The Medicine of Being Triggered
Updated: Jan 17, 2018
I was 6 years old when I saw my first psychologist. He was a slim, middle-aged man with soft yet piercing eyes and dark hair. Our conversation went something like this:
Him: Can I make you happy?
Him: Can I make you sad?
Him: Can I make you angry?
Him: Well, then I can control you.
I’m pretty sure that what happened next involved me running out of the room, in tears and terrified that he had just proclaimed his ability to control me. My 6 year-old reality didn’t offer the context to understand what he meant. But looking back, this was a poetic foreshadowing of the path that would eventually unfold before me: liberation through the reclamation of personal power; sowing the seeds for intrepid joy through radical personal responsibility; dying into wholeness through emotional alchemy.
I realize now what I lacked the capacity to understand back then: every time I affirm that someone just “made me” mad, I am putting my creative power into their hands. I am telling myself that they have the power to control me.
When I speak of reclaiming or giving away my power, I am talking about the power to create my experience of reality.
The external world provides raw information. It is then internalized through the filters of our unhealed wounds, our past experiences and the unconscious beliefs we hold about ourself and the world around us. And these filters create the story that we experience as reality.
Our relationship with ourself is the foundation of our entire experience of life. Circumstances bring influence, but ultimately our triggers or charged emotional responses are a reflection of the fundamental interaction with our own being.
I want to be clear here: I am not implying that we are not supposed to feel. I am not perpetuating this idea that “it’s all love and light” and that to be evolved is to never be rocked from an emotionally neutral center. I find this particular misconception, which runs through spiritual circles like a pink-thinking plague of epidemic fallacy, to be deeply damaging and counter-productive to the process of healing and integration. What I am offering here is the possibility that it is through mindful, intimate engagement of our emotional reality that some of the most empowering breakthroughs are possible. I’m talking about reclamation through radical personal responsibility and full emotional engagement.
How is this an opportunity to reclaim my power?
The emotional charge brought about by a trigger is ultimately a cry from deep within. It is an energetic inflammation of a suppressed part of our being, a wounded bit that we have banished to dark & dusty corners of our humanity.
Ultimately, every trigger is an opportunity for soul retrieval.
As soon as we project the source of our pain outward, and seek to resolve our discomfort by shifting something in the external world, we not only begin an impossible journey, but miss out on a powerful opportunity. Freedom is an inside job.
As with everything in life, conscious engagement of this particular evolutionary paradigm is a mighty dance. In the process of healing, there may be times when acknowledging oneself as a victim may be exactly what is needed. It is important to not discount the power of this recognition, and simultaneously important to not get stuck in it.
So, what about the need for setting boundaries?
Radical Personal Responsibility does not mean an absence of boundaries. In fact, the capacity to set and hold clear boundaries is one of the most potent expressions of Radical Personal Responsibility: the almost mythical meeting of compassion and empowerment. The process of emotional alchemy is not a substitute for setting clear and healthy boundaries, but a tool which supports the ability to set those boundaries with even more clarity and compassion.
Often our aversion to setting healthy boundaries stems from a state of deep self-abandonment and disempowerment. A lack of grounding and clarity within our internal reality can create a state of emotional dependance, and we fear that setting a boundary may result in being “cut off” from the projected source of our emotional fulfillment. Through the fortification of our internal space via the alchemical emotional processes of shadow work, we have the opportunity to heal this disassociation and learn to find the source of emotional wellbeing where it can sustainably exist: inside of ourselves.
The doorway to redemption: Feeling.
To know— deeply, truly know— that it is safe to feel whatever is alive in you right now, is one of the most foundational internal shifts for a harmonizing recalibration of your being. So much of the suffering and confusion that we experience is the result of suppressed emotion.
When we have the tools to engage our emotions in a healthy way, catalyzing the opportunities for healing and wholeness that they provide, the world becomes much less scary. The minefield of potential triggers is reduced in its capacity for destruction. It no longer holds the same ability to control our experience of life.
When we are triggered, it can be challenging to discern between what is our own emotional projection, and what is a call for a boundary to be set. By working with our emotional projections we take advantage of an opportunity to reclaim our power, come home to ourselves in a profound way and ultimately heal and digest an abandoned and wounded piece of our being. It is an important and immeasurably helpful step on the journey to embodied wholeness.