Do you ever feel like you’re living in that movie Groundhog Day? Time and time again the same issues keep coming up in your life even though you are in a different job, new relationship, new town…
If your answer is YES then today’s blog is just for YOU, my friend.
It’s time to get personal with your TRIGGERS.
We have ALL experienced trauma in our lives. From the big, nasty traumas to the more subtle but also scaring events - we have all been shaped to some extent by the bad things that have happened to us.
Personally, I am a big advocate for seeking help to deal with trauma. I’ve done just that several times in my life. I sought out counseling before, during and after both of my divorces and I worked with a grief counselor for several months following the death of both of my parents from cancer (I lost them both within 6 months of each other and at the age of 42 was suddenly what I came to learn is called and “orphaned adult”).
These periods of time in my life were incredibly formative in making me the woman I am today. I know for sure that had I not sought help, my life would have taken a much different path. Trauma can become what defines and destroys you, or it can be a catalyst for transformation. I’ve made the conscious choice in my life to face each challenge and traumatic incident as an opportunity to look for the lessons, to seek the growth, and to become a better version of myself in doing so.
That being said, I still have my “stuff” that creeps up. What I’ve learned to do - through the process of mindfulness and through working with my own life coaches - is to get to know my “stuff”. To unpack it and get familiar with it. Where does it come from? What situations bring it back to the surface? And how can I keep it from bleeding into my current relationships - with others and myself.
This “stuff” is also known as TRIGGERS. Triggers are events that take us back emotionally to a past traumatic experience. Your mind and your body react as-if the event is happening again.
I'll give you an example from my life. In my first marriage, money was a BIG issue. We often lived paycheck to paycheck and my ex was a big overspender. Way too many arguments took place over our lack of funds and he was the king of always making me feel like it was somehow my fault. I endured way too many years of verbal abuse and, in the end, I was left with a very unhealthy relationship with money.
Fast forward to marriage number 2 with a much more frugal and money-wise man. Even though money was not an issue for us and we were quite comfortable and stable, I carried with me a "trigger" related to discussions around finances. I would avoid the topic of money out of fear that it would lead to an abusive argument, even though my second husband was not that kind of guy. Often, when money did come up, I would find myself becoming argumentative out of that past conditioning. It really had nothing to do with my current husband or the topic, it was simply my body reacting to a memory from the past that I hadn't taken time to get friendly with.
You see, I've found that one of the best ways for me to deal with these negative emotions and patterns when they arise is to make friends with them. I think of them like a small child who needs some nurturing from me. Who needs to hear, "hey, honey, I'm an adult now and I've got this." I can't push the feelings away and try to hide from them because I know that they will just be there in the shadows waiting for the next opportunity to arise.
Now, in my current relationship of almost 3 years, I'm proud to say my money trigger and I are on quite friendly terms. I've learned to take a moment and a few calming breaths before any money discussions and to trust that my partner will be just as calm and understanding.
Using R.A.I.N. to befriend your triggers
One of my go-to techniques for dealing with triggers and other unpleasant emotions is a technique I learned from mindfulness expert, Tara Brach. It's called R.A.I.N. and it is totally one that you need to keep in your backpocket and teach to everyone you know!
Here's how Tara defines the acronym:
Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.
As I said, over the past few years I have learned to "befriend" my triggers and talk to them like a small child. This is actually the "N" step of R.A.I.N. as in nurture. The first step, though, is recognizing. It's taking that tiny beat of a moment to resist REACTING and instead RECOGNIZING what is going on.
"Oh, hey, I'm feeling triggered right now" or it might just be "I am so F-ING mad right now!!"
Then, taking a long slow breath and allowing it to just BE. This is ALLOW. You can name it at this stage.
Hi Anger. I see you. How about you come have a seat here with me so we can talk.
Next, you have a sweet little talk as you INVESTIGATE the feeling. Now this isn't like a police investigation, remember this is you talking to a younger version of yourself who just didn't know any better. Your job is to figure out where this voice and feeling is coming from so you can address it from where you are now.
Finally, it's time to lay on the self-love and self-compassion as you NURTURE that sweet, younger version of you. Give it all the assurance that you can handle all the scary stuff now, just like you would with a child who's had a bad dream.
Like I said, this technique has been a HUGE lifesaver for me! If you want to dive in deeper, check out Tara's book called "Radical Compassion". Her podcast is amazing, too!
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Meet Mary Baker ..LIFE COACH, YOGA TEACHER, MINDFULNESS GUIDE, RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST & PEOPLE PLEASER, FEAR CONQUEROR, TRUTH SEEKER, & DREAM WEAVER