A couple of weeks ago, someone said something to me offhandedly, and I felt an immediate internal reaction. It seemed to me that the person was accusing me of procrastinating, if not being downright lazy. I was offended. When I reacted, the person was genuinely surprised as that was not at all what they had meant. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. It had been their way of teasing me and making a point that I was anything BUT lazy.
I thought about the episode for days, and it occurred to me on my morning walk that there could have been two possible reasons for my reaction to the event. One possibility is that it was true. Had it touched something in me that was real? A sore spot inside which I recognized as a shortcoming. Wouldn’t the trigger then have been something of a gift, helping to point out an area on which I could focus and improve?
Conversely, it could be that it was not at all true. In which case, why had I reacted the way I did? Why had I subjugated that much power to another person or given that much weight to what they thought as long as I knew it was not true?
Either way, the work was mine, not theirs. The trigger helped me understand myself just a little bit better and continue to align myself with the person I hoped to become.
I have found that, like me, a lot of my friends and loved ones are easily triggered by very different things. What are you commonly triggered by? If you’re like me, you might have a sizable list. But, what’s our reaction really about—them or us? If the person a few weeks ago had told me I was a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater (I know that reference has firmly dated me as a full-fledged boomer), it would have made no difference to me at all. I would have found the glaring mistake laughable because I knew it was so obviously not true. Yet, even when we know things are not true, we are often triggered to the point of righteous indignation which is then spewed out in social media posts, verbal shouting matches in public places, or festering resentments.
I believe that triggers are never about the other person. They are all about us. They shine a bright light on either work we know we need to do or on insecurities within us.
This week, notice what triggers you. Ask yourself if the trigger is a gift of recognition about something to which you need to pay some attention and for which you should attempt to change or improve. Or maybe it’s the gift of recognition of an insecurity within us? If we know for certain the person is incorrect, why do we feel the need to prove ourselves? Could we not allow the other person their opinion and carry on with the knowledge and certainty of our own position and value? Either way, accept the gift of the trigger and own the important internal work that it reveals to you.
Have you had the gift of a trigger recently?
“Avoiding your triggers isn’t healing. Healing happens when you’re triggered and you’re able to move through the pain, the pattern, and the story – and walk your way to a different ending.”
~ Vienna Pharaon