Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Triggers of the Past are an Opportunity for the Future

Triggers of the Past are an Opportunity for the Future
If you have lived in a home where there was abuse, you already know what it's like to be triggered. To remember what you thought you forgot. Or to be transported right back to a time you would rather forget. But can these triggers be for you rather than to you? It all depends on what you tell yourself.

It's well-known that I came from severe child abuse. Physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect. My mother was my primary abuser. But my father was no saint either. Add to the abuse directly inflicted on my siblings and me, the fact that my father was violent towards my mother. It was a double blow to all our psyches.

I remember turning to adults for help. There was none to be had.

What I got instead were excuses for my mother's behaviour. She had a bad day. Or she loves you, she just wants what's best for you. Or worse, if you'd just behave better she would do better. I couldn't understand why I was always held accountable for my behaviour but my mother never was. I asked why it was that adults were held to a much lesser standard than children were.

Why was it that children were expected to always behave appropriately, or face sometimes brutal consequences?

Why was it that adults could do what and as they pleased without any consequences at all when their victim was a child who was smaller and unable to protect him/herself?

Why was it that if an adult were to mistreat another adult who could protect him/herself, charges would be laid? None of this made sense to me.

When I became an adult, the questions were still frustratingly there at the forefront. But what changed was the realization that I could make my own choices about my own healing.

At first I thought that forgetting was the answer. So I did everything I could to forget what happened to me. Trouble was, there was always some kind of trigger that I couldn't control that would take me back in time. Right back to where I didn't want to be.

I read books. Lots of them. I even began making up my own excuses for my mother and father's behaviours. I thought that if I could just understand them, then what happened to me would make sense.

But it never made sense. I was still left with all the feelings and emotions. So I ate and I ate and I ate in order to bury them. Food had become my drug of choice.

The older and bigger I got, the more the emotions tried to surface. And the more I noticed that the people around me were triggering me left right front and centre. My boss. My co-workers. People on the bus. The landlady. The look the cashier at the grocery store may or may not have cast at me. At every turn, I relived the rejection and abandonment from my childhood.

And if that wasn't enough, I also had to deal with the disapproving eyes of society for the weight I was carrying. The weight that was supposed to insulate me from my pain.

It wasn't until I started to look at things with a different set of eyes that things began to change for me.

The triggers would always be there, because I could never control what others said and did. But what if instead I dealt with the underlying factors? What if instead I found a way to deal with what was happening in my own life when these triggers arrived?

Triggers are an opportunity. They arrive in whatever form they arrive to remind us we have more or deeper healing to do. And they also tell us we are strong enough to actually DO the healing.

Yes, we can distance ourselves from the people who trigger us. Like various family members. But does that really work? It's been my experience that it only works after we choose healing.

If we choose distance as the healing path, we aren't choosing healing at all. That's avoidance. Circumventing what we feel only buries the pain. But the pain is still there, waiting for an opportunity to rise up again. And it will rise up again. And again. And again. In all aspects of our lives.

It is Deepak Chopra who said:
Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.
If you want your future to be one of joy and contentment, you must be willing to look at the way you are living your life today. If you are worried about others, or a certain someone triggering you, go within. Decide if you want to continue to give up your power to someone else. Or if you want to take back your power.

If you want to take back your power, then choose to see those triggers as an opportunity for the future. An opportunity to overcome all the pain that you endured, and are still enduring today. Give up the notion that things could have been different. Because they couldn't be different. All that can change is how you respond now. 
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