Was that headline a little triggering? Probably. And if it was then this is an opportunity for the healing to begin. There are reasons behind why triggers exist and why they are no one else’s responsibility other than the triggered person. I’m actually going to address the headline in the next paragraph, but, let’s just sit with this for a moment. My triggers are my problem and your triggers are yours. While one can have compassion for another person’s triggers, it is up to the triggered person to look within and take action. Why? Here are the top two reasons.
Reason number one, MY triggers are MY responsibility because they happen to ME. The triggers were experienced by me, so they are mine and I own them. Reason number two, I am the answer to MY problems. While the next few paragraphs encourage resources and community to help you on this journey, as well as ways to walk through your triggers, the answer to my problems STARTS with ME. And it’s the exact same for you. Your triggers are yours. They happen to you, so you own them. And YOU are the answer to your problems.
It’s impossible to grow without ownership of your own problems. The great news is, not only is ownership the beginning of your healing journey, it’s the beginning of being empowered by making choices that serve you. And what serves all of us is knowing what a trigger is because, in life, they are inevitable.
An article from Good Therapy defines a trigger as “a reminder of past trauma.” They fleshed it out a little more by saying “a trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as smell, sound or sight that triggers feelings of trauma.”
We’ve all been there. A past event or situation ignites the trigger, the “reminder of past trauma,” causing us harm all over again. In those moments, we feel victimized and terrorized by the situation. But we’re not victims. We are survivors. And that’s the mentality that will help us overcome and heal from our traumas. We don’t overcome and heal from traumas by blaming others, or by being entitled-little victims. We don’t grow and overcome from a state of victimhood. We grow by acknowledging and taking ownership of what’s going on within us. And then we take action and look for resources to help us to get to the root of our problems.
The great thing about our triggers is they can serve us by helping us go deeper into the subconscious battles taking place internally. They don’t feel good. I don’t know anyone who enjoys the experience of triggers. Personally, when I’m triggered, I get knots in my stomach, my throat closes up, my face feels hot and I panic. But it arises to help me realize there’s a wound that still needs healing.
We all have wounds, but much of the time we suppress and avoid them. When we avoid them, our behavior begins to tell our story. We say we’re ok, but our actions are like neon signs on our foreheads advertising the latter. We act out, we lash out, we break down, push away those who love us, we shut down, and so on. Discomfort in life happens to teach us, mold us, shape us, and help us build endurance through trials.
The goal is not to be perfect but to work towards having healthier minds and healthier ways of being so that when we are triggered, we can walk away from that experience being proud of how we responded. How we handled ourselves. Taking total responsibility for the trigger happening, confronting it, and letting it go. This is part of the healing process.
What’s my advice when it comes to dealing with triggers? Acknowledge it. Where in your body do you feel this discomfort? Talk to the trigger. No, you are not talking to yourself, you are talking to the trigger. The trigger is not you, it’s a small part of you. So talk to it. Confront it. Ask it why it’s there. Ask it where it’s coming from. Ask questions. Do you have a therapist or a community to turn to or talk to about what’s going on inside? Yes, the journey starts with you but we weren’t meant to be alone. As we’ve learned in a pandemic, solitude is healthy, as it’s good to not be completely dependent on people all the time. But isolation is a whole other thing. It’s the opposite of solitude, unhealthy, and can be dangerous. We need to allow ourselves to be embraced by a healthy community that can help encourage us and guide us to resources that will lead us to confronting ourselves.
So own your triggers and then find a mentor, resource, therapist, community to help you walk through these triggers. Ultimately, my triggers are my problem to figure out and walkthrough. Your triggers are yours.