Is there someone you know who pushes your buttons with a marksman’s precision?
Moms are good at this, at least mine is…
But what about the people you least suspect?
About a week ago, I was triggered after having a lovely sushi dinner with my honey. Once the bill was paid, we still had some sake to finish, so I shared a revelation I had earlier that day – you know an “aha moment.” After I was done with my story he said “I really wonder what kind of roll those girls over there are having.” I looked at him, incredulously, then stood up and walked out of the restaurant in a huff. He was ignoring me, while I was sharing this important revelation! I was pissed. But as I cooled down I realized that I have felt this way before, and I began to wonder if this triggered an anger that came from another place and time, like my childhood.
When I was younger, my reactions to triggers were volatile, impulsive, involuntary. I always blamed my Latina DNA for my fiery spirit, but as I arrived to middle age, about a year ago or more, I realized that those triggers came from a place that wasn’t related to the event or person that triggered my reaction.
I started to pay closer attention to my emotional responses and what triggered them.
What I found is that 99% of my triggers were created during my childhood. My parents helped create them and they also became the first people to push my buttons. I also realized that these were emotional wounds that needed healing because my emotional response to those triggers were my responsibility and if I didn’t heal those wounds and learn how to manage my emotions, then all my relationships would suffer.
Let’s go back to my feeling ignored by my honey after our lovely sushi dinner, where did that come from? The next morning I realized that my inner child was triggered, the kid that was repeatedly ignored by her parents, especially her dad who worked all day and came home at night expecting dinner, then watching TV for a while and then going to bed, with no attempt at engaging her in conversation. His inaction made me feel like I was some unfortunate appendage he acquired involuntarily and that if he didn’t have me, then his life would be free and happy. I was angry at him for ignoring me and because of that I am now triggered to be angry when I feel like someone I love is ignoring me. I captured this revelation in my journal and I am now working on healing this part of me.
Yes I have been like the Tasmanian devil, swirling up a dust storm whenever someone triggers me, my emotions going out of control, but I’m learning how to be aware of them as they come on.
“We’re doomed!” You may think as you are now realizing that many of us walk around being triggered all the time. Uncontrolled responses to emotional triggers drive us to take drugs, get road rage, insult a loved one or you guessed it – shoot people. For example, that guy in Texas who killed himself and three other people was triggered by an eviction notice or the guy in Seattle who massacred a cafe full of people was triggered because the cafe had banned him a few days prior. Yes they were deemed mentally unstable and they took their triggers to the extreme, but are they not only mirrors of us, only magnified? Is pulling the trigger of a gun worse than mentally or emotionally abusing a spouse or child?
First accept that you are only human and you have these things called heart breaks or emotional scar tissue. Embrace that… Go on, give yourself a hug! Feel better? We all have triggers, we all have been abused or neglected by someone we just wanted to love and be loved by, to respect or be respected by, at some point in our lives.
Acknowledging that you are reacting in sadness or anger is a first step. Next time you get angry at someone, take a breath and ask yourself “Self, where is that sadness or anger coming from?” Forgive yourself, the other person and the source of your trigger. Forgiveness and decreasing your stress level will help you manage your emotional responses.
Please do not use this emotional scar tissue as an excuse. Don’t start saying, “Oops, sorry I’m mad again, you triggered my childhood anger, it’s not your fault, it’s mine.” No, no, no… That get’s old and people will runaway from you with lightening speed, is that what you want?
Managing our emotions and healing old wounds is hard work, there is no silver bullet, no quick fix for this stuff, this is literally tearing open an old wound to allow it to it heal properly, then learning new ways to respond to things that make us feel uneasy.
Once you acknowledge you have triggers, you are on the road to recovery. You will love yourself so much more, because you will realize your humanity and that you are not alone in your struggles. You may even discover or rediscover what brings you joy. Perhaps one day your button is pushed the emotion that will be triggered is love. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Actions that have helped me with healing my emotional wounds:
- Keeping a journal has helped me discover my triggers (physical action)
- Going to a psychotherapist helped for a time when my journal wasn’t enough (mental action)
- Energy work called Theta healing when I still didn’t feel quite healed (energetic or spirit action)
- Doing things that are good for my body, mind and soul like massages, walks by the lake or in the woods, yoga, eating healthy foods…