Sepia toned train on platform in station in London

Do you find yourself feeling furious that your Ex has triggered the same response from you?  

How do they always make me react like that?

Even though you promised yourself that you would not do it again. 

You may have spent time thinking and planning, if they say/do this, then I will say/do that. All for it to fall by the wayside in the heat of the moment. Your triggers have been activated, buttons pushed, and your emotions have unleashed their power and might over you. 

Emotions have evolved with us to act as our early warning systems. They are trying to keep us safe and help us negotiate life’s complexities. They act fast and create a physical response inside us. The response might be to get ready to run, fight or freeze but it may also help us to flourish and grow.  

Sometimes emotions are absolutely on the money, and we can rely on them. Many people have been kept safe by a “gut feeling” that something is not right.

Sometimes emotions are way off the mark, and they can send us off in completely the wrong direction. They dredge up something from the past, which may well have been painful, and our brains use the warning for our current situation. 

So why do we get caught out?

Susan David writes brilliantly about “emotional agility” and the ability to make peace with the most difficult of our emotions. The first step is to be able to recognise the emotions and then to practice the skill of “agility.” The agility part addresses the thinking and behavioural part of our response. 

Many of us stay within a rigid framework of thinking and behaving. Our brains buy into the old story, that we have told ourselves repeatedly. The rigid framework of thinking and behaving is a result of our lazy brain taking mental shortcuts.

This is a normal habit and results from using the presumptions and rules which served us once – BUT not now. If we can learn to be flexible with thoughts and feelings, we can choose how to react. This is the route to wellbeing and success. And yes, you read correctly it is a choice. 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor Frankl “Man’s search for meaning”

I really like the concept of “our power to choose.”

The power to choose is not about forcing yourself to feel positive all the time or to control your thoughts.

It is about having the space to calm down, recognise your emotional state, regulate how you feel in the moment and respond intentionally rather than reflexively.

Learning how to do that is hard work, but it allows you to take back your power and use it where you need it.  

In answer to the question at the top of the post:  

Your Ex does not have the power to “make you” react like that every time.  

You have the power to choose your response. 

You can take back your power and find your freedom.

How brilliant is that?

Why is there a picture of a train?  

My emotional response to post-graduate exams had an interesting effect on my experience of train travel to London. It provided me with an insight into the power of my emotions and continued for some time after I passed the final exam! 

This is an extract from an article, originally published in The Divorce Village community. You can read the full article here: https://thedivorcevillage.com/landing