"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." - Sun Tzu

This phrase is also used in "The Godfather, Part II" and it's full of wisdom. Know your enemy. Face whatever your adversary is so that you stay in charge of yourself and your life.

I tell my clients, "Keep your strengths close and your weaknesses closer." In this way, you cannot be taken advantage of by those who manipulate. Nor are you at the behest of the triggers from within.

While it can be difficult to recognize the good things about ourselves like our abilities, and qualities. The thing is, they're already there. We need to learn to acknowledge what an amazing person we are and build on that, of course!

Our strengths are not what holds us back. It's our weaknesses (issues, triggers, traumas and the like). They fight for attention from us and power over us. These issue "enemies" also serve a purpose though. They remind us that we need to gain mastery over the past so that the resulting effects won't hinder us in life.

Sometimes, we don't even know that our reactions are because of our upbringing or the effects of a life event. To protect us, the brain detaches itself from unpleasant or traumatic occurrence so that we aren't overwhelmed. An extreme form of this reaction would be Dissociative Identity Disorder (which used to be known as Multiple Personality Disorder - think "3 Faces of Eve" movie). The brain will use a form of this coping mechanism to protect us until we are ready to bring it to our conscious mind. Depending upon the person and trauma, the memory could be cordoned off completely; only accessible through intensive therapy, hypnosis or another mode of memory access.

Since the subconscious never sleeps, there's the opportunity for memories or feelings to be triggered. Triggers can be smells, music, food, for example. They are most prevalent during our interactions with others. When do we interact with others? Exactly. Always. At work, university, meetup groups (now, online meetings), social media, family, friends, significant other, etc.

If you have relied on coping mechanisms that numb your feelings (alcohol, other drugs) or that enable you to avoid facing a situation or experiencing the corresponding feelings (work, sex, eating), guess who really has control? The feelings that have been triggered.

What has happened is you have entered into a game of emotional whack-a-mole. Those triggers (and at the core, the original event/feeling/s) have you dancing on hot coals. Is this how you want to live? I mean, on the surface, it can look like you're dedicated to your job rather than a workaholic; or like your social life is enviable (maybe it is) rather than going from one relationship, party, role, job or whatever to another. What is likely going on is that you are facing the same problems, feeling the same emptiness, resentment or dissatisfaction and hoping that next time it will be better.

When you create opportunities to face problems, situations, issues, obstacles by considering how it affects you, what outcome you are hoping for and using critical thinking skills to move forward, you are creating an emotional balance in your life. You are not afraid to look at the situation (or person) for what it is. You are able to take into consideration your strengths and shortcomings to create a productive reaction to whatever you are facing.

Will it be perfect? No. But you will have truly been in charge. You will have kept your strengths close and your triggers closer.

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