We all have triggers – those words or phrases that send us shooting into the realm of defensiveness, anger, and hurt. Some days I feel I have more triggers than an NRA convention.
It’s hard, when a trigger is switched, to maintain perspective and resist the flood of feelings and thoughts that overwhelm you. You are dealing not only with the current situation, but with the entire history of that trigger, all at once.
The longer you let a trigger remain intact within you, the more powerful that trigger becomes. The effect of the trigger is cumulative, gaining strength and momentum each time it is set off.
I got a trigger switched today. The “You think you know so much, Miss Know-It-All” trigger has been with me since middle school, when I was singled out for three years of bullying due to my classification as a gifted student. I was the only one in my class to be classified that way, and therefore I was required to use special texts and have different assignments from my peers.
In a small school, this doesn’t go unnoticed, and I was taunted on an almost daily basis because of it. The teachers barely had the resources to deal with my “special needs education,” much less with the social traumas that accompanied it. Fast forward three decades, and I still get twitchy when I’m singled out or teased for knowing the answers “too well.”
So what do we do with triggers? As my wife Kathryn put it, it’s not enough to “get over it.” You need to diffuse the trigger so it stops gaining and maintaining power over you.
How do we diffuse triggers? Ration isn’t enough. I know why those kids mocked and bullied me. I know why adults sometimes make the same jokes. I know they are not responsible for my triggers or even aware they’ve set them off.
Knowing all of this doesn’t really help on its own.
What helps is compassion. Compassion for my self, and compassion for the person setting off my trigger. Compassion for the difficulties we humans face in our personal interactions, and compassion for the struggles we must endure on the road to personal realization. Compassion opens the door for reason, allowing reason the space it needs to unravel the complex knot of pain and emotions pulling you off track.
My trigger got switched today, and my wife’s compassion helped me back on track. That’s a pretty awesome opportunity we have there, isn’t it? The opportunity to show compassion. The opportunity to get things back on track.
Until this evening…
Peace & Love – Deb