Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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Emotional triggers, for many people, are part of everyday life it seems. These triggers seem to always hang around and make their presence known whenever they feel like it. Sometimes emotional triggers appear not only when we least expect them, but at some of the worst moments. I know this too well because it seems like I own a goldmine of emotional triggers. While I don’t actively try to harvest these things, they just seem to find their way to the surface.
Emotion tends to guide many things we do, even if we are not fully aware that it does. Most of these emotions are not necessarily conscious, but they show up in a conscious manner. Often the person displaying these emotions is not necessarily aware of it or how they are truly coming across to the observer on the outside.
So what is a trigger? That might be a good question to answer because they are many, and I would say each person has something that triggers them. A trigger is some event in your present moment that connects you in a very deep, automatic and quick way to something that you have experienced in your past. It could be a sight, smell, sound, touch, taste or it could be a word, phrase, piece of music, color or just about anything that you observe and interact with in a day. Watching a TV program may invoke connections to memory places in your brain, as can hearing some song or even feeling the touch of someone around you. What you pick up does not necessarily have to be something horrible, and it may not necessarily be something that is directly related to the past event.
When something in your present moment invokes an automatic reaction deep within you, it is connecting in the brain and in the body with some moment of emotional charge from your past. It is an extremely quick, unconscious connection that can play out within a matter of seconds. What sets it off has no limits, no boundaries and often no warning. If you are able to identify what sets the triggers off, then you will be ahead of the curve, but often they are silent lurkers waiting to pounce as a lion would wait to pounce upon its prey.
This connection to the past is an emotional trigger. There was some past experience that had such an emotional charge to it, that the current moment is connecting that brain synapse. Often the triggers hit us in such a way that it knocks us for a loop in life but sometimes the triggers could be connected to something very beautiful in our life. For instance, if you smell a Christmas tree and it triggers your mind back to some fun early childhood memory of Christmas, it would be a very beautiful thing in this instance.
However if you take the same scenario and have another person influenced by the smell of a Christmas tree, it could take them back to a moment of horror, pain and sadness because of some event they experienced. So while we often see triggers in a negative manner, they can be positive as well, bringing out our life’s experiences and memories that we treasure and cherish. A person is able to have both positive and negative triggers.
Take, for example, emotional blasts to the past that I cherish. I have some very beautiful hymns and choruses from church that I just love to play on the piano. It takes me back to the days where I was learning how to play the piano and would spend hours creating the beautiful music. At the same time, there were many agonizing moments taking place in our house, and it was usually filled with a lot of stress, anger, yelling and strong displays of emotion. So often those songs, while they were played with beauty, were also a part of something I was trying to escape from. Now I find that in an instant, I am taken back to both sides of those experiences from my childhood. They are one and the same. The trigger could be positive and it is in many ways, but it is also negative and invokes a sense of sadness, horror and pain which still resides in my body to this day.
Another trigger I have struggled with is one that took many years for me to begin to understand. As I was sitting at a traffic light, there was this car that pulled up beside me with a stereo blasting, and the bass sound was pounding the pavement extremely hard. No matter what I did, I could not get myself to let go of the bass sound coming from that car. I began to notice that I was becoming extremely angry. Fortunately I had my windows up and AC running, because I was screaming every obscenity at the person that I could get out of my mouth. I hated them at that moment and wanted them to die. If I would have had a gun, there’s a chance that I would have used it and that is one reason I will not own a gun. I started honking my horn and waiting for the light to change in what seemed like an eternity in slow speed. I’m sure people were wondering what my problem was, and I had only a couple of things on my mind. Either I wanted to flee the sound and the situation as quickly as I could, or I wanted to do anything to get this to stop. My heart was racing, my head was pounding, my muscles in my arms and legs had grown tense and all the time, the AC was not working fast enough to even being cooling me down. Finally the light turned green and I was able to escape from the loud bass sound coming from this car, but I was left wondering why I got so angry and almost out of control for something like this. After all, it didn’t seem to bother others around me.
As time went, I began to be impacted less and less by the bass sound around me but it still made life pretty difficult. Then one day long after this, my cat began just meowing very loudly each day shortly after we moved to a new home. It was like she wanted attention but expected me to come to where she was, and she wouldn’t be quiet until I did so. The sound was excruciating and no matter what, I could not get my cat to stop making the loud meow. Finally one day I broke down in tears as I connected the trigger of the bass sound to my cat making the loud meow.
You see, when I was a child, I always loved having cats. We moved a lot so it was difficult but somehow I always managed to get a cat. My parents seemed to love animals but for some reason the cats were always afraid of my father and I never knew why. One night as a child doing dishes, I was standing on a kitchen chair because I wasn’t big enough to quite reach the sink, and had myself propped up while washing the dishes. I had to be very careful to get each and every dish very clean because if I did not, I would be in big trouble. So it was with fear and trepidation that I would wash the dishes to help my mom. On this night, there were very loud sounds coming from outside. I knew my father and mother had gone outside to the basement cellar for something, but wasn’t sure exactly what it was. We had one of those basement cellars that had the door right outside the kitchen window and back porch, which opened up out of the ground. That’s where my kittens stayed during the night, and since there were ways into the basement that the kittens knew about, it was a great place for them. There was the little gray charcoal colored kitten, Charcoal; the black kitten I named Blacky; and the grey colored one that I called Smokey, that I would sing the song “On Top of Old Smokey” to. They meant so much to me and were my companions in a world filled with turmoil.
On that night though, I heard a very loud noise of screams coming from many different things. It was horrible and I remember being horrified at what was going on outside, knowing that it was something to do with my cats. Of course I had been warned not to venture outside no matter what, and I knew that at the risk of losing my own life, I would not do this. But I listened to the screams of my kittens begging for life and begging to just let them go, as I heard the old heavy wooden cellar door slam and then slam again and again. After the final slam of the door, there was silence. No kittens could be heard. Not a single kitten left to make a sound. After what seemed like an eternity to me, my parents came back in through the back porch of the house, and you could tell my mom had been in tears and was struggling to look me in the eye. I knew she didn’t want to do what she was forced to partake in with my father. I’m sure it was horrible for her as well. My father seemed to have that cold stare in his eyes that I had seen before, and announced to me that the kittens had been playing around the door and got caught as the door was trying to close. My little brain wanted to accept the reasoning he gave me, but deep down it just didn’t add up. My eyes wanted to cry but I was warned to not be a baby about it, and it was just an unavoidable accident that had happened. After all, as I was told, crying about it would do no good and I just needed to act mature. So without tears, I finished washing the dishes that night, staring out into the night sky knowing that I would never see Charcoal, Blacky or Smokey again.
So as I sat there in traffic that day with the bass sound coming from the other car, I didn’t initially realize how the awful noise was connecting me back to a day as a child when I so wanted to stop my father from killing the kittens. Yet I was powerless to do anything or to stop it. Then when my cat began her loud meows, the sounds connected me back to that frightful night. To this day, it is very difficult to even think about this, let alone write about it, and yet it was not the first nor would it be the last time this experience would be all in a day’s activities for me.
You see, these emotional triggers stay with us until we find a way to discharge the emotional energy that is locked up within them. For if energy is trapped in a moment, it will continue searching for ways to exit and complete the direction it was going. Whether this is through something that one does physically to themselves or others, or through some type of health and disease condition or whatever way it is, the trapped energy spends its days looking for a way out. There is some point within the body where it resides, that once tapped into, yields the event as if it were playing out in the present moment. Many of us go through our lives with these things residing within us, but we never find the way to completely release them from our innermost selves. Sure we find ways to rationalize them, and make sense of them, all the time harboring the potential energy that they encase.
You may be able to go for years without ever dealing with many of these things, and in fact it is quite possible for one to go to their grave avoiding them. However at some point, the trapped energy of these moments will play out in some manner. Avoiding them keeps us operating at less than we were meant to be, and keeps us from becoming more human with potential beyond our wildest imaginations.
If you’re fortunate like I was to begin putting the pieces together, that is a good first step in recovering the energy and the trauma that the triggers hold. However, it may take years for all of this to happen, or it could happen quickly. I have many more examples of my own experiences in this as I am sure each person does. But finding the point in the body where these experiences and triggers surface is the key to having the opportunity to let them go. Once this connection to the body is made, the potential is so great. After all, the trapped energy is potential energy, and by taking the power back from it, you gain so much in your life in so many ways: from pure awareness, joy and an easier life, to less health issues and a more wholesome body to live in. No, it isn’t easy going through the triggers and reclaiming this but it isn’t as hard as one may think it is. The rewards are great, especially if you are able to do this with someone that understands how to guide you through this process and has undergone the process of healing in their own life. For truly someone that has already walked the road, can be one of the best people to help other travelers find their way through the maze of emotional triggers we suffer in life.
May you be awakened to a new thought as you have read this, realizing that there is much more than you may currently have in your life. Know that the aches and pains, health conditions, and all those discomforts you feel in your life are there for a reason. They are not to be gotten rid, of but experienced to the point of reclaiming your power over them. For when you reclaim the power of these discomforts and pains in your life, you truly are discovering what it is like to live in your body. Living in your body and enjoying it can be one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. The potential has no boundaries and the rewards are without limits. My hope is that you will not focus upon the pain I endured in the example, but that you will use what you have read as a catalyst for searching in your own life.