No matter where you are on your path, there will be certain situations, places, and people that trigger you. I ran smack into one myself this week. I could have seen it coming, but no. Triggers can sneak in under the radar and get us right in the gut.
What do I mean by triggers? I’m talking about things that bring up emotions that are way out of proportion to the actual situation. They push our buttons, and the feelings that emerge are usually tied to past events. They connect with old patterns that we haven’t fully resolved.
I mentioned recently a group I’ve been part of for years that now seems to be gradually dissolving, and how I’m feeling a bit sad about it. I still show up regularly, though, and the reason is that my kids’ friends are part of it, and they still get a lot of enjoyment from hanging out there. My teens are much more independent now, but they still depend on us for transportation. So off we go, to spend time at the place where their pals are.
For most of the evening, BlackLion and I were the only adults there, as the hostess had a meeting, and the other kids there were either dropped off or drove themselves. That was fine, and we just hung out chatting with one another and reading. The part that triggered me was when the hostess and another Mom showed up, and we were all chatting. It was casually mentioned that there would be a gathering up at their camp, and we were all invited – in two days.
Now, no one did anything wrong, and I want to make that clear. Some folks are more spontaneous with their gatherings, and others like to plan things out in advance. The trigger part was all mine, and I fully own it.
Here’s what happened in my psyche; it immediately brought up a whole wave of emotions and protests. My mental chatter was: “We have plans that day! We made plans to do gaming with friends, way in advance. But I know the kids will want to go to the lake with friends, especially Dryst. Which means he’ll be blowing off the D&D game, and we have to drive him all the way up there, and we have afternoon plans too. Why is other people’s stuff always more important than mine? Don’t I matter? What about our friends we’ve been trying to get together with? They’ll be disappointed if Dryst (or both kids) aren’t here. They’ll be upset with me.” And on and on.
It led to further thoughts like “The kids need to get new friends. We always have to do all the driving, all the cooking, all the planning, and they never consider us, or come to our place or our events.” My monkey mind went on to disparage other adults in the group, ones who weren’t even there! “They only get in touch when they want something. No one cares about me or my life. They never even read my writings.” Blah, blah, blah! Good grief.
In my case, once I am able to stop and re-center myself, I know where all this baggage comes from. In the past, I was shy, insecure and didn’t really love myself. I would do anything just to be liked, and some people take advantage of that. It started way back in junior high, and continued in various scenarios until a few years ago, when I started learning self-love, and realized that I didn’t deserve to be manipulated. And it didn’t even involve this current group of folks!
That’s a serious trigger.
What triggers you? What types of situations send you back to old ways of feeling, negative thoughts that involve criticizing others, yourself, or the world in general?
So, how do you survive these triggers? The main thing is to be aware of them. I could have held on to my annoyance, and blamed those around me. But because I could see how the emotions were all out of proportion to the situation, I realized it was something in myself that I needed to work on. I think this awareness comes from practice, and a willingness to look within to see why things bother us.
Second, realize that your triggers are teachers. When something like this comes up, it’s an opportunity to let go of old stuff that you don’t need to be carrying around. There are many ways to do that. Breathe into the emotions and really feel them. You might have been repressing them for a long time, and they are just wanting to be acknowledged. Then you can let them go, maybe not all in one session, but layer by layer. Journaling about it helps me. Writing it all out onto the page allows me to release another chunk of yucky stuff that I’ve been holding onto, subconsciously, for years.
It also helps to do your inner work, regularly, whatever that means for you. Learning to truly love yourself, pursuing your creative passions, creating healthy relationships, meditation – there are as many paths as there are people. Find yours, and walk it, even when it feels hard, even when you’re pushing that same boulder up the hill over and over. Get some help when you need it – a therapist, life coach, or a trusted confidant can aid you with perspective and encouragement.
Be authentic. No matter how enlightened you’re becoming, triggers will still arise. You’re here to learn and grow. Embrace the work that pops up for you, and integrate it into your spiritual practices. You’ll not only survive, but thrive.