On what I’ve been learning about triggers
Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
Triggers have been a hot topic in my groups over the last couple of weeks. It’s been really good to have these conversations about how to recognize a trigger and how to work through them. It seems with each group, I’ve learned something new about these triggers and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned here:
1) Everyone on God’s green earth is triggered, none of us avoid them. And in the aftermath of sexual betrayal – they are ugly.
2) I defined a trigger in this blog post as a “any situation, thought or feeling that causes us to feel fear or decreased safety within our marriage.” Although this is accurate, there is more to the story. A trigger is also something that reminds us of the past. Whether it be a situation from childhood or from disclosure or anything in between, remember that a trigger is connected to our past.
3) I believe it’s important for us to recognize how we respond to triggers. I typically don’t even realize I’m in the midst of a trigger until hours or days later. The quicker I am at pin-pointing that I’ve been triggered, the quicker I can work through the trigger. I’ve found for myself that my “reaction” tends to either look like getting angry or withdrawing.
4) Piggy-backing off of #3, keeping a close eye on our emotional reactions to interactions with others is also something we can use to help identify our triggers. Think of these reactions as a litmus. If there is a high emotional charge after an interaction with someone, it might be a trigger. (Thank you Heiti for pointing this out!) Go ahead and work through the process and see what you come up with.
5) Figuring out what we need to feel safe can be tricky. Remember that you might have more than one need. I’d encourage you to split these needs into short-term needs and long-term needs. Think of a short-term need as something that you can do for yourself (as in self-care) in the moment. It could be taking deep breaths, going for a walk, or reading a book. Long-term needs are probably a little more complicated. And you might have to try something before knowing if it helps. For instance, a longer-term need might be this: Not driving by a certain area of town that reminds you of what your husband did when he was betraying you.
6) And finally, working through a trigger shouldn’t be done alone. Reaching out and processing these triggers with others helps each of us learn more about ourselves and learn more about what we need. Ultimately – these terrible triggers have the potential to refine us.
I have a five-step process that I use to work through triggers. If you’d like to look at it, feel free to leave a comment (you can do this anonymously if you’d like) and I will send it your way!