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  • Liz Kahn, MA, MBC

TRIGGERED


I'm not one to say that "triggers" don't exist - of course they do! Humans learn through their environments, and some lessons are difficult. Later in life, when we are reminded of those painful or difficult lessons, we have a physical reaction. In todays terms, we call that being "triggered".


Triggered has become a whole new category of emotional state, and has been the foundation of "safe spaces", "micro-aggression accusations", and a host of other compensatory programs that are intended to support people whose sensitivity to triggers is heightened....

You're about to see why I'm not super popular.

I am so sick of the displacement of responsibility when a person is "triggered". I met someone in August and during a totally friendly conversation, She asked me what my favorite Dave Matthews Band song was. The only one I could think of was "Crash", a solidly sexual song, smooth tones and barely intelligible words. She instantly started twitching and breathing rapidly. I asked her if she was ok, and she told me that I had just triggered her. She had some friends on a plane that crashed when she was in high school and, while that must have been just awful, for her to have that kind of a response (15+ years later) to the song title seemed to me to be curious. She was very upset with me for upsetting her, she shrieked at me, and I had to be the not-so-nice one and say, hey, there was no possible way for me to know about your friends from high school, right? Do you honestly think it was my intention to bring about pain in your life?--And come to think of it, she was the one who brought up Dave Matthews Band in the first place! -- She is not someone I'm going to be spending any more energy on, because no one has the kind of energy necessary to be on the losing end of emotional triggers to this degree.


And we don't have to! We can all take responsibility for our own feelings (yes, they can be under our control if we learn the process), and stop making others feel bad for being nice!

Remember, I'm upset about the shift in responsibility, here. It sucks when people are unkind to one another, and to be perfectly honest, I know quite a few people who absolutely look for ways to be obnoxious - they think it is funny to use stereotypes, vulgar assumptions, and inside jokes to make people feel uncomfortable. These aren't people I spend much energy on, either. HOWEVER, on the bell curve of people who are super obnoxious and people who are super sensitive, there are many more people in the middle who are honestly not trying to upset you! If we're honest, most folks are thinking much more about themselves than they are about you.... just like you are. You're so sensitive about these things that you think only your feelings matter. And that's ok, too, if you can handle only hanging out with people just like you, because few others will tolerate that kind of one-sided relationship for long (and be weary of those who do.... they've got issues, too!)


The way it works is like this: we get triggered (a sense memory is stirred and suddenly we are transported to a time when we experienced this sensation, for energy vampires it is almost never a positive memory) and then we react in a similar or explosive manner. This is our subconscious seeking to do one of 2(ish) things: 1) it is either going into autopilot and trying to protect you from something, or 2) it is providing you with an opportunity for resolving that emotional challenge. Either way, you have a choice!

You don't believe me yet, but this is what I teach every day.

The better you know yourself (don't worry, I teach that, too), the easier it is to catch the cues. Keep reading.

Let's break this down with an example:

Liz is going through her day, it has been a great day. She knows she has a meeting with her boss at the end of the day, but they also have shared multiple emails that have made her confident that the meeting is nothing major and that all is well. When Liz enters the boss's office, she sees that something is not ok. She is triggered by the placement of documents and positions of people. She instantly begins to cry and wonders aloud what she did wrong this time.

One more time, more slowly:

When Liz enters the boss's office, she sees that something is not ok. She is triggered by the placement of documents and positions of people. She freezes for a moment, stops breathing, her jaw drops, her eyes widen, her ears slide back, her head drops forward a little, her eyebrow raises, she cocks her head a little, and then tears fill her eyes and her thoughts race with the myriad possibilities for this circumstance. After the trigger are a host of other things that happen in a fraction of a moment - we call these the "cues".

Fast forward a few years: Liz enters the house that is supposed to be buzzing with people, but it is dark for some reason. She hears some little sound and suddenly the lights flip on and a chorus of voices sing out Happy Birthday! Liz "instantly" bursts into tears! Or at least that is what it looks like to her party-goers. What just happened?

Do we need to slow that one down, too? The emotional state being triggered here is "surprise". Any trigger in the world that creates the same physical cues that I listed above is going to yield the exact same reaction! Now, if I know that my face does that weird little dance every time I get surprised, do you think that I can maybe do something about my reaction to that trigger?

Absolutely, yes.

My point is this: we walk around the world bumping into each other. There are people everywhere and, short of locking ourselves in our own private prison cells, we are going to impact one another. Did my friends who were throwing me a surprise party think that I would freak out? Did they think that they were going to hurt me? Of course not. But how many people do you know who would literally get angry about being triggered by some joke, kindness, or off the cuff comment? Like the girl with the Dave Matthews Band song.

If you are tired of thinking that the world is out to get you; that every comment is somehow intended to hurt you; that it isn't a safe enough world; that life is so much harder than in needs to be; that you are triggered by too many things - then you need to learn Functional Emotional Fitness.

We start with your own thoughts, then we get to how you react to triggers in the world, and we finish up with rising above your own self-protection processes that no longer serve you (in fact, they probably hurt you now!) and replacing them with a calmer, more responsive, more mature process that allows you to take back your life!

Stop being triggered and start being the fabulous you that you know you can be!

As always you can reach me by clicking on the Contact button, or calling me, or texting either number you see, or send me an email at Liz@DitchTheDx.com

Text "I want a Consult!" to 919-756-4548

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