Many years ago, my therapist said “If you want to know how healthy you really are, get naked.” Essentially implying that being vulnerable will trigger strong emotional responses in us and will illuminate areas that still need some attention. In relationships, these tend to center around common themes like self-worth and abandonment. Daddy issues, as we say.
Family, too, is a surefire way to flare up emotions, particularly around the holidays. I chewed on writing a post before the holidays on how to deal with family, but the creative spark didn’t alight till today, so here we are.
I spent Thanksgiving with my family in NY and all in all it went well. Both of my parents were absent, perhaps creating to the ease and flow, but I did have one BIG trigger show up in the least expected way and I’ll use that example to illuminate the process of identifying and recognizing triggers. This is important work if you’re looking for more emotional neutrality and the ability to be and act from LOVE ONLY.
A trigger is an event that causes emotional distress and shifts you out of positive vibrational alignment. Essentially any time you feel a negative response to something/anything/anyone, you’re being triggered. In my experience, when you first start soul seeking for a healthy, higher lifestyle, these triggers are BIG. I remember electing to go to therapy at the age of 34 because my long-term boyfriend and I broke up and I knew I had a role in it, but no idea what that was. I went in thinking I’d yammer on for weeks about Josh, but boy was I wrong! I left that first session with a much longer list of much bigger fish to fry. (Hello mother, hello father!)
On my last family visit, a situation arose at a dinner one night wherein my niece was upset with her father (my brother in law) and they were going back and forth struggling to understand each other. You know the drill – kids insist one thing, tired parents are like “you be cray, kid.” This heated discussion immediately and intensely effected me, though. I couldn’t eat, I was hot, I felt trapped, I wanted to cry. It was STRONG and fast and I was thankful for a family that eats quickly because I needed to get out of there….pronto. I left the house numb and so very heavy with sadness – not my desired or usual state.
I drove into town and the first thing I thought as I pulled down the driveway was ‘Amy, This is NOT about that conversation.’ I knew, from years of reading/learning/looking, that THAT strong of a reaction was not related to the actual incident. No one else at the table was upset and they were the ones arguing! It had to be bigger. The process went pretty much like this:
Holy shit, I’m feeling really overwhelmed | How am I feeling? Sad, so sad. Empathy. Unloved. Defeated. | Where are you feeling it? In my chest. | Did that situation warrant these feelings? No, I’m being overly dramatic. | Ok, so when in the past have you felt this way?
I was living out an emotional memory from my past – something that happened when I was a little girl and felt unloved, defeated, sad. I sat and asked myself ‘When did you feel this way?’, and went with the first memory that popped into my mind. (Follow your intuition!) In order to heal and bring some love and light to the memory, I replayed it and recognized that OF COURSE my parents love(d) me and they were only doing their best. If they knew, then, how I was feeling (or had tools to even figure out how I was feeling) they would’ve behaved differently. I know this. So I cast a little bubble of love over everyone in the memory, visualizing this in my mind, and felt infinitely better. I was able to go back to the house, be present, hug all of the children, smile at my brother in law and it felt GREAT.
We all do this all the time. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to have a really BIG trigger now and again. Have gratitude for these situations and the people that help point out where you need a little love – they are all teachers.
As you learn, grow, make space to love a little more, the triggers get smaller and less offensive. Small triggers are situations where – you look away when a homeless person asks for money, you judge a book by his/her cover, you curse at fellow drivers while on the road, you roll your eyes at a friend etc.
I hope this post helps illuminate how we can get trapped in a past emotional memory and carry it into our present day. It is NEVER about the people you think it’s about – it’s about YOU. Did someone ‘make’ you angry over the holidays? Are you frustrated with your mom? Do you wish your cousin would stop complaining already? THESE ARE TRIGGERS. Do some digging in your memory bank and find out why/where/how they were CREATED. It is always an emotional memory that causes us to act so strongly and typically from a time when we didn’t have the articulate voice of the person we are today, and so the emotion got buried. Unearth it, see the situation more clearly, send everyone in it love and then float on back to your present moment in gratitude for the lesson. Yes, this takes time and consciousness (and YES, I am still working at it!), but the reward is so worth it. I love being in love with my family and friends – it’s a much smoother ride and creates space for bigger and better things to show up. God bless!