Wisdom Wednesdays is my weekly blog on the topic I am discussing throughout my Facebook LIVES, broadcasts, and social media posts for the week. Submit your topic requests to me using the contact tab above.
My mission in 2019 is to promote ACTION in our lives. Action, not only in taking physical movements forward on our goals, but also in clearing up our limiting thinking and beliefs that keep us stuck and unable to emotionally and mentally move forward.
This week I am focused on TRIGGERS. Jay & I hosted our weekly broadcast on the subject yesterday. You can see the replay on my Facebook page, Dr. Genie Mathews, Spiritual Synergist. You can also browse the audio archives with the #ChooseLove Broadcast tab above.
A trigger is a situation that causes a reaction to the stored memory of a traumatic event that may have occurred long ago.
When you are triggered you are not reacting to the current life situation, you are reacting to some event from your past that caused you pain – deeply wounding pain. You may feel shamed, embarrassed, humiliated, sadness, anger, rage, victimized, or even feel stabbing physical pain in the body. The situation feels like the same trauma, even though it most likely is not the same at all. The trigger elicits an emotional reaction from you equal to the emotional memory of the deeply painful traumatic event of your past – so it certainly feels the same emotionally, even if the intention and situation are wholly different now.
To the outside world, a person who is having a triggering reaction appears to be overreacting to a small problem. I’ve been called a “b*tch”, a “psycho”, “spoiled”, “difficult”, and lots of other names to describe dealing with me in situations that I can attribute to traumatic memory reactions – a symptom often part of PTSD. People thought I was just crazy because they couldn’t possibly have known what is in my memory and what emotional wounds I have stored inside. They only knew that I flipped the b*tch switch and they had no idea why I was so “sensitive”. (ugh, I hate that – and “snowflake”!!)
If you’ve had these situations come up for you and then find yourself attacked by others who don’t understand, you often are left feeling further victimized and pile on more pain to the original trauma. The next time this trigger shows up your reaction is going to include another level of shame, fear, anger, rage, and pain.
I still get triggered even though I have learned healing and coping tools over the years to help myself. I’ve gotten over many, but I have some I’m still mind-hacking. I call it mind-hacking because your memories, thoughts, and beliefs are all stored in little neurological files in the mind. When you have an event happen in your life you attach thoughts, beliefs and emotional meaning to it in your memory file. Each time the emotional trigger comes up your brain opens that file and all those thoughts and feelings come up – it’s an automatic reaction.
Thoughts and beliefs can be overwritten (mind-hacked) in to new thoughts and beliefs with action. Automatic Reactions can be transformed in to Healed Responses.
A while back I ran in to a big chain department store to quickly pick up something. I was in a rush as we were going somewhere and the lines were backed up at the cashiers. I detest self-checkout because each store is different and stuff doesn’t scan and it’s just a hassle, but I had one thing to purchase and I took a chance on just being able to swipe my item and go.
Wrong. When does it ever work out like that – right?
The problem came with payment and the cards with chips situation. Some places you put the card in when the transaction starts. Some places you wait until you are done. I put my card in when I started to check out. When it was time to pay, the screen kept saying “insert your card”. Ugh. I was supposed to wait. Okay so I decided to take out the card and insert it again.
Wrong. Beeping noises. Lights flashing. “Your transaction has been cancelled” on the screen.
Enter the oh so friendly and condescending self-checkout helper to scold me for removing my card.
See. I have a “don’t talk to me like I’m stupid” trigger. I discussed this on the broadcast yesterday so I’m not going to go much deeper in to it other than to say it stems from years of being told how stupid I was by a parent. I STILL have a rage response to this trigger. I feel shamed, embarrassed, helpless, voiceless, powerless, unheard, unwanted, unloved. This is a deeeeeep emotional wound for me and when someone talks down to me or causes me to feel stupid – man, I flip the b*tch switch and turn that energy all the way up.
I was not nice to that person that day and minutes later I was ashamed of my behavior which added more shame and pain to the trigger. I was a nut. I was not in control of my own behavior. I was in victim mindset and she was somehow attacking me by reminding me to wait until the screen told me to put my card in the machine. “Overreaction on lane 1!”
She did nothing but do her job and be herself. I am responsible for that situation becoming ugly. 100% me and my unhealed wound.
People have different ways they express their triggered emotions. Some people cry. Some people freeze in panic. Some people use humor or sarcasm to cover their pain. Some people withdrawal. Some people get angry. One thing is clear – the REAL emotion of the traumatic event is always hidden beneath where it is safe from more pain.
My real emotion from above was shame and humiliation and feeling invalidated. I don’t express those emotions when I am triggered. I get really angry and defensive. Those real emotions are never dealt with because they are stuffed way down deep with that little girl who was told she was stupid. To keep her safe, I trained myself to react with anger and defensiveness. Now anytime I feel embarrassed or ashamed or invalidated, I don’t present those feelings, I react in anger. I flip the switch.
Does this sound like you? It sounds like a lot people. And we aren’t bad people. We are people who are surviving the best we can with the tools and knowledge we have. When we know better, we can heal and be better.
How can we heal this if it is an automatic reaction and if the memory controls how we act?
You have to take action. You have to mind-hack the reaction.
You cannot change the past traumatic experience, but you can change how you react to similar emotional situations.
You have to have a plan on how to deal with these reactions and then work the plan with each incident as they come up. Your plan has to include acknowledging you have a trigger to a certain situation and knowing what the real emotions you are feeling underneath the overreaction. Your behavior may be showing anger or crying or having a break down. What is that behavior covering up and protecting you from? Are you embarrassed? Are you frightened? Are you feeling worthless?
While anger is certainly part of how I feel about the verbal abuse I went through as a child, the stronger emotions of shame and invalidation are the real triggers. Those are the emotions I need to heal.
Once you are in the midst of a triggered situation, as soon as you can, try to center and ground yourself. Come back in to your own thinking and recover under your own control. To do this have several affirmations you can repeat to yourself.
Mine would be:
I am safe.
I am competent.
This person is not my parent.
This person is not trying to shame me.
I am valid.
I am not shamed.
I am not embarrassed.
This is not the trauma of my childhood.
These sentences will help me come out of the trigger and take responsibility for my behavior. After all, it is not up to someone else to understand why we are triggered and overreacting to a situation – it’s up to us to take the action we need to heal and be responsible for our own behavior.
Each time you have a triggering event do the work to heal. This is how you will hack your mind. Eventually, with use, your affirmations will become how you respond to triggering events in replacement of the painful emotions from the past. I am very much looking forward to thinking of myself as safe and competent and calm, instead of “oh no she did not just treat me like I’m stupid!”
It’s hard work, this self-acceptance and self-healing. It takes ACTION, and this is the year of taking action! We can stop living as victims of our past and move forward in our own light and our own power! The path to joy and happiness is taking responsibility for our lives today, regardless of our past. We can live in joy and I want that so much for you!
In Light & Healing,