One of my triggers is a desire to “fight for my rights” if I sense that I’m not supported in my work. My fight response may manifest subtly as a tenacious search for an “unavailable” library book or the dogged pursuit of information from a tight-lipped colleague. But underneath my smiling mask, I’m angry and even a bit paranoid at my treatment. Why is this book unavailable when I know interlibrary loan has hundreds of copies to share? Previously, the librarian had seemed miffed at my voracious reading habit. Are her curt responses a way to dissuade my extensive borrowing? Or am I imagining this? Just because I’m (somewhat) paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me…..

One of the many benefits of EI is that, knowing my patterns, I can question my assumptions and try to avoid overreacting to real or imagined threats. While I mostly relate with patience and kindness to others, if I’m triggered, my distrust looms large. Suddenly simple conversations become minefields. I expect the worst and then….I get it. Instead of peaceful and pleasant exchanges, I find that others are angry and unreasonable. Why won’t they help me get what I need?

It’s remarkable to realize that even when I try to hide my fear or anger, others sense it and react. Because we are all civilized humans, our squirmishes can be extremely subtle and happen in a microsecond. We may be smiling but through tiny shifts of nonverbals and inflections, we’ll send a message covertly. The true dimensions of our fight happen outside our awareness. Then we can each feel innocent and victimized.

I’ve learned through much inner work that I can trust my intuitions. I’m not crazy. My librarian may indeed be thwarting my desires. But even if she is, my inner reactions say more about my own psyche than the outward situation. Why are my reactions to this so strong? (No one else might see it, but I know I’ve been triggered.) My book requests are important to me. They represent a chance at learning and growth and advancement. I’ve coached myself throughout this past year to not react too strongly when “Rita” seems to avoid my requests. When she wouldn’t answer my emails, I went to her office and had a pleasant visit. Another time, when she seemed upset, I brought cookies. We’ve had great chats and my book crisis seemed solved–my patience rewarded. But then I get another cryptic email and my anger and despair rush forward.

I’ll keep working on my reactions. Rita may be slow to help, or maybe I continue to misread her communications. Whatever the case, these events offer great stories for my training and a hefty opportunity to explore some “hot” wiring in my psyche. And my discomfort? A wise teacher once helped me see that my discomfort is a form of grief –in this case, grief from some past injustice. She told me that if I could simply allow myself to feel this pain, i.e. to grieve, my feelings would dissipate and lose their hold. A simple concept and so hard to do! But she was right. As I feel these difficult emotions, they pass through me and I grow stronger.

I write to remind myself of what I already know. To encourage myself to feel my grief when I want to wring Rita’s neck. It’s a small thing, a library book, but the small moments can teach us the most. Huge events can be too overwhelming. Or we rationalize and say that our extreme reactions are justified because the issue is so big.

What small events push your buttons? Is there grief hiding under your anger?