Hidden Meanings That Can Knock You Off Course

Hidden Meanings That Can Knock You Off Course

Have you ever found yourself suddenly distracted or emotionally triggered without knowing why? In this article, we take a look at how words can have hidden meanings from past associations that can knock you off course – and how to avoid that happening.

There’s an old adage you may be familiar with that goes “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”.

That statement is partly true. Words in themselves cannot hurt us.

Hidden Meanings Can Be Triggers

However the individual meanings and associations we bring to certain words are more than capable of triggering all sorts of responses within us, both painful and pleasurable.

Words, which are mutually agreed upon symbols or labels, allow us to communicate easily and with some precision. Without them we’d have to resort to communicating by playing charades – imagine how laborious and confusing and that would be!

So in that regard, words serve us well.

How Do We Get Triggered?

To explain, I need to tell you a little bit about the human race and what makes us unique. You see, we don’t deal directly with reality, we experience reality through our minds. For us to make sense of anything that’s happening in the moment we have to think about what it means to us – is it good, is it bad? Is this criticism or is it support? Is this exciting or scary? And so on.

As adults with years of experience, we have many meanings already in our system, so we’re not constantly thinking ‘What does this mean?’ We have instant references, memories and associations previously established, so very quickly we can make sense of what’s going on.

For example, let’s take the word ‘water’. What do you reference (or in other words what movie do you play in mind) when you think about water? Take a moment to do that now.

Maybe you thought of a thirst-quenching drink, a hot shower, or swimming in the ocean.

Or perhaps, if you’re like my partner who nearly drowned a couple of times growing up, you might reference a frightening near death experience.

These mental associations are called frames of reference, or frames, for short.

Our frames impact our state.

Watch a Scary Movie and What Do You Feel?

If you decided to go to the cinema tonight and you chose to see a romantic comedy, you’d very likely leave in a different state than if you’d chosen to see a horror movie.

The same is true for the movies we play in mind.

If you don’t stop to examine your frames you may find unresourceful emotions are easily triggered when you hear certain words.

Where is Your Mind Leading You?

Your mind’s function is to help you get what you want, it’s a tool to help you get what’s good for you, and a road-map to help you navigate life.

The question then to ask yourself again and again is: ’Where is my mind leading me? Are the meanings I’ve made leading me to where I want to go, or is it time to update my road-map?

If you don’t want to be triggered by hidden meanings that knock you off course, what can you do?

Self-Leadership Starts With Self Awareness

To trigger-proof yourself you need to quality check the meanings you’ve previously associated to words or experiences. To do that, stay alert to any sudden emotional shifts. Any trigger now becomes an opportunity to inquire into hidden meanings and potentially make a blind-spot visible.

Let’s go back to the earlier example where my partner had frames of reference about water that were related to a couple of drowning episodes. As long as these connections in mind were outside awareness, the likelihood of him being triggered were high. However, with awareness of the associations he once made as a protective mechanism, he became able to quality check his thinking in the moment and decide if he was actually in danger in the current moment.

Three Simple Steps

To make sure that hidden meanings don’t knock you off course, you need to quality check and where appropriate, update your thinking. Here are three steps to get you started.

Once you’ve identified a frame that triggers you:

  • Come up with examples of how this frame plays out for you
  • At some point in your life this frame served you. Is it still working for you, or is it time to let it go?
  • Consider what frame would be most helpful for you to develop. What difference would this new frame make in your life?

As Osho said,

“Your mind is either a beautiful servant, or a dangerous master”

The choice is yours.


Get in touch with UXL Coaching today.

About Soo Balbi

The people I work with engage me to enable them to see their developmental blind-spots and unleash their full potential; in their professional and personal life.

If you’d like to find out about my programs for organisations, and developmental coaching program for individuals who want to fulfill their potential contact me.

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