Triggers. They are no fun, to put it *very* mildly.
In case you don’t know what a trigger is (like I didn’t) here’s what they look like for me.
I see something, or hear something, and all of a sudden a memory of a Horrible Moment in my life shows up and I can’t stop feeling distressed.
The memory won’t go away, the distress won’t go away, and I can no longer function.
That’s what happens to me “now”. What used to happen, back before I started working with my stuff, is that I would see something I seriously disapproved, I would proceed to lose my marbles completely, the “thing” I saw would carry on playing in my mind, and I would rant and rant about how politically “wrong” it was.
Yeah… it wasn’t fun at all.
These days I can recognise a trigger when it happens, and then I can try things to work with it.
The thing is, triggers are doing their job. We all have Horrible Moments in our past that we have not been able to process.
If you were to ask a whole bunch of people “would you like to process some of those Horrible Moments right now?” the answer would probably be “NO!”. We *never* want to go back to the Horrible Moments.
Which is why we are dragged back to them by our subconscious until we get the message and work with our stuff around the Horrible Moment.
On this particular occasion, I was happily watching a comedy show when all of a sudden… TRIGGER!
I was “locked in”, and I had to work with my stuff around past Horrible Moment.
This is what I did: I wrote through the process.
You are living your life without much consequence. Then all of a sudden, BOOM, TRIGGER.
You can’t make it “un-happen”.
You saw what you saw and it’s playing in your head over and over. You can’t just “drop it”.
Your past memories are suddenly very much present in your mind. And you can’t make them go away just because you wish what happened hadn’t happened.
Your stuff is… “in the surface”.
“I don’t want to deal with my stuff right now, dammit. I have better things to do!”.
Ah, yes. It’s never a good time to deal with stuff. With painful, old, traumatising memories of horrible things that “shouldn’t have happened”.
So, legitimacy for not wanting to deal with the stuff, dammit!
After that, a reality check: I’ve already been triggered.
And I’m now in a state of “trigger sensitivity”, ie: things that would normally not trigger me all that much suddenly become huge things, and I can’t deal with normal life anymore.
Permission to feel all the frustration. All the anger.
All the feelings.
Next: engaging with my stuff in a “creative way” (because it’s the only way I can manage right now).
I don’t want to cry, I don’t want to remember, I don’t want to do yoga. None of the “hard things”.
I want to write about it as if it was helping someone else.
And that will give me the right amount of distance so I can process this without it getting “too much”.
Which is what I’m doing right now.
Using the anger: setting clear boundaries
I don’t want to discuss this with anyone. Ever. And I don’t have to. (Clause: Unless by some magical miracle I happen to encounter someone else on this planet who has a High Degree of Sensitivity on all Matters Related to s3x, and I feel comfortable enough around them.).
I definitely don’t want to discuss this with [Possible Male Companion I Might Meet One Day]. I mean it. I will never, ever, ever discuss this, or reveal it or, in no way, shape or form, will I defend my right to feel what I feel about what happened. I don’t have to reveal any aspect of this, and that is that.
I will never, ever, under no circumstance, find myself in the [situation] I was in. Ever. I can promise myself that.
Noticing things in the body
Further unexpected triggered memories: smells. Suddenly, I am recalling smells, which is… very odd.
OK. Breathing, breathing, focusing on the breath. Back to my body.
I can see now what was happening Then.
My body was having all these reactions of disgust, extreme disgust, but I didn’t listen. Because I had learned to “Power Through” as the only way to go through life. “Push through your discomfort, and pain, etc. It’s the only way to make things work.”
Yeah. That did not work.
I am now having all these delayed bodily reactions. 14 years later.
It’s normal. I’ve been having them for a while now.
Reassurance and boundaries
“But, but, but… what will we do if we find a [Possible Male Companion]? How could it possibly work?!?”.
I don’t know. I wish I knew, but I don’t.
I don’t have to know, though. I don’t have to figure it all out right now.
I have boundaries / ground rules. I’m going to respect them. I know how to respect my boundaries / ground rules because I know how to get to that steady place of grounding, where I can say a clear “no” without being in my stuff.
It’s a calm “no”. Or a peaceful “I don’t want that”.
I have tasted that calm and that peace, and I know it is possible to say things from that place.
And that is how I’m going to respect my boundaries. Because from inside that place of calm, peace and grounding, I can listen to my body. And I can take mindful action if my boundaries / ground rules are not respected.
Important Things to Remember
- Using the third person (ie: we) helps create distance and that can make the process easier.
- Running through a mental list of things that tend to work, and asking. “Do you want some water? Do you want to go for a walk? Do you want to write? Do you want to try some breathing exercises? Do you want to listen to some audio? Do you want a guided meditation?“. These are all things I know I might try, so I ask myself whether I want them and then I listen to my answer. If it’s “NO!” then I ask the next thing on the list. Always give yourself the option.
- Back to the body. This is essential, and it is much easier to do if you have a regular yoga practice. Whether it is breathing, or simply coming back to the present, getting back to the body in a kind way is key.
- Legitimacy and Permission. Always. “It makes perfect sense to feel this way, it’s OK, you are allowed to feel this and be angry and lose it as much as you need to.”
- Reassurances and boundaries. This is rather tricky, but it gets easier with practice. The truth is, our stuff, our past pain wants reassurance that we have learned the lesson and that we will take better care of ourselves in the future.
- IMPORTANT: do not try to make sense out of it while it’s happening. Let go of the story line. Suspend your need to figure it all out. Stay with the “not knowing” and the “not understanding”. And the way you acquire the ability to stay with the “not knowing” and the “not understanding” is through practicing meditation.
I hope this helps.
Triggers are no fun, that’s for sure, but our subconscious is trying to help. It is on our side.
And it gets easier with practice.