When Practitioners Get Triggered

Everyone in the airplane was sweating. Children were crying, tempers were frayed. The pilot’s voice came on the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry but there will be a further delay. We will let you know when we get a new takeoff time.”

We had been stuck inside the plane for two hours. Everything had been fine as we left the jet bridge and the plane moved to the taxiway. But when we got to the taxiway the air conditioning failed. The pilot had to call for maintenance. Initially he told us there would be a 15 minute delay. That turned into 30 minutes and that turned into an hour. Now—two hours later—with the temperature high and no indication of when we’d take off, people were getting upset and angry.

I was on a 5 p.m. flight from San Francisco to Cleveland, Ohio. I was due to present the next day at an EFT Professional Workshop for mental health professionals in Jamestown, New York. Cleveland was one of the closest airports and about two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Jamestown. So I booked the 5 p.m. flight knowing that when the plane arrived at 9 p.m. I’d be able to get my rental car, make the two-and-a-half hour drive, go to bed before midnight, rise at 6 a.m., and be ready to start meeting with the workshop coordinators at 7 a.m.

Now, however, with the fly delay, it looked I wouldn’t get in to Cleveland until 11 p.m. at the earliest.

Eventually the air conditioning did get fixed and the flight did take off. By the time I got to the rental car center in Cleveland it was close to midnight. I walked up to the counter very ready to pick up my car and start the two-and-a-half hour journey. At this point I wouldn’t arrive in Jamestown until 2 or 3 a.m. and I still had to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7 a.m.

I was the only person renting at that late hour. There were three young ladies behind the counter. They were having an animated conversation with each other, chatting, and looking at their smartphones. They were so engrossed in their dialogue that they failed to notice me. I’m 6’5” tall so overlooking me is hard to do, but somehow they managed.

I felt my annoyance rising. The only job these three young ladies had was to take care of customers. And there I was, their only customer, and they were ignoring me while they chatted about their social lives and checked their smartphones. I could feel the annoyance rising like a gray wave of energy up my back.

I took a deep breath. I realized that if I brought this annoyance to the conversation, and dumped it all over those three young ladies, I would be projecting my own anger outward.

I felt very justified in being annoyed. After all, here I was, a customer, being ignored. I had just endured a very long time in an airplane and needed to make a long drive, then teach an intense workshop after—at best—three hours sleep. I needed the transaction to happen as quickly as possible. I felt completely justified in my annoyance.

But I took a deep breath and made a choice. Either I would make my annoyance about them or I would make it about me. I chose to do the latter. I did some mental tapping on that steel, blue-gray energy I felt in my back. And as I tapped and breathed, I felt it all disappear. I felt calm and centered again.

I realized that if I had vented my annoyance at the three ladies I would have produced emotional contagion. Research shows that emotions are as contagious as the flu, colds, or other viral diseases.

Instead I took care of myself. I took care of my own upset emotions. Who knows where they came from? Maybe I got ignored by a teacher in kindergarten. Maybe as a toddler I got ignored by my mother when I needed attention. Maybe I got ignored by a school friend from whom I wanted emotional support. Maybe I was ignored by a girl I had a crush on in high school.

Who knows where that pattern of annoyance came from? But now it was there and it was seeking to project itself into the current situation at the rental counter.

In a concept drawn from Thought Field Therapy, the steel blue-gray energy could be seen as a thought field seeking to perpetuate itself. In the concept that Eckhart Tolle uses in his book The New Earth it might be seen as the “pain body.” The pain body can only live on, and the thought field can only perpetuate itself, if you fail to heal it. It doesn’t want its host to see it as it really is: a life-sucking energy vampire.

So it has this brilliant survival plan. It projects itself into the outside world and misleads the host into believing that the problem is “out there.” It points to people and circumstances in the outside world as the source of the emotional distress we feel, in order to deflect attention from the pain body’s existence. That night in Cleveland, my pain body tried to convince me that the source of my annoyance was the three girls behind the rental counter.

My pain body was highly invested in convincing me that they were the problem. It told me that I was justified in feeling annoyed. If I had believed the lie the pain body was telling me, that the problem was outside of me rather than inside of me, I would have failed to heal. If I had made the problem about the three girls, I would have missed my opportunity to shift and grow.

After my mental inner exercise of tapping and shifting, I walked up to the rental counter with a smile on my face. That steel gray feeling in my back was gone. I felt happy and relaxed even though nothing had changed in the outer circumstances. I still had to make my three hour drive. It was still late. I would still only get a few hours sleep before having to teach.

But the pain body was gone. I had liberated myself from the thought field. I had dissipated the pain body through tapping. That’s why they call this method “Emotional Freedom” techniques. You’re no longer bound by those old emotions. You recognize that they’re simply artifacts from your past being triggered by current circumstances. You no longer project them out into the world around you.

At EFT Universe we train hundreds of practitioners every year. This skill of emotional mastery is one we expect every practitioner to master. Only if you have mastered your own triggering can you be effective at helping clients master theirs.

There are always triggers flooding into our experience from the outside world. There are emails, there are phone calls, there are social obligations, there are the facts of money and relationships and health, there are many little things each day that don’t go the way we’d like them to go. An emotionally mature practitioner has learned to handle these minor annoyances. In fact the emotional mature practitioner goes further: she treats them as opportunities to practice emotional mastery.

A practitioner who is fit to work with other people doesn’t respond to annoyances as triggers and is not misled into thinking that the problem lies outside of themselves, even though there might be a rational reason to believe that it does. Instead the mature practitioner uses every opportunity to clear those upsets, to clear their own emotional body, knowing that this inner hygiene is how they become an effective channel of emotional healing for their clients.

In the course of training practitioners I occasionally hear people grumbling. They have various reasons for their gripes. They don’t like having to complete the required reading. They disagree with the certification requirements. They’re unhappy that they can’t take both of the exams on the same day. They feel pressure because of the timeline for completing a requirement. They didn’t pass a knowledge exam on the first try. They found a typographical error in one of the books. They tried to login to the website and discovered that they’d lost their password. They don’t follow the directions then get upset that things don’t work out.

They’re upset about having to update their knowledge and renew their certification every two years. They’re mad when there aren’t any workshops in their local area and they have to travel to take one. They’re annoyed that they have to purchase a textbook. They’re miffed about paying their certification renewal fee. They get upset when customer service takes too long to resolve their problem. They may feel unsatisfied when they get an automated response from customer support while the support people work on their problem.

The list of potential triggers goes on and on, just like the daily triggers given to us by life. There are always little annoyances that pop up, and if we imagine that they are about “the world out there,” we miss our chance to grow.

When we project our hurt feelings into external reality and demand that other people change, we miss the opportunity to work on those unhealed parts of ourselves that are coming up for attention. Each one of those annoyances is simply a part of our own psyche presenting itself to be healed. If we take advantage of our triggering and heal that part, just the way I did as I walked up to that rental counter in Cleveland, we embrace the opportunity to heal.

But if our minds succeed in convincing us that the problem lies “out there,” we disempower ourselves. Now we can’t fix the problem because it’s outside of ourselves. We have to get someone else to change. Getting other people to change is a difficult endeavor. They usually don’t, and trying to change them creates even more annoyance. Annoyance then becomes locked into our experience.

But if instead we make the problem about our own triggering, and heal our past, then we use those minor annoyances to our advantage. We grow and release all the emotional energy trapped in our past experiences. This is an essential skill for every practitioner.

At EFT Universe we expect our practitioners to master this skill. When they’re triggered emotionally, we expect them to have the emotional maturity to release that triggering. Only then are they a clear channel to offer effective sessions to clients. If they’re being triggered by minor annoyances, how can they help their clients overcome their own triggering? This is an essential skill that we expect every practitioner to demonstrate.

So when you’re triggered, as I was in Cleveland, treat it as an opportunity to heal. The moment you project your annoyance outside of you and demand that the external world change, you short-circuit your ability to heal your own emotional wounding. But when you make the problem about your own triggering, you reclaim your power to heal. You then heal your emotional issues, cleanse your emotional body, and produce positive emotional contagion. Happiness and joy radiate all around you, just the way I was able to walk up to that rental car counter and smile.

After I smiled, one of the young ladies took excellent care of me. She gave me a free upgrade to the next biggest vehicle. She talked to me about her life and her aspirations. And her impression of the quality of her own customer service was so high that she gave me an evaluation form at the end of the encounter. She asked if I could fill it out and post it online to let her supervisors know what a good job she’d done.

I had a hard time keeping a straight face. Inside, I was quaking with laughter. I had succeeded in fooling her. I’d gone from that annoyed person about to give her a blast of my own negative energy—producing emotional contagion all around me—to a happy person, a balanced person, a kind person, producing positive emotional contagion among those I encountered.

Research also shows that people who are the victims of negative emotional contagion in turn pass it along to others. But positive emotions are equally contagious. When you take care of your own triggering and become a force for positive emotional contagion, not only do you affect those you encounter, but they affect other people one layer out. You can be affecting hundreds of people every day when you take care of your own triggering and become an agent of positive emotional contagion.

It’s worth remembering whenever we’re faced with a minor annoyance that this is our immediate opportunity to deal with those feelings and heal our inner wounds and experience emotional freedom. We then become agents of positive emotional change in the world. This is a skill that I expect every practitioner to master.

My vision for our practitioner body is that we are a community of emotionally healed people who have reclaimed their power over their emotions. This turns us into an army of positive emotional contagion, shaping a kind and loving world.