Working Deep When You’re Not Triggered

by | Jan 31, 2020 | Inner Work | 7 comments

I received a question via email recently that I felt touched on a subject that applies broadly to all of us interested in deep inner work.

We all have certain things that trigger us on a pretty deep level. Often, they only rear their head when we are directly faced with that situation in our lives.

One example for me is anything to do with having blood drawn, or sometimes even the sight of it. It warrants it’s own discussion at another point, but there was a time where even the mention of the word could make me pale and barely able to function.

Some more relate-able examples may be when we have to speak in front of others for work, asking someone out or having a difficult conversation.

The feelings, thoughts, protective mechanisms and everything else that kicks into gear during these moments can be intense, if not downright debilitating. Many of us have an intention, maybe even a need from a personal or professional standpoint, to help alleviate some of this.

One of the great challenges is that these can seem like complete “all or nothing” experiences. When we are not actually in the situation, we are fine, and have very little trace of that experience. Visualizing, meditating and other techniques directed at addressing them may seem like they barely scratch the surface, if the feeling is even accessible at all.

There are many reasons this would make sense, including the mechanisms in us that avoid discomfort. They are certainly not excited about probing into your downright deepest fears and most intense experiences.

Here are some tips to help you engage in productive work that can actually make progress on these issues from a comfortable space, where you are not in the thick of battle. The video expands on these in more detail.

1.Mindset and Approach

It starts with creating a space where such feelings actually can come up, a big enough ‘container’ so to speak, and the right attitude.
Almost any process or call of mine starts with an emphasis on this which you can examine for more of the how-to. There is also a free class recording dedicated primarily to this topic here.

As for as approach: being there to support and alleviate the distress has a MUCH different character than trying to fix or get rid of the feeling.
Imagine a child is in distress and crying. There are multiple ways to get them to stop. Some of them are very aggressive and cause more harm than good in the long run, even though they may temporarily accomplish a quieting. There is also outright ignoring, which many of us do.

Examine how you approach what is going on inside of you, and see if you can conceptualize it like you are approaching a friend or child you care about that is in distress. You will be softer, listening, looking to actually provide a comfort and a genuine sense of support rather than simply ‘making this go away.’

2. Commitment, Willingness

There are a lot of mechanisms in us designed to move away from discomfort. There is a certain amount of showing you are serious by dedicating some time, creating that space and attention.

The willingness to potentially feel some uncomfortable feelings, unpleasant memories, sensations, and whatever else might arise.

3. Acceptance of What You Can’t Control

The particular issue may take some time, there may be multiple layers. You may not be able to get to all of it or get the results you want, even if you are serious and putting in time. Getting frustrated or forcing the issue will only slow down, or potentially stop the process.

4. Your In-Road

There is almost always some memory, some experience, some image, that if you bring it up or look at it (it could literally be a movie, photo, song) will get you in touch with that underlying issue.

Whatever amount of feeling it brings up, if you work with it from there, you’ll begin the process and make progress – even if it’s not super obvious.

The video below discuss these in more detail. Feel free to “like” it or subscribe to the YouTube channel if you are so inclined 🙂

Do you have any other tips, experiences, questions? We can converse in the comments below. Thanks for reading as always!



  1. Sean

    Accepting what you cannot control and providing the environment has been my biggest learning points as I continue the practice. Especially as a guy with a hammer and nail sort of temperament with tackling problems.

    Really learning to relax but also be proactively dealing with the problem and not treat these two things as binary

    • Evan

      Providing the environment is the easiest to overlook, because it is the overall context in which we are working. It’s easy to not even look at, and just jump into whatever it is we are trying to do. It is definitely worth while to spend some time with this when you are not dealing with a specific issue that is pulling your attention.

      Accepting what you cannot control is an interesting one. Everyone has a theory about how much is in control vs. not, but in this context, it refers to the fact that we cannot force something to happen at the speed we want with regards to our own inner work. Many times, the determination and desire to work hard and fast can actually create more tension and make the environment less than ideal.

      What do you experience in terms of creating the environment, or what you are noticing about your environment the way it currently is?

  2. Cyrus

    “I’m more of a student of what this situation is asking from me and what it needs from me to support it”, this really resonated with me because it removes the aggression that often comes with wanting to fix/get rid of something uncomfortable and transforms it into an opportunity for growth.

    Now I’m experiencing a moment where I look at the “distressed children” within and the overarching question that comes up is “How do I become the bigger container of safety for these ‘kids’?”. I think the more awareness I bring to what’s going on inside me will get me closer to that answer, aka I think I’m already doing it lol

    • Evan

      Excellent approach for setting the stage. That’s where you put focused attention on what’s going on inside you in terms of the space you are creating, the overall attitude, etc. Also, for those not as familiar with it as you, the other side is to spend time where the question is directed towards the ‘kids’ as in your example and to lose yourself in listening, to where you are more or less unaware of your role or trying to do anything. Just like in conversations with other people, that back and forth between attention to what you are bringing, and then also completely losing yourself in listening.

  3. Victoria Kayizzi

    I am not sure if I should feel something. I tend to not react to something as a way of coping/accepting what is. Is trying not to get caught up in the emotion of it one way of resisting it or acceptance?

    • Evan

      Hi Victoria, are you speaking generally, or in regards to particularly triggering or what people would call intense circumstances?
      In any case, non-reactivity and accepting what is are great, when it arises naturally from a place of recognition – my experience with that is a sense of peaceful relief. However, it is quite possible to have things going on within us that are eliciting a real response from the system and are affecting our lives in some way, but we suppress them or ignore them using a more mental posture of “I’m just going to accept what is.”

      It can be easier to see in other people at times which can be a useful mirror. That time where someone is saying “nothing I can do about it, I’m just accepting it” or “I don’t care what anyone thinks” but you can clearly sense that it is affecting them and it is more of a defensive posture.

      I would also throw out there that full acceptance of what is happening does not imply the absence of feeling or emotional reaction. You can have a huge emotional reaction of anger arise but in full acceptance, of true non-resistance to it and not latching onto the story or the ways your mind may grab onto as a way to express the anger externally, it can move through and transform itself. I would say that the more open and non-resistant to things I became, the more intense feelings I have experienced, but with a more grounded center, less moved by them, and often show no external signs of it. This could definitely go in other directions so let me know if this is useful to you. It sounds to me like a good topic for another post. Thanks 🙂

  4. Perola duprat

    Dealing with a situation i can’t control is the hardest thing to do to me.In those darkest moments where i need to face and focus on a quick response,i have to ‘dive in’ to alliviate it.i need a deeper work to heal it.
    Thank you !!


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