The other day, I heard a speaker say “Get excited about the things that trigger you!” Of course, he was another one of those “Life Coach” types trying to get everyone to welcome self-awareness. Paleeeeze. Who looks forward to getting triggered?
I do. I admit it. I say things like that all the time. Not necessarily out loud. Not everyone welcomes generous, unsolicited advice . . . Like when you’re at the nail salon and you want to help the woman who just flipped out on her manicurist for suggesting a callus removal . . . But that’s another story.
Getting excited about emotional triggers may seem weird, but it’s solid counsel. Okay, maybe we don’t have to get excited. We can get curious. I mean, let me tell you, it can be a HOOT when you start paying attention to the assortment of things that bother you!
For example, I don’t like being told what to do. I blame it on the pushy nuns in elementary school. Somebody starts barking commands, and I instantly feel the tension rise up in my body . . . Ummm, do you think I don’t KNOW what I’m doing? Do you think you need to SCHOOL me on what I need to do? Is there some reason you don’t think I’m perfectly capable of making my OWN decisions about what to do?!. . . And that was just Restorative Yoga on Tuesday.
We all get triggered! By what usually depends on what went on in our childhoods. How were we treated? How were we spoken to? How did we have to “perform”? How did we fit in at school? How did we feel about ourselves?
When we become adults, we get triggered by things that are reminiscent of old painful experiences and, by then, we’ve typically formed a habitual or addictive way of managing the feelings. These patterns then drive us for the rest of our lives! Hooray for predictable dysfunction!
Unfortunately, we’re not always consciously aware of the things that trigger us because we blindly react to life’s stimuli. Boom! Who has time to figure out why you got triggered when you’re in the middle of berating your boyfriend?! I’m busy here! We leap so quickly into the emotional mosh pit, we don’t even know why we’re acting so crazy.
Triggers are like that. They feel all justified and badass. They’re like “What?! You lookin’ at me?! This is YOUR fault, not my inner child’s fault! Did you not see what just happened??!! He left the toilet seat up for the gazillionth time!!! Clearly he’s wrong!”
If we want to stop being recklessly reactive, we have to pay attention when those triggers hit and pause to question them. Is there really a “threat” here? What’s actually happening? Do I feel ignored like I did when I was five. Do I feel judged and criticized? Do I feel abandoned? Am I reacting to the situation in front of me or am I caught up in a memory from the past? Where are these feelings coming from.
Often we try to avoid the pain that comes up by lashing out and blaming others for what we’re feeling. We eat, drink or pop a pill to dodge the emotion. We shut down and isolate ourselves.
It’s challenging and sometimes painful to identify our triggers and their origins, but understanding them can help us heal and cope in healthier ways. We can forgive and let go of the past. We can stop the habitual, self-destructive cycles and stay present.
That’s what living in the now is . . . Staying here. Being here. Not back when dad was mean to me. Not back when I was bullied. Not out there somewhere in the future where I’m expected to be perfect and accomplished. Here. Right here. Now is the only authentic place to live because it’s pure.
Be curious. Be honest. Be gentle. Get excited about the things that trigger you. Healing them will bring you freedom.