We all know about being triggered by others, right? We’re sitting here, minding our own business, and Ms. So-and-so does something absolutely appalling. Or she just announces her abdominal viewpoint (which happens to be the opposite of our more “enlightened” perspective.) Maybe she backs up her dreadful opinion with ghastly action. Maybe she’s hurtful, negative, distressing, nasty, horrendous.
And we’re triggered big time.
Anyone ever experience this?
We might feel flushed. Anger arises. Sometimes it feels righteous. Other times it just floods with intensity and doesn’t feel particularly good. Maybe we’re just annoyed. Maybe we flip our middle finger skyward when someone cuts us off in traffic. Perhaps a vague feeling of distress arises. Sometimes it’s sadness. Or fear. Worry. Anxiety.
No matter what the result of triggering–I’ve discovered there are layers of possible exploration to more deeply examine and clear the energy. To me, this is a huge part of the spiritual journey. Transforming pissed-off-ness to compassion. Learning to sit with provocation and investigate with curiosity and attention.
What does the trigger teach us?
As humans we point our finger outward. You are bad, bad, bad, we chant inside our triggered thoughts and emotions. You are simply wrong. You are horrible. You are mistaken. You are really a bad person. What a schmutz! I never want to see or speak to you again. You are not a Holy spark of Being, heavens no, not a worthy friend or family member or politician.
This seems to the initial stage. We look outwards at the apparent cause of the trigger and blame, judge, label, moralize. (And I am not saying this is wrong. It just so often happens, at least for me and others I’ve talked with about this.)
Sometimes a question appears: Do we want to take this deeper? Do we want to discover why we’re so heart-pumping mad or frustrated or sad?
Open the door and turn the spotlight on ourselves, the triggered one. WHY is person bugging me? WHY is this experience causing such angst? Usually–in many cases as I begin this exploration–nothing presents itself. All the energy is still moving outward in opposition to the trigeree. (Made up word. Trigeree. The person who triggers us.)
By returning again and again to the contemplation and asking with curiosity, the Universe often begins to provide some possibilities. I am triggered because… and here I look inside…I am triggered because I don’t like this behavior. Have I ever acted in a similar way? Have I ever been triggered like this in the past? What is it inside me that is upset? The behavior of the other person might not be stellar–but why am I reacting with such a strong emotional fervor?
Often we’re triggered because of something that happened long ago in the past. Something we unconsciously pushed away in our psyche from age two, or six or eleven. Something that was too painful to feel when we didn’t have the tools for healing. Energy has stagnated in exile beneath the surface of awareness without everyday access.
Because this energy is hidden and wants to see the light of day–Life itself will provide triggers which will poke the unconscious exiles. It may look like Ms. So-and-so is to blame. But on a deeper level it’s often our shadow-sides lurking in closed-off areas of the body seeking compassion, love, healing. Ms. So-and-so is only the catalyst to help heal ourselves.
I have stated before–it’s hard to remain in Presence and move in holy expression if these unconscious emotions are lying beneath the surface getting triggered. The trigger appears to pull us out of Spirit’s flow.
But what if the trigger is a gift? A gift to keep exploring what wants to come to the shining light of awareness? A backwards and upside-down gift from Spirit that whispers, “Let my children free”?
Sometimes sitting with triggers is enough. It seems to be about moving energy into any frozen and unconscious parts by just being with them with an open heart. Every time the energy moves back to rail and blame and judge–just return to what’s happening inside.
The anger almost always reveals itself to be fear or sadness. A deep fear or sadness that has not yet been acknowledged, not yet been welcomed into the fold of our wide-open arms. Not yet been hugged.
Interjection: Please do not get me wrong. The other person’s actions may be unconscionable. We may need to take clear decisive action to remove ourselves from their presence. We may need to set definitive boundaries. This post is not saying–everything everyone does is OK. A lot that happens in the world is totally not–in any way–OK. I am suggesting (from years of experience) that it’s almost impossible to try to change another’s behavior. What is possible is changing our own perspective and healing emotions. That’s where our true power lies.
There is even an eventual possibility of thanking Ms. So-and-so for annoying us so much. (Ha ha, this can be a long way down the healing road before we’re ready to do THAT!)
There’s even a possibility of birthing compassion for our nemesis. For glimpsing the hurt and sadness that Ms. So-and-so can not yet feel because it’s still unconscious in her. We might even be able to pray for our “enemy”. Our body slowly lets go of its contraction and we bask in the joy of an open holy heart.
P.S. This pandemic year has brought forth many triggers for me. What a challenging year for working through reactivity seeking to transform its energy from annoyance to compassion. Every day that it’s possible turning inward to hopefully help dissolve the trigger.
P.S.S. Please share your own processes for working with triggers if you like. We can all learn from one another on this one.
Day 71 of a seventy-five day journey to connect more deeply with God, Spirit, Holy, Love…to explore “What the Heart Knows” during the waning days of 2020.