We all noticed that the people we love the most provoke us best. And our best triggers are our best teachers. Triggers might be minor when living alone in a remote cave, with another human being and maybe a few little ones, triggers are a matter of daily routine.
Triggers are good for you.
At the beginning of our relationship, my wife complained that I was triggering her. At that time, I felt terrible and tried to walk better on the eggs and be more sensitive. Today, we both understand that triggers are no longer just annoying things to overcome but pointers to our state of awareness. Recognising this turns triggers into a tool for staying alert, aware, and diving deeper into presence.
People are triggering
Realising that people are not here to make us happy is already a big step towards mature relationships and, in a way, a relief. The first step into healthy relationships is to let go of the dream of the perfect partner who will make us whole and happy.
This romantic idealism was implemented by society. Letting go of it can liberate us from the heavy expectations of others from us and vice versa. Once we accept that our partner has a different reason to be with us and our moms play a different role in our life, we can open our triggers notebook.
I am human. Therefore, I am triggered.
We all live in an emotional body that carries pain. Eckhart Tolle calls it: the pain-body. Living in a pain-body is already a challenge on its own. Accepting that being triggered is part of being human transforms guilt, frustration, anger and shame into compassion and allows more softness. Those who trigger us are no longer enemies to blame but supporters on our spiritual journey.
A trigger is only a thought.
When my son bangs a spoon on the dinner table while making dinner for him, I may be annoyed. I notice the trigger. „He is not a baby anymore. Why is he doing it? He should stop with this noise“. Those are some escort thoughts coming with this trigger, but there are also a few hidden stories behind them. I can find many reasons why any behaviour triggers me, but it is irrelevant. They are all past stories that I inherited from my mom or grandmom or hundreds of generations behind me. Accepting that the triggers are not mine frees me from being responsible for the triggers. Still, it leaves me accountable for how I react or respond to it.
React or respond.
The first step is to notice that I’m triggered. Some triggers provoke me fast into action, while others build up inside slowly. Sometimes I realise the trigger after I react and sometimes before. When I am aware and notice even the beginning of slight irritation, I can choose better which way to go. The conscious response or the unconscious reactivity. I will most likely choose the conscious way when I am in a good state of awareness and enough inner space.
Stress doesn’t help
Stress plays a big part in our state of awareness. Three weeks after our baby twins joined our family, we needed to move into a new flat. For our three and a half years old son, it was too many changes at that time, and for us, the parents, as well. The general family stress and the triggers were higher than usual. I was easier triggered and probably triggering as well.
As the level of stress rise, the level of consciousness might fall, but not always. Some people are functioning very good under stress to a large extent, and even after a few nights without sleep, they are still on the horse. In our case, after a few months of lousy sleep, boxes all over the flat, covid and a lockdown, we were quickly on fire.
Triggers are like water.
Triggers are fluid. They can expand and contract, become warm and cold. An annoying comment or a wrong word at the wrong time can grow into a big drama. When the trigger grows in me, it means I need more presence. If the trigger hijacked me, I could ‚lose it’ and fall into an unconscious reaction. The faster I am back to conscious awareness, the minor damage is done.
The bigger the ego, the bigger the trigger.
The ego loves the drama that the triggers provoke. It strengthens it. The more we relate to our thoughts, the bigger the ego gets. The bigger the ego, the bigger the trigger. The mind finds reasons for all sorts of dramas, and the body responds.
Emotions make a nice chemical soup in the brain that affects the whole body. The reacted body is getting used to this cycle, and it calls it back again and again. It is a cruel cycle that can turn into a physical-mental addiction. When we stay present and realise the peace and the creativity it holds, this addiction gets weaker till it’s no more relevant.
Triggers in our body
Nobody knows where the past sits in our body like no one knows where our memory is stored. Probably on a human cloud because no scientist found any traces of thoughts in our hard disc. I guess that our history is landed somewhere around our nervous system, some would say, stored in each cell of our body, waiting to be expressed.
The body is the key
The body is sensitive and reactive to triggers but it holds the key for releasing them. The stronger the story the mind tells about the trigger, the stronger the emotion attached to it, the more provoked the body, the more potent the physical emotional provocation, the faster and stronger the reaction.
The body had the key for noticing the triggers and also for intensifying presence. Conscious breathing and feeling the body from within helps to create inner space and transform the mind from a reactive mind to a conscious mind.
Challenges are good for you.
Awareness may grow when challenges arrive, but they can also throw you down the rabbit hole. Admitting that we are suffering, stressed and unhappy can lead us to search for meaning and relief. There was a relief with Yoga, meditation, and conscious breathing in my case. Still, staying present when leaving the yoga mat or a meditation session is the most significant step towards conscious living.
When I look at my son banging the spoon on the table, I try to see his action purely without the story behind it. The noise can still bother me, but when I accept it, the trigger shrinks, I can feel my heart is softening, and I can find even peace in this situation. I can ask him to stop when it crosses my border, but it would be in a friendly, soft way that will most likely work better than an egoic reactivity, leading to power games. In this case, he will probably win the game.
No need for a triggers notebook
If you feel like learning your triggers better and inviting them to your life dance, you can write them down. They might repeat themselves and show up in different forms. It might help to be more friendly with them and to recognise them. Giving the triggers a funny name might help as well. I have Madam Critic with Mr judge and me wherever I go. I also have Blamey! But their voices are getting less and less power as I grow my awareness within. The more you bring them to light, the more they shy and dissolve. Just remember not to take them too personally. They are not yours.
So today, we don’t have trigger notebooks in our family. We prefer not to give them more space or nourish them with our attention. We try to accept them, embrace them, allow them to be our teachers when needed, and point our way towards conscious awareness and our aim for awakened relationships.