get a chance to like, gather emails or documents. And I just don’t think it’s the most effective practice or process. So I don’t have the solution.
But my question is, can we design a more compassionate and caring communication process for those that are being asked to leave their current role or their workplace that is honoring and respectful. And I imagine I will have a podcast interview on that topic another day.
Carley Hauck 18:10
But now I’d like to go into the next part of this interview, which is on how cultivating a strong inner game is going to enable you to navigate triggers skillfully. So the inner game is the body of work that I’ve been developing and teaching for over a decade with 1000s of folks, leadership positions, individual contributors, and students at Stanford University and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
The inner game rules the outer game. And there are six qualities of the inner game that I’ve identified and that I highlight in my new book that I believe really support one to navigate triggers skillfully, create healthy boundaries, and then have the brave exchanges so that the patterns that cause the trigger are minimized, and maybe even extinguished.
So I value leading with authenticity. So I’m going to share with you all, how I got triggered the other day, and then how I used the six inner game skills to help me come back into balance and have the brave exchange. So I had scheduled two interviews for Friday of last week, and I was prepared for them, and they were on my schedule, and I was looking forward to them. The first interview was canceled due to a really challenging scenario with this particular leader that I was going to be speaking to. This client leader actually shared with me that she needed to reschedule our interview because there was a threat at her child’s school and she recognized that she needed some space before having a call she she wasn’t actually in the right headspace and so she asked to reschedule and so I really appreciated her cell phone In his her communication, her, her ability to notice she was triggered, she was not in a good place to talk.
And so I honored her. I said, of course, please take care of yourself. And yeah, just reschedule when it’s good for you. So that was the first cancellation of the day, it was totally fine. And then next, I had a podcast interview that I had scheduled about a month ago with a friend and colleague of mine, and I was very excited to have the conversation. And I had sent the, you know, Google Calendar and the zoom link, and we had corresponded about it. And the time arrived, I was on zoom, I was waiting.
And there was five minutes that had passed, and I didn’t see the guests. So I, so I texted this person. And then I emailed, then there was no response. I waited another few minutes. And because I know this guest, personally, I called them, there was no response. I texted, I sent these Zoom links again. And now it’s getting to be around 15 minutes. And I was like, Okay, I guess this isn’t happening today. I don’t know what happened.
But in the moment, I felt confused. I noticed I felt frustrated, there was some impatience, there was disappointment. After about 25 minutes, there was still no response, there was no acknowledgement. And I wasn’t too triggered. But I definitely noticed I was triggered.
And I’m going to share with you a process very soon to help you understand how triggered you are. I accepted that there was some fluke, and I decided, you know what I’m triggered, I’m going to go take a break, I’m going to come back into balance, and I need a break. Anyway, I’ve been on my computer a lot today. So I noticed that in all these feelings that came up, that there was a need to be acknowledged, there was a need for greater respect, there was a need for efficiency so that my time had been honored.
Carley Hauck 22:19
And I also noticed that there was a request from myself that if we were to reschedule, to do this podcast interview, again, that I would want to make sure that this person was available and capable of responding. You know, maybe 30 minutes before the interview, or even afterwards, just in case there was a technology glitch, or scheduling glitch, so that this didn’t happen again. But the no acknowledgement after text after emails after, you know, a call, I thought that was really odd. And I would want to make sure that they were available, their phone was on, they knew, you know that they needed to be available, just in case anything happened so that we were in communication.
So I’m going to break down the process that I went through, that corresponds to the inner game. So self awareness is the first of the six inner game skills. So again, I was aware that I felt triggered. How did I know this, I was aware of the sensations in my body. My heart rate was higher, my blood pressure, I noticed I felt irritation, I was aware of some of the feelings that I already named.
Emotional intelligence is a second inner game skill. And that comprises four dimensions- self awareness, which I already spoke to self regulation, which is this ability to regulate one’s nervous system. So I noticed I was feeling triggered, I needed to take some deep breaths, I needed to take a break and shake it off, so to speak. Social awareness is another component of emotional intelligence, and then relationship mastery to our parts of the inner game, and to our parts of the outer game, which you’ll see show up when I go into the conversation that I want to have.
And so again, in my self regulation, I was breathing deeply. I actually went and sat outside in the sun, and I was really enjoying the sun because where I live right now in North Carolina, there has just been so much rain and so much gray weather, and I’m not used to it. So having this break in the middle of the day to get a little bit of sun poking through the clouds was actually a really beautiful gift.
And then the third inner game practice is resilience and we can think of that as growth mindset. So the thought that I had while this was happening is I wonder what happened. Why? Why is this happening? Right? Which is coming from more curiosity versus why are they doing this to me? Why did this happen? So I had this sense that there’s a reason why this is happening. And you know why? Because I was supposed to do a solo podcast on this topic. That’s why it allowed me to use my experience as a teachable moment. For triggers for this first episode of Season Five.
The fourth inner game practice is well being. So again, I took time to pause, I even sang a song in the car as I was driving to get out into the sun and singing helps me to calm down. I walked barefoot in the grass, I unplugged from technology, so I could really lower my arousal state. And I calm down.
Love, that’s number five. I was able to turn towards myself with compassion, Carley, you’ve had like, two people cancel on you today, and your schedule has gotten a little rocked, right? It’s a little unpleasant. I offered myself care. And then I offered compassion to this other person, I hope they’re okay, hope everything’s fine. And so if I’m not able to bring that inner game of love, and compassion, and even forgiveness towards myself, first, it’s really hard to put that out into the world and into my relationships.
And the number six, the inner game of authenticity. When I moved into owning what was true for me, what were my feelings? What were my needs, and even going a layer deeper, I actually acknowledged that the trigger stirred some old emotional triggers for me that I’ve had due to childhood experiences, where I often felt like I was, you know, having to be super responsible, holding everything down, taking care of others, and there wasn’t a lot of mutuality, there was sometimes not even communication. And that often then has me feeling a bit triggered, you know, like, I’m not being respected, I’m being neglected. And why do I have to work so hard, you know, to be able to get someone to meet me in this place. So that was coming up for me too.
And I was also really recognizing my request, if we were to reschedule again. So that is coming from the inner game of authenticity. And if this person wasn’t able to, you know, agree to some of my requests, in order to schedule another podcast interview, then it’s not the right fit, and nothing personal, it’s just, this is a process, it’s not going to work for me again, and I don’t want to have a repeat performance.
So about an hour later, I actually did hear from this person, and they apologize, my name that they thought they were on, you know, Pacific Standard Time, even though all my communication and our Google calendar invite was on Eastern Standard Time, I brought attention to what I did to coordinate the interview to create efficiency. And then I actually had the brave exchange and I named my parameters and the agreement in order to reschedule this interview, and support this person with their new book. So this was honoring myself, my time, my boundaries. And by doing that I can be much more compassionate and forgiving with this person’s process.
Carley Hauck 29:15
So that is the way that when we cultivate these six inner game qualities of self awareness, emotional intelligence, resilience, well being love and authenticity, it supports us to have the brave exchange to navigate our triggers more easily because we’ve developed the skills to relate even in the midst of conflict, even in the midst of trigger. So I told you that I was going to give you a process to try and here it is: are you ready?
This is the first step because we have to understand that we’re triggered before we can actually relate skillfully to triggers. This is coming from chapter two in my book, and I’d love for you to just bring your attention inward.
Just bring your awareness to your body to your breath. Kind of digesting everything I’ve shared, but letting it all go. Maybe move your fingers, your toes, your neck, shoulder circles back, whenever it feels good to just come into the body. This is only going to take a few minutes. So don’t do this while you’re driving. If you’re walking, see if you can, you know, just pause
to be still. And now just recall a time that happened recently where you felt triggered at work at home. And bring to mind the situation and go through this process with me.
On a scale of one to 10, see if you can identify the number of trigger one being I feel calm. 10 being I am about to lose it. Can you recall? What was your number? Next, identify your emotions, there might be many: fear, anger, patience, disappointment. All feelings are welcome.
Now turn towards your body. What bodily sensations are you aware of is there a tightness constriction, an irritation. And just notice where it’s taking up space in your body, your hands, your belly, your head, is it a lot of space is in a little bit of space. And trying to stay in the body, don’t go into story.
And next, try to identify what the narrative is about this situation this person did or said or this happened. And we can have lots of narratives and they can either bring us up or they can bring us down. And if you recall, the experience that I shared, I was able to stay in curiosity. I wondered what happened. But I welcome you to really acknowledge whatever narrative is true. Well, what is your narrative about the situation right now.
And notice that you probably have a need from this person from this situation. What need do you have right now that would support you to come into greater balance, maybe you have a need for a break. First, maybe you have a need for connection for respect for whatever it is love for you to just acknowledge what that need is, honor it.
And then bring your awareness back to your body back to your breath. Maybe do a little movement, a little shaking. So that process can take a couple minutes. And it’s really helpful for you to go through so that you can start to understand your patterns and be able to have choice over your response in the moment that you’re triggered.
Carley Hauck 34:45
And I wanted to share just another piece that when you’re first identifying the number on a scale of one to 10. If you’re at a five or higher, I would invite you to really pause at that moment. This is not the time to have the conversation. Because in that range of trigger, you’ve usually left your heart and you’re pretty much in your head, which means you’re in a more fear based place. If you’re in your heart, you’re still coming from love, you might still be coming from care, compassion, forgiveness, you’re able to really hold space for your experience and the other. But when we’re too triggered, we’re in attack mode, because that’s how our nervous system is wired, we are going to be in fight flight, or freeze versus the, you know, more relaxed care and befriend space.
And so you’re human, it’s okay, if you’re above a five, go take good care of yourself, do what you need to do to shake it off, and then identify what your need is. And so one of the ways that we can communicate that we’re triggered, so that we’re actually able to salvage and have care for the other, especially if this is in the midst of another person, is we just acknowledge it, I feel triggered, or I’m not in a good place to talk right now.
The other thing that can happen is that we’re in dialogue or relationship with someone else who’s triggered, and they may not actually even be able to say that they’re triggered. So that’s also a really wonderful time. If you’re aware that this person’s triggered, and they’re coming from fight flight, or freeze, which means they’re withdrawn, they’re attacking, or they’re just kind of frozen, that you might also interject and say, What do you think about us taking a pause, taking a break, and revisiting this in 15 minutes, or Let’s reschedule to another day, right. And you don’t necessarily have to say, Hey, I think you’re triggered, because that could create more of a trigger for the other person, but you just offer a pause. And if that person isn’t able to hear it, you can still take it, because that’s you honoring you, and that’s you holding healthy boundaries.
So I hope that all this information was helpful to you. And you can grow your inner game, so that you can be a conscious leader at work life in the world. And that inner game will support you to navigate triggers more skillfully. And there are a couple ways for you to cultivate a strong inner game, and to also continue these types of practices.
One is the podcast. I believe this is Episode 48. So all of the podcasts interviews that I have done, I’m sharing practices, I’ve interviewed leaders, and they’re talking about the challenges they’ve had and what they’ve utilized to really grow their inner game and navigate their own complexities at work and at home because we bring our whole selves wherever we go, you know, it’s not compartmentalised. As I was sharing earlier, our childhood experiences impact, what triggers us at work, and at home.
You can also get my book in hardcopy or an audiobook is available. And I would love to support you with the wonderful stories of leaders in the book and incredible science and the practices that you can apply to your life.
You could also book a free consultation with me and we can develop a specific training for your organization, team, or leadership. I also love creating large scale learning and leadership development programs with these foundational skills embedded. And the links for the book. And booking time with me will all be in the show notes.
Carley Hauck 39:20
Before I say farewell for now, I’d like to invite one more invitation. It’s so important that we start to understand the patterns of what triggers us. And so as you go about your day, you might start to explore what are the patterns of things that are causing me to feel triggered at home, at work?
Here are some examples at work. Do I get triggered in group meetings? If so, why? And my one-on-ones with my supervisor. Do I get triggered when they do or say certain things? Why is this potentially related to old experiences in my childhood or my family of origin are another experience that reminds me of this? Do I feel triggered when I am ignored, or when I feel a lack of belonging or trust? Where’s that coming from? So, just really being curious.
There’s no judgment here, because we all have it. But if we can start to understand the root of it, and we bring caring, and loving awareness, we can start to shift our response and create new healthy patterns on the inside, and less on how we show up on the outside.
Before we part, I am going to share my heart’s desire. This feels a bit vulnerable. And I’ve never used the platform for this purpose, but it feels timely, and we live in a virtual connected world. I am in a wonderful place in my life, where I am seeking a conscious inclusive human being who has a deep commitment to learning growth and using relationship as spiritual practice. This person, like me, has devoted time and energy for many years with teachers, programs, healers, therapists, coaches, to develop and cultivate the inner game skills I’ve been speaking of: self awareness, emotional intelligence, empathy, growth mindset, leading from love, forgiveness, authenticity. And they are excited and ready to engage in skillful relating and navigating conflict with health, and patients, and responsiveness.
And as I had shared earlier, how I came to develop this practice for myself on navigating triggers was due to the ending of a relationship. But throughout my entire existence of this life, I have yet to find a person that can stay. That has the skills for this type of relating. And I’m at a place where I will not date anyone that does not have the skills, I do not want to go through the pain that has occurred by not being met in these basic capabilities of relating, they feel basic to me. I’m aware, they’re not for everyone.
So if you are listening to this, you feel a sense of resonance with me with this image of relating.
And you’re excited to explore beautiful partnership, and supporting one another to be the best versions of ourselves in service of a more just inclusive and regenerative world, I would love to hear from you. Please reach out. conversations are always a great way to start. And I’m always in the mindset that we are always learning and growing from each other. And I’m always willing to see how we can support each other even if it’s not, you know, moving towards what I’m calling in this particular message.
If you are also listening to us and you know, an eligible, single cisgendered heterosexual male who fits this description, and you would like to reach out and introduce us, I would be delighted to hear from you. It’s all about introductions and supporting one another, to grow into our best selves with the right community opportunities. So thank you for hearing my heart’s desire. And as always, I so appreciate you being part of the podcast community for listening in. And until we meet again, be the light and shine your light.