Emotional Triggers Treatment (ETT) and the Holidays
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Written by Dr. Jennifer Agosta
Holiday stressors are numerous, and include some of our favorite, and most challenging, things. Food, family, and finances are all up there both as general stressors and as holiday features. So the potential for getting our buttons pushed, feeling overstretched, over-pressured, and overstuffed can be higher than ever at this time of year.
Along with “too much,” this is a time of year where “not enough” makes itself painfully felt. While there may be too much of food, family, and friends, there may be not enough money, time, energy, personal space. And we may even have a new absence in our lives, even emptiness, after the changes, departures, and passings the year has brought.
So how to handle? One thing we can all do is be gentle with ourselves. When you can, anticipate needs for a bit of down-time, a bit of personal time, for breath, for space, and build that in. When you can, anticipate your buttons (pecan pie? your mother-in-law? both?), and choose how you might like to manage those scenarios. Having a strategy for things we know may knock us balance goes a long way toward keeping us in balance…and we can adjust as things come our way.
Just identifying our buttons and potential challenges does us huge good. In accommodating those for ourselves, certainly we stay better grounded, and more comfortable in the moment. We also give ourselves an opportunity to acknowledge “our stuff.” As simple as this seems, it is hugely important for our well-being: it is hugely important that these inner aspects of ourselves be heard, registered, received. What a relief! We don’t have to spend all that energy holding the doors closed….
We also end up with a “Work List.” A “Work List?” Yup - a list of challenges that can be assigned to the “Healing To Do” category. Whenever we can recognize our buttons, our triggers, the things that bend us out of shape and push us to overreact, we have identified old material that needs some attention — after the Holidays! The old material is often a pile (small or large) of pieces of old events and experiences that we may not have fully processed and closed, possibly because they were disturbing, frightening, made us angry, or deeply uncomfortable. The pieces of the old are still jangling around inside, the file in the emotional brain is open - whether we are aware of it or not.
It’s that open file that can cause us trouble, and push us into overstressing, over-reacting. We may get overly anxious, overly irritable; we may overeat, argue overmuch. Our responses may be out of proportion to the situation — and that’s when we know that we have old material that needs some attention.
It is possible to close the open files in the emotional brain. We know this now from neurobiological data, and work done on trauma memories. Even if there has been no specific trauma event in our lives, we may have other kinds of long-standing “imprints” that get in the way of our processing the present cleanly and clearly.
This work of processing old and outstanding events and finally closing those for ourselves is the work of memory reconsolidation. Emotional Triggers Treatment uses memory reconsolidation principles and guided imagery techniques to help the emotional brain complete and close old events that may be bleeding into the present and triggering our overreactions. While the logical brain knows full well that these events are over, the emotional brain does not know that. With events that have been disturbing or terrifying, the file may be open still, though time has passed.
ETT offers the opportunity to close any such open files. In the Intake Session, the Emotional Triggers Treatment practitioner moves through that Work List the client may bring in, discusses triggers, buttons, and challenges, and where the client would like to be instead. The following session is the ETT Work Session, where we use guided imagery exercises that help the emotional brain complete and heal from the past. So, in some ways, as challenging as the Holidays can be, the good news is that this time of year may allow us to recognize some of the things we’d like to work on in the time to come. - Remember, go gently with yourself, and just notice the challenges, buttons, and triggers that the Holidays bring to your attention. That just could be something to be grateful for….
Happy Holidays and Welcome to ETT.