Triggers, are they useful?

Getting triggered

I once had a client who was about to get married. She was really conscious of not wanting to upset any of her friends because she knew she couldn’t invite them all to her wedding. So in discussion with her fiance they decided to only invite close family.

One day she met an old friends she hadn’t seen for a long time. She had forgotten to tell about the family only wedding plans. While drinking coffee she happened to mention preparations for the wedding and at that instant her friend burst into tears. My client in reaction also burst into tears because now the things she least wanted to happen, upsetting her friend, had happened.

It turned out that her friend had a real sensitivity from things that had happened to her when she was younger about being left out. What she had made it mean was that she was not loved. And further still it confirmed to her something she had believed for a long time about herself, that deep down she was not a lovable person.

Her friend not inviting her to the wedding had immediately touched this great pain that she had been carrying for many years.

Her upset had then triggered my client’s hurt around a different earlier pain, so both triggered each other.

After working it through with me, and my client talking it through with her friend, they both came to see that what had upset them was actually not really to do with anything that had happened recently at all, but was from deep in their youthful past.

Interestingly my client came to realise that she would on reflection rather feel the emotion of something that gets triggered in her than not feel it. Because as someone wanting to explore herself and become more happy and less upset, she realised the trigger was a signpost for her. It was the place to explore. So she has begun to welcome upsets now and see their value. Rather than do what many people do, which is to blame other people for triggering them or move anyone who brings up painful emotions out of their life.

I know a teacher who felt strongly triggered by a student and then manipulated the situation to get the student expelled. This removed the trigger for her but didn’t resolve any of the reason of why she was triggered. It also caused a big fracturing of relations and an on-running division between who supported the teachers actions and who supported the student.

Getting triggered and not taking personal responsibility for our own emotions can have serious consequences to others around you, it can seriously fracture relationships. It’s not only about a lost opportunity to understand ourselves better.

Triggers don’t disappear just because you choose to look at them honestly. In fact at first that is often very painful to do. Yet it does allow you to start to trace back where they originate from and then how to polish them as it were to smooth off the sharpness of them.

It is worth saying that after exploring the trigger and soothing the pain of it, we may then decide to fill our life with more nourishing people or situations. We don’t have to stick to an abusive partner for example or to put up with something in the world that continues to feel unbalanced.

Yet the big revolution in consciousness of our society is coming I think. And it’s about people genuinely taking responsibility for their own emotional upsets. That will be when we really start seeing being triggered as a gift, as the sign of the place to dig.

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