There’s an Adult in Here Somewhere

Do you ever find yourself overreacting about something, and even you aren’t sure why you’re doing it? If you’re at all like me, it’s not unusual to be triggered by trauma you’ve experienced in the past. Smells, sounds, even behavior that is remotely similar can cause your brain to shout, “Danger, Will Robinson!”

A very common coping mechanism in these instances is that the part of you that experienced that trauma and somehow managed to survive will now elbow his or her way to the forefront and “handle” it. So if it happened when you were 12, for example, years later you will find yourself acting like a 12 year old. It’s gotten you this far, right? But it’s not always the most rational, effective way to function in the grown up world.

It may take practice, but there are things you can do about this. First, start identifying your triggers. What’s going on around you when you overreact? What is it reminding you of?

Once you’ve gotten a handle on what your process is, you can become more adept at being “present” while it’s happening. Then, when that little voice inside you says, “Whoa. I’m really overreacting,” you can actually heed that voice, take a breath and have an inner dialogue with yourself.

This is going to kind of sound silly, but it really works. Talk to yourself as if you were an adult trying to reassure a child. Here’s a conversation I had with my inner 12 year old recently. “Hey. I know what’s happening is scary. Thank you for wanting to take care of it for me. But I’m the adult here, and I should be the one taking care of you. So it’s okay for you to take a break and let me handle this.”

I’m not suggesting you have multiple personalities. But I do believe we all have an inner child who deserves to be acknowledged now and then. Give it a try. You’d be amazed at how liberating it is. Your secret is safe with me.

Danger

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