I’ve shared this example with a couple of clients to help illustrate the concept of raw spots, and the usefulness of developing an awareness of them. So, I thought why not post it here.
A raw spot is a painful memory from the past that causes an out of proportion reaction in your current life.
Here’s a personal example
I have a memory from childhood of adults “teasing” me for mumbling. I have put “teasing” in quotation marks because my memory is of *feeling* teased. I’m fairly sure that, in reality, I was being reminded to speak clearly rather than being teased. It’s only a vague memory, and it only happened a handful of times, but for some reason it has left an emotional residue.
What happens in my current life
If someone asks me to repeat something, or misunderstands a word I’ve said, I have intense feelings of humiliation followed by irritation, for no logical reason. The intense feelings only last a few seconds but come out of nowhere.
The raw spot reaction doesn’t happen with strangers, it only happens with people who know me well. I feel like I’m being criticized when that’s not the reality.
How having awareness helps
– When the raw spot trigger occurs (i.e. someone says they didn’t hear me), I try to take a slow, mindful breath and let the intense feelings subside before reacting, since I know that anything I say while I’m still experiencing the intense emotions will come out in an irritated, defensive tone. Since the intense raw spot reaction only lasts a few seconds, this pause in my response is generally unnoticeable.
– I have a “friendly” relationship with the raw spot reaction. Its kind of like “Ah hello, I know you”.
– If I don’t give an irritated response, I don’t then feel embarrassed for becoming irritated. The cycle of embarrassment is halted and no damage is done to relationships. (The person reading over my shoulder is telling me that I’m still not very good at not sounding irritated when it happens!)
Tips for your raw spots
– If you think you have a raw spot i.e. a painful memory from the past that causes an out of proportion reaction in your current life, learn what triggers it in your current life.
– Be specific i.e. my triggers = when someone asks me to repeat myself, or misunderstands a word I’ve said.
– When you know your specific triggers, you can then learn to start softening your reaction to the trigger before you become emotionally flooded.
– This is important because once you’re already emotionally flooded, it’s hard to think straight.
– Emotions don’t just happen in your brain, they are a whole body emotional response.
– Therefore the best way to soften your reaction and reduce flooding is to use a physiological strategy (slow breathing + letting a little bit of time pass so that your physiology can reset itself)