Take a break (state)

This blog is inspired by a conversation with a friend this weekend in which I realised I have learned to do something that is not evident for everybody in certain situations: creating a break state.

What is a break state, and what are the benefits of it?

Let me explain. Do you recall any time when you were really triggered? Be it in a personal or business context, be it online or with your partner on the couch. Remember how it feels? Your focus narrows, your reptile brain gets activated and you often perceive the ‘other’ as some sort of threat.

Creating break states are ways to get yourself untriggered so you can reapproach the conversation with your full self, or at least more of your adult self online.

When you are with two, and one of you is triggered, it is usually easy for the other to hold space, see that you are hurting or in pain, and be gentle with you.

When you are alone, it is harder to be gentle with your self and to help yourself get untriggered.

When you are with two and both of you are triggered, it is even harder.

Triggered space can be very sticky, and even though you might want to dissociate or go on and on about that thing the other person has done ‘wrong’: you will never resolve whatever is happening when you are in the trigger. You can gently inquire, sure, and that is hugely beneficial, but that needs the capacity to either hold yourself (self-regulate), hold another or let yourself be held by another. Mind you, all these things are skills.

Often we hang around in ‘trigger space’ for a long time and it is simply not beneficial at all. Our hormones spike, a lot is happening chemically and this has a massive impact on your general sense of well-being. And it can take days for your system to recover. I got triggered last week and it took me days to fully get out of it.

There is nothing wrong with getting triggered. It happens all the time. To everyone.

Yet there is a way you can take care of yourself in those moments: take a break.

Do not go into ‘the thing’ that seems really important, because you will only see it from your triggered perspective. There is no value in trying to hash shit out when you are in that space. Believe me I tried. A lot.

Take a break instead. Help your system change states. It can be as simple as disengaging from the computer when someone Facebook-triggers you. It can look like making a cup of tea when you are in the thick of it with your lover. It can mean taking a walk when you are stuck in your own head-loop. Help yourself get un-triggered. And then re-engage.

All of these things work. I have never thought after a walk: “that was a really bad idea”.

I made that tea last week. It got me out of my boyfriend’s and mine first deep co-trigger. I told him: “I will make some tea and be right back”, walked out of the room, down the stairs, made the tea and went back up the stairs again. By the time I reached him I felt radically different. And I could engage with him in a radically different way. I could share with him the deep vulnerability that got triggered and the pain I got connected with. I did not need to defend myself from a ‘threat’ anymore. I cried. I felt better, and more connected to him afterwards. And I still felt shaky and it took me a while to recover. But I did not stir around in my – and our – pain points unnecessarily. It felt like radical self care, for both of us, to be able to do that.

I hope it helps you whenever you get triggered next.


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Coach, trainer & lover of all things human and relational. Supporting you in finding a deeper connection to yourself & others, so you can truly lead, wherever you are.

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