We all have stories that make up our life. Some fill us with joy, while others have the potential to create trauma. I often share my stories because I think many can relate to them and feel the connection we have with this life. A story that helped me to understand and learn the power of triggers and releasing them started back when I was in my 20’s. I was living in New York City and having a blast working and living between two different worlds. By day I surfed the edges of the corporate landscape as a designer in the architecture industry. However, my personal passion was exploring what was new, beautiful and profound in this world, wherever I could find it. It was a very good time in my life. This life I lived stood on the foundations of strength that had been gifted to me by my father. Day in and day out, he reflected to me how I could be all I wanted to be. He did it in a Merlin kind of way, with adventure and questions instead of answers. One evening in late fall, I strolled down 2nd avenue by the light of the street lamps, store fronts and the laughter of my friends. We were heading to one of our favorite haunts. The wind blew small gangs of leaves over the ground and it was the first night we noticed it was getting quite cold out. As I rounded a corner, a large gust of wind blew a small pile of leaves into my path and danced in front of me for a moment. It brought with it a sudden knowing into my heart that stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember still, the feeling that something was coming and nothing would ever be quite the same again. As I tried to shake it off, I felt the arm of my love slip around me and whisper, “Are you ok?”. His vigilant attention marking the fact that this silent shift had been noticed by another.
It was early the next spring when the event came that changed my world forever. It was in the middle of the night, while visiting my parents, that I heard my mother’s cry for help. It was on this cold, dark night that my father’s heart stopped working for him, while my mother and I tried desperately to keep it going until an ambulance could arrive. This was the moment I knew had been whispered to me by the wind months before. This was the day my life would never be the same again, by an act not of my choosing. The shock numbed me for a long time. Then the pain became palpable. That is when the journey began to transform the loss of my father into his greatest gift to me.
We don’t get through life without events that shape us. This is the grit of real life. Traumas happens. Without understanding and tools, the effects of traumas stay with us way too long, instead of being transformed. Life events, both good and bad, quite literally get under our skin, in to our bodies, and recorded in our souls. We can take our experiences and turn them into the fuel we need to build better lives. What we need in order to do this is the right knowledge and tools, to weave gold from our stories. When we don’t have those things, triggers become installed instead. Triggers that are buttons, that when pushed, bring us instantly back to the trauma. This can provide us another opportunity to transform our experiences, unless we don’t recognized the potential. The problem is, sometimes those buttons seem hidden from us. And even when they are not, we don’t always know how to un-install them. When we become sad, angry, feel abandoned, or have any sudden emotion, we think these feelings are coming from the present moment and current situation. Perhaps we even feel they are caused by those we are with. But that is not always the case.
For a long time I was easily triggered into many big emotions that felt situational. A real and deep fear of loss came up frequently, in a magnitude that was not appropriate to the situations. And it didn’t always look like fear of loss. It caused relationship problems, exhaustion, and all manner of dead ends for me. Luckily, I had really kind and knowledgeable support around me at that time. My supporters gently showed me how my reactions to life and people, was, perhaps, warped by my experience of a greater, sudden, and unexpected loss. I began to see that my foundation had been rocked, and notice that which would trigger me into anger or sadness, was really just a reminder of my bigger heartache. With amazing patient guidance, I was able to shift my experience of loss and a rocked foundation into knowledge that propelled me into great things. It was when I took the three steps I will lay out for you, that all manner of new doors opened for me, which I am still reaping the rewards from. I got out of being stuck in the trigger loop, thinking that’s just how I am.
When life creates triggers, they affect relationships, decisions, and our ability to thrive. Sometimes the triggers and causes are obvious, but often they are not so easy for us to recognize. Over time, we may be well over the original event, however the buttons and triggers have become habits of behavior, even personality traits that just feel like who we are. The good news is that in just three steps, you can stop the triggers in their tracks. With a little determination and stamina, you will shift old responses into new beginnings.
Step 1. Notice the trigger:
Step 1 is noticing, as quickly as possible, when the trigger button has been pushed. One of the best ways to do this is to “know thyself” and pay attention. Triggers often feel like sudden anger, sadness, or other big emotions. Pay attention to what is happening in your body. Triggers are often felt in some physical way, like a tight chest, shallow breathing, or an ache in the belly. Get to know what you feel like in your body when you are not triggered. Then, when those triggers happen, you will notice the shift easily and swiftly. The trigger may be a very familiar feeling, however, against the backdrop of how you feel when not triggered, you will begin to see it for what it really is.
Step 2. Defuse the trigger:
Step 2 is to take the power away from the trigger and place it back in your hands. This is done by defusing the current situation, instead of heightening it. When we have not noticed we are triggered, we lean into it, and follow it to and end that is not our desired goal. Whatever you may be doing at the point of noticing the trigger, stop, take a breath, and think. You may know the exact event that created this feeling in you, but you don’t have to know what it was at all. The reason is because, either way, what is true is that what ever caused the feeling, happened in your past. What is happening now is just a reminder of the past. Tell yourself that whatever it was is all over now! Whatever feeling you noticed in your body, breath slowly, carefully, and intentionally, until your body relaxes, and the feelings, both physical and emotional, ease. They may even leave you all together. This may take some time at first, but with practice, and over time, heightened feelings can ease and even disappear in just a single, intentional breath.
Step 3. Create a new pattern:
Step 3 is the most fun part of this process. It is the time to create what you want. You have found and defused the trigger. Now redirect yourself into something different, something of your own choosing, something that brings you joy or peace. Choosing to do even a small thing that is new, and different is empowering. If you are in the middle of a conversation, or project, take a break from it for a few minutes. Take a walk, find a laugh, get a hug, or just close your eyes and imagine yourself in a very happy place doing something you love. Drive a different route than usual, eat something different than your norm, put your favorite music on. You are replacing the old with something new that you consciously choose. At first, this may feel entirely awkward or uncomfortable. Trust the process. Over time, sometimes very quickly, new habits, new ways of being, and new personality traits will form. They will be ones that serve your well being, rather than sabotage you, so choose well.
Taking these three steps whenever big emotions like anger or sadness rise, can lead to awareness of what deeper wounds may need healing. These are the steps that allow you to turn old wounds into life changing opportunities. They are what I did to transform the loss of my father into the ability to love in a big, brave way. These steps helped me weave the gold of love and family out of loss. And these two are my cherished prizes.
Would you like further support for moving through these 3 steps?
I have lead many people through these steps in ways that are kind and gentle. Now I have available for sale on my website, two guided meditations that can help support you with all three steps on your own. They each come with a guide book that explains the mediations and how they work. Listening to them can assist you in all three steps of transforming those triggers into opportunities?
- They will help you get to “know thyself” as described in Step 1.
- They will help you with Step 2, defusing the triggers, as they teach you to get into a natural state of calm.
- They will help you create something new, as a go to, when you need more support to use as a re-direct.
- You will feel different after doing them and you will become an expert at being an empowered you.
The Tree Meditation helps you to find and know your core self. It helps you connect to sources of energy that feel supportive instead of draining. You will find yourself shifted in to a feeling of peaceful power.
The Clearing and Connecting Meditation Takes you even deeper into the the work of “knowing thyself” and becoming self empowered. You will become an expert of your body, heart, spirit, and soul.