Triggered – from Reacting to Responding

In an article for Healthline, author Crystal Raypole defines triggers as “anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had.” She goes on to talk about this phenomenon in regards to post traumatic stress:

We can be triggered in milder forms on a regular basis, and these triggers can be an opportunity for healing and greater freedom.

Sometimes a situation that arises, or a person's less-than-ideal behaviour towards me . . . DOESN'T trigger me or "push my buttons". It's like there's no 'juice' in there to stir me up. My internal response might be, "Wow ! That just happened. . . What do I need to do or say to that person now?" or "Wow ! I can see this person's behaviour trying to protect that hurt/ angry/ sad/ spoiled/ fearful little child thrashing around inside of them.” I genuinely wonder where that originated.

However in contrast to these times when I can RESPOND with equanimity when I'm NOT triggered, sometimes my buttons DO get pushed and I know there's some work to be done. Here are the signs that I've been triggered:- It's usually an over-the-top, or at least slightly irrational REACTION! There will usually be an instant recoil, a contraction and a DEFENCE of some kind. e.g. wanting to line up a bunch of people who are 'on my side' in this issue. I might withdraw from or cut off this person or situation. I can even have an urge to RETALIATE (not mature, helpful assertiveness, more of an irrational, childlike, "Yeah, well what about YOU then?!" or various versions of swearing under my breath or venting-swearing to a friend who will agree wholeheartedly with how wronged I’ve been.)

When I AM triggered, it's as if something's "got a hold of me". There’s no freedom in that. But what to do with this? Well, I could go into a “victim” mentality, and feel aggrieved, angry and/or endlessly hurt.

Or, I could simply ALLOW all of these feelings to come to the surface, and “sit with them”.

Once I surrender, I’ll usually get in touch with the feelings that are UNDERNEATH these defence mechanisms; the hurt/ sad/ angry/ fearful little child within me. Oops, that's exactly what I originally wrote about "the other person". Once this stored charge is released, a new context can arise, and a more mature, wise response can be made to the situation. TRIGGERED moments can lead to clearing, healing and greater freedom. Yaaay!

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