Skip to main content

Know yourself

How well do you manage your emotional triggers?
Blog 86 Catherine 0684 RET

Knowing yourself, making conscious choices and applying disciplined action are essential ingredients for personal growth and effectiveness, as well as being prerequisites for successful leadership. Without being self-aware, we're at the mercy of our irrational, unconscious mind, and we're slaves to our emotional triggers.

So, how curious are you about yourself? About your own ability to ‘control’ your unconscious responses? Are you curious about the internal workings of your brain? Curious about the impact your brain has on both your emotional and physiological state, as well as the impact your unconscious responses have on your seemingly rational choices? What impact do you, as an individual, have on those around you?

My personal observations of today’s increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world is that we're being personally triggered, now more than ever. This is resulting in magnitudes of ‘damage’ based on the power we wield (consciously or not), both in life and at work – from derailing personal relationships to defensive outbursts, the experience of shutdown, and the subsequent loss of both perspective and creative insight. When we're emotionally out of control, we have zero capacity to assess and manage the impact we're having. Thus, it's never been more essential that leaders develop core competency and mastery in managing their own emotional reactivity.

If you haven’t reassessed who you really are, and what really matters to you since the declaration of the global pandemic, then now's your time. I've taken time out to delve into who I am, and what matters to me, and have determined I'm more passionate than ever about creating opportunities for both meaningful connections and purposeful living, and have sought to quieten the negative voices.

Now, more than ever, is the time for you to sit in the front row of your own life and be curious about your core drivers – to find out what makes you tick. Be curious about understanding the drivers that serve you well, and those that trigger an irrational, emotional response. After all, we're infinitely unique in every conceivable way. Based on a lifetime of experiences, coupled with the unique microcosm you live and work in:

  • There has never been anyone like you.
  • There isn't currently anyone like you.
  • There never will be anyone like you in the future.

Take the time to discover what makes you unique and leverage the hell out of it, because no-one has what you have to offer! Being a cardboard cut-out of your favourite leader, inspirational speaker or global icon will never allow you to be the best version of yourself. Nor will it allow you to differentiate yourself, create an environment that serves you well, and ultimately add the value and impact that only you can make. Impact that's based on your unique set of experiences, perspectives, knowledge and insights.

Our brains are encoded with a set of positive and negative memories, which throughout our lives trigger strong emotional responses. Feelings of connection, belonging and fear are the result of the unique hardwired circuit board of electrical impulses sitting deep within our brain. These encoded memories are stored in the amygdala*, forming a template for assessing core emotions. It's this template that serves as the foundation of our autonomic nervous system, the ‘fight or flight’ response, and ultimately ensures our survival in milliseconds. When our autonomic nervous system is triggered, unconscious core emotions light up and our default behaviours take over, unless we actively seek to break the circuit by making deliberate choices.

To explain: have you ever noticed your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing instantly increase? This is our body readying itself to either run or defend. This is known as the classic 'amygdala hijack' – our brain’s fight or flight response has been triggered. How we experience these sensations will be different for each and every one of us. We may feel a wave of heat all over our body, our face may flush red, we may begin to perspire, our muscles may tense in different areas of our body (shoulders, neck, jaw, fists) and our stomach may begin to churn. We may also feel ourselves become judgemental, argumentative, or defensive, and we will all have trouble thinking clearly.

Although this fast-acting, unconscious, amygdala response is an important evolutionary function for our survival, when it triggers a series of dysfunctional and defensive behavioural responses, our intended value and impact is detrimentally undermined – as an individual, as a team member, and as a leader.

However, we all possess the power to break the cycle. We have the ability to predict our default behavioural responses, and we can choose to intercept them early. This is how we start on the journey to positively manage individual emotional triggers.

So, how can you quiet the voice in your head to deactivate your unregulated emotional responses? Tuning in when we are initially emotionally triggered enables us to learn about our unique physiological blueprint, identify which core memory has been triggered, and see the subsequent involuntary response that’s likely to follow if unmanaged. From here, we're able to predict and deactivate the unregulated emotional responses. In short, we have the power to change our own behavioural responses.

Four steps to predict and deactivate your own emotional triggers

Working to identify what sits on your unique core emotional template and coupling this with the unique physiological sensations you experience when emotionally triggered enables you to predict the sequence of events that’s likely to follow. From here, you have the power to deactivate and alter your behavioural response. We do this in four steps:

  1. Recognise and understand the stimulus/situation triggering you – Create a list of the actual observable events and distinguish them from your interpretation of the events. Why are you triggered?
  2. Identify what happens to you when you're triggered and name it – What are your default behaviours, thoughts, feelings and body sensations? What do you say and do? What are you thinking? What is the self talk? Describe the overwhelming feeling. What physical sensations are you experiencing?
  3. Shift your emotional state, establishing a boundary of space and time to regain emotional balanceApply mindfulness: take deep breaths. Can you change your physical surroundings? Redirect your attention. Give yourself permission to feel it, acknowledge it, accept it and let it go.
  4. Take action to return to your rational state – Reframe the negative self talk. Respond to the situation rationally rather than emotionally.

By identifying the physiological sensations of your triggers early, you're empowered to intercept them before your autonomic nervous system takes over. I invite you to embark on a journey of personal discovery with me. As a professional who deeply understands human behaviour and core drivers, I'm passionate about setting you on your own journey to identify the unique qualities you possess and determining how your true strengths can shine through. I'm well-placed to facilitate the realisation of your full potential.

*The amygdala processes and regulates emotions and encodes memories. The amygdala is a collection of almond-shaped neurons located in the medial temporal lobe, in front of the hippocampus and above the brainstem. The amygdala is responsible for producing the autonomic components of emotions, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

Who is Catherine Moynihan?
Described as a genuine, flexible, engaging, and trusted coach and business partner, Catherine injects herself personally into every engagement while maintaining objectivity. With extraordinary heart and warmth, she's driven by a relentless pursuit of focused, meaningful and robust discussions, and is committed to the execution of transformational results. Gently navigating through the hard conversations, she guides individuals, teams and organisations to find their truth (unsurfaced strengths and limiting behaviours and approaches). She's dedicated to liberating potential and identifying how best to differentiate an individual, team or business to be the best version of themselves or compete in the future marketplace.

Catherine is an organisational performance consultant and coach with over 20 years’ experience. She’s partnered with boards, CEOs, executive teams and leaders to provide consulting and coaching across Asia-Pacific and the US, and in a variety of industries, including leisure and event entertainment, information technology, telecommunications, financial services, banking, retail, pharmaceutical, advertising, utilities, mining, FMCG, manufacturing, local city councils and statutory bodies.

Catherine brings an incredibly unique view to coaching and development. A Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology, as well as a post-graduate degree in Applied Psychology (not to mention accreditation in a range of organisational and individual measurement tools), has positioned her as an expert in human behaviour. She uses this to facilitate change initiatives at an individual, team and organisational level, designing and leading a range of successful programs. Whether they're large-scale global interventions or discrete local and individual projects, she consistently delivers against the goals. From raising the confidence and performance of her clients through to developing capability and agility, she delivers coaching that's energetic, passionate, action-oriented and results focused.

Catherine is a self-confessed chocoholic, a big fan of Ed Sheeran tunes, and loves hiking through the Dandenong’s, Grampians and Wilson’s Promontory, cycling anywhere the pandemic will allow her and even scootering down the St Kilda esplanade in Melbourne with her girls.

– The Coach Place Global

This content is the intellectual property of The Coach Place Global and not for distribution or reproduction of any kind. For further detail please refer to our full terms and conditions.