Do you ever get your buttons pressed?
You know when someone makes an off-hand comment and it doesn’t bother anyone but it really hits you. You feel off kilter, maybe hurt, ashamed or anxious for the rest of the day.
We all know this feeling when something really got under our skin. We may say our buttons got pressed or we feel triggered.
What are triggers
Triggers are the places in us that react strongly emotionally to certain words or behaviours.
Why do we have them
We all have been children and we all have had experiences that were not ideal in our childhood. These are the painful experiences that we could not deal with on our own and we didn’t get help with from the adults around us either. As we couldn’t deal with it appropriately we have kept those experiences buried inside.
As children we need our parents and adults to help us to digest our emotions through co-regulation. Children can’t cope with too much, too soon as their nervous systems haven’t developed yet. So children can easily get overwhelmed and flooded.
When there is nobody around to help children with their emotions and feelings their nervous system will find a way to cope so they can carry on. Often feelings get blocked or shut down and if this doesn’t get resolved we will still have these patterns as adults.
As adults when we get triggered it lands on these unresolved feelings from childhood and brings up the reactions we had to suppress at the time. And so our reactions tend to be much stronger than the situation calls for.
As adults we often spend a lot of energy to keep these buried inside as it feels too scary to have them surface. We use habits or addictions to deal with the painful feelings. Often we are not aware that we still carry these early experiences.
If a father was easily angry and would be shouting we may feel fear as an adult when someone is angry and shouts in our presence.
If a mother was cold and unresponsive emotionally and told us off we may feel scared or switch off when we meet someone else who is like that.
How can we deal with them?
First of all it is helpful to become aware of the things that feel difficult for you. Be honest about what triggers you and try and find out what the cause may be.
Notice also how you react when you get triggered. What do you tend to do? Are you able to be with the difficult feelings and face it? Or do you try and avoid it?
It helps to know that this is a younger place in you that feels hurt.
You can write down your feelings and reactions in the different situations you felt triggered.
Notice also how you respond to yourself. Do you get angry, talk yourself down or can you be gentle with yourself in these painful places?
The key to resolving triggers
What these painful places in you need is a relationship.
The only way we can heal from these wounds is to go into relationship with them.
What does this mean? That we relate to this part in us, not ignore it or push it away or pretend it isn’t there. This won’t resolve it. Instead can we turn towards these hurt places and acknowledge that they are there? Can we be with them, hold them?
Have compassion for yourself now and for your younger self who was in a difficult situation that you didn’t get any support with at the time.
If possible you can support and hold you younger self from your adult self. Ask, what does this young place need from you now?
The positive side
Although most of us don’t like these triggers, they are a way in which our body tells us that something needs to be dealt with. So it is really a great opportunity to clear out unresolved issues. Doing so means we will feel more free and have more energy to live our life now.