HONOR THE PAUSE
By: Kumu Michelle Manu, JD, MMsc
10th Degree Black Belt
Teacher | Self-Defense, Safety & Empowerment
Have you ever had an instance where you are in a great mood until you encountered something—or someone—that makes you react emotionally? This is how we define an “emotional trigger”. All of us experience these triggers. They provide an opportunity to resolve past experiences, or at least work towards acknowledgement, acceptance, and transcendence.
Triggers cause different types of emotional responses. They generally produce anxiety, anger, crying, panic, and other physical symptoms. The Will Smith-Chris Rock incident at the Oscars was witnessed by 15 million viewers. We saw Smith get triggered and respond in anger that resulted in what would be considered a criminal misdemeanor battery in the state of California. Will Smith and Chris Rock may have made amends, but we haven’t.
The incident at the Oscars, on one of the most public stages in the world, was a very good thing. We’re not over it because, in some way, it has propelled us to dive into deeper and respectful discussions about societal programming on gender, ethnicity, acceptable public behaviors, and emotional triggers.
NBA Hall of Famer and Basketball Legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, wrote: “This patronizing, paternal attitude infantilizes women and reduces them to helpless damsels needing a Big Strong Man to defend their honor.” (Kareem’s reader-supported newsletter on Substack.)
I was asked what I would do if my husband did not give me the opportunity to respond to an insult by inserting himself into the situation on my behalf. I responded, “I would be pissed!” I am a huge supporter of chivalry, especially for justice and in readiness to help the weak. However, I can handle my own justice against words, and I am the opposite of weak. I deserve the right to address the insult unless I explicitly ask for assistance.
If we allow, there is much to be offended by every day. While some of us will ask good questions such as: “Are we incapable as women?” “Do we blame media for the portrayal of gender roles?” “Do we get to lay our hands on others when we get upset?” “Do we romanticize the emotional eruptions by men?” “If he acts like this in public, what is he like in private?” “Is it possible for us to have self-control when triggered?” I wish to focus on the core of the issue as this is universal.
Emotional triggers are genderless. They are a part of the human condition. Smith is a human that was triggered and reacted. What he lacked was “The Pause”.
In the physics of nature, The Pause would be considered the feminine energy, or Hina, in the Hawaiian culture. The feminine is often symbolized as a spring; potential stored energy that waits to be utilized. As the spring transitions into motion, the stored energy transforms into kinetic energy (masculine).
In teaching the cultural warrior art of Hawaiian Lua, we physically move in both Hina and Kū (masculine) energies. In a martial or self-defense technique, the Hina can be seen in the set up that eventually leads to the contact. It is the wind up to the pitch in baseball, the process of the leg lift for a ballerina, the path of a block or strike in martial arts, the wind up of the kicker in football, and the set for a basket in basketball. Without the set up, you miss your target partially or fully.
In making our decisions in life, we should check in with our intuition (feminine) and intellect (masculine). In response to emotional triggers, there is The Trigger (stimuli), The Pause, then The Response. Have you mastered the ability to handle your triggers? A pervasive societal program is that immediate eruption into action is somehow romanticized as ‘manly’ or ‘tough’, but it is imbalanced and destructive. In its opposite, if you do not immediately react then you’re a ‘pussy’ or ‘soft’.
How Do We Honor The Pause?
- Trigger – Person, place, thing.
- Pause –
- Recognize. Give yourself a moment to recognize the emotions we are experiencing in response to the trigger.
- Acknowledge. Recognize and acknowledge our senses – what we feel, hear, smell, taste, and touch lead us into emotional or behavioral responses.
- Transcend. Remove yourself from the trigger. Write it down, examine it, stay thoughtfully grounded in the very uncomfortable present moment that helps us maintain control over ourselves. This honors who we are as we unravel and resolve – not just cope with – our triggers in private before they become public.
- Response – Action or non-action.
Unresolved triggers lead to more severe symptoms like violence, numbing with substances, chronic depression, anxiety, mood disorders, phobias, and much more. We should always prepare ourselves to respond in a way that keeps us, and those in our presence, emotionally and physically safe. Consistent realistic self-defense training is important to help feel and to actually be safe.
The energy exhibited by Smith in the incident is the very masculine energy and behaviors that scares the shit out of women. This is why we need to train and prepare. My motto is that if you touch me, I will touch you back and then some. I choose ‘Fight’ when given the options of Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. Consistent training and self-examination allows me to keep control over myself in all instances without fear, the ability to maneuver through my triggers, and tp better handle the trigger responses of others.
I believe America has a desire for authenticity and deeper connection with ourselves and within our world. With self-honesty and grace, addressing our emotional triggers is a very powerful place to start. Individually we are imbalanced; therefore, our world is imbalanced. The only way we can bring about balance and deeper connection is to evolve to understand ourselves better than we have.
Learn your triggers. Honor The Pause.
“I know my enemy. She is the old me.”