Over the last few years as people have dealt with a pandemic, the loss of loved ones, churches closing, isolation from lockdowns, virtual schooling for children, and the loss of jobs and income, we see more conversations about mental health. Now more than ever in my lifetime people are starting to talk about getting therapy, healing from childhood trauma, setting boundaries, and recognizing toxic relationships. My passion is the mental health, healing, and wholeness of women, so to watch this change take place excites me for future generations even if the shift was brought on by such terrible circumstances.
One of the topics I speak about often is emotional triggers. An emotional trigger is something that causes extreme discomfort or distress. Triggers are different for different people and the way you respond may not be the way someone else responds even if you have similar trauma. As I've been on my own healing journey overcoming layers of childhood trauma, I realize that like others I still get triggered. My body has its own way of responding to triggers. I may cry, get anxious, yawn a lot, get depressed, feel stomach pains, get angry, isolate, shut down, and more. Being healed doesn't mean you don't get triggered. Being healed means you're better equipped to recognize your triggers and process your emotions in a healthy way. I tell people, "I may go into the cave, but I won't stay there long."
The question I ask myself now when I'm feeling triggered is, "Why are you triggered?" This helps me to stop and process what is happening before my thoughts begin to take control. I have to take time out to assess whether this trigger is related to past trauma or if it's a response to a current situation that is causing me emotional distress. No matter what my response is to the trigger, I take the time to ask myself why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling.
As a follower of Christ I have seen many people ignore their triggers in an effort to seem like they have it all together. I have been guilty of doing this myself. Instead of dealing with the issue we ignore it or try to pray it away. God does not want you to ignore your triggers. He may not be the cause of what's triggering you, but He will use your trigger to reveal what He wants to heal in you. Take the time out to recognize that you are in fact feeling emotionally triggered, and realize that being triggered doesn't make you less than anyone else. Emotional trigger responses can manifest physically so it's important to pay attention to what your body is doing. You may think nothing of binge watching shows on streaming channels, but you could be experiencing a response of escapism and isolation after being emotionally triggered by an event that took place.
So, what are some potential reasons you may be experiencing an emotional trigger?
You feel rejected.
You feel abandoned.
You feel unseen or unheard.
You feel the pressure to be perfect.
You feel violated.
You may be experiencing a situation that is causing you to recall memories of traumatic events.
You feel manipulated.
You feel unloved.
You feel fear.
You feel excluded.
This list is not comprehensive, but it's a good place to start for someone who is taking the time out to figure out why he or she is triggered. You may have a history of childhood rejection and/or abandonment that plays a part in your response to feeling rejected or abandoned. If you felt like you were always invisible or forgotten as a child, feeling like you're unseen or unheard can trigger you. However, I want you to know that it's possible to be emotionally triggered even if you are healed from childhood trauma. But, what do you do when you're feeling triggered? You have to make a decision. You can let your thoughts and emotions take control while you ruminate on the negative thoughts you're having, or you can confront your trigger head on and deal with it now. You have recognized the trigger and you are making the choice to confront it. What comes next?
There are different healthy coping mechanisms that can be searched on the internet for how to cope when you're feeling triggered so I won't go through a list of those. What you really don't want to do when you're experiencing a trigger is simply cope your way through it. Jesus came so we could be cleansed, not so we could stop at coping. How quickly you go through the process will depend on your intentionality, the strategy, and your consistency.
Is the trigger tied to a lie? Is the trigger tied to unhealed childhood trauma? Is the trigger connected to another person who needs to be forgiven?
These are a few of the questions I have to ask myself. For example, if I'm feeling unloved I have to take the time to realize that it's a lie. I am loved by many people, but if I'm feeling unloved it's possible it's because I believe a lie that I am not worthy of love. I believe a lie that my life has no value, and I question why the people who love me even love me in the first place. I may believe I shouldn't be loved. So if my husband, who knows my love language is “acts of service” , denies me when I ask him to do me a favor, I may feel triggered because I feel unloved based on the lie that no one loves me. That trigger can spiral into negative self-talk and negative thoughts about how my husband doesn't love me, how unworthy I am of love, how I am lazy and should do things myself instead of asking for help, and how God probably doesn't love me either because I'm being lazy. Now, I'm also angry at my husband because he hurt me, and he doesn't even understand the depth of what his refusal did to me internally. I'm triggered even more thinking about him and how he has failed me by not meeting my needs, and now I'm wondering if I even want to be married to him anymore. I should probably forgive him too (even though he has no idea how far this has gone in my own heart and mind), but I can't because I'm angry and it's not fair that he made me feel this way.
Do you see how quickly that escalated?
I am able to use this as an example because I lived through it. Before I was healed from my childhood trauma, these are the kinds of thoughts that plagued me. The trauma I experienced made me feel rejected and like I had no value, so I carried this into my relationships as an adult.
Confront the lie! What is programmed in you that makes you believe what you're feeling? If it doesn't line up with the word of God, it's a lie! Renounce the lie ("I'm not worthy of love"), and replace it with truth! I will always point you back to the truth of God's Word. Jesus is the truth, period.
If you're triggered because of a person, forgive by faith first. There are things that have happened in my life and in the lives of some of my children that are unforgivable, but forgiveness has to take place in order to be cleansed of the hold the trauma or trigger have on you. Forgiveness is intentional, you have to do it and mean it. I know others say that forgiveness is not for the other person, but it is. It's not just to make you feel free, it's to free the other person from the prison you put them in. You want them to pay, feel how you feel, or you want to see some justice happen, and I get it. However, you cannot and should not hold the keys to someone else's imprisonment. Release them from the debt they owe you and pray for their own freedom and deliverance as you are healed yourself. God will give to each of us what we deserve according to HIS justice and HIS mercy. Trying to play that role yourself in your refusal to forgive will only keep you in bondage and give the enemy a foothold in your life. You are less triggered when you walk in forgiveness.
Wholeness is the goal. Cleansing is the goal. You want to have a clean heart and renewed spirit. You want to be free from the trauma and the triggers that can send you into downward spirals further away from your purpose and true identity. This is why I am a breakthrough coach and strategist. My passion is to see people healed and walking in freedom in Christ. Whom the Son sets free truly is free indeed. Emotional triggers happen. Recognize them, confront them, break free from the bondage they bring, and walk in mental and emotional stability.
If you need help with this, contact me today so I can come alongside you in your breakthrough and healing process!