As we're working to recover, something that many of us can relate to, something that can derail our progress and cause us to go backwards instead of forwards, is being frequently retriggered, often by the things that were most problematic for us when we first undertook our healing journey. Many of us would like to think that we'll no longer be as sensitive to the things that used to bother us, that we'll no longer be vulnerable to the things that brought us pain, but the truth is, many of the issues we faced when beginning our recovery are the same issues we continue to struggle with even after getting sober, even after we've made positive strides in our mental health issues. Furthermore, those issues tend to persist, often because we aren't consciously aware of them, so we're not doing the work to make sure we've found peace with them. Many of us will continue to get retriggered, over and over again, never seeing much progress and always feeling the same painful emotions that contribute to our unwellness. When we continue to be retriggered, many of us find ourselves relapsing repeatedly. We may think we're finally well but then become complacent in our recovery work, leaving ourselves vulnerable to mental and emotional difficulties that cause us to relapse. We might think we're finally cured of our depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, only to be retriggered and find ourselves feeling just as low as ever, just as down on ourselves, just as hopeless and defeated. How can we work with our triggers so that we're not constantly being retriggered in our recovery? How can we find peace with the things we're most sensitive to so that we can continue forward in our healing rather than always being knocked down and held back?
Confronting Triggers Directly
A powerful step in the healing process is facing our triggers head on. Many of us tend to want to avoid our triggers at all costs. We're afraid of all the anxiety and uneasiness we feel when we're triggered. We're afraid of being emotionally overwhelmed, of relapsing or falling into a depression. We're afraid that if we're triggered, we won't be able to function. We're afraid that we'll be paralyzed by our triggers and that they will be debilitating. One thing to remember is that our past emotional responses to triggers don't have to continue to dictate our current and future emotional responses. In other words, the past doesn't have to define the future. We can confront our triggers directly and courageously, rather than fearing them, avoiding them and resisting them. We can heal the different sources of our pain. We can learn to be open to our triggers to discover everything they have to teach us, rather than running from them and trying to hide ourselves from them. What are you triggered by? What things cause you to feel hurt, upset and bothered? What are the memories that bring on the feelings of being triggered? What are some of the things people say and do that trigger you? What are the thoughts and emotions that are most triggering for you? We tend not to want to ask these questions of ourselves, let alone do the emotional work to answer them. Confronting our triggers, though, is the first step in healing from them.
Work with a therapist, coach or spiritual guide to get support and nurturing through this tough emotional work. Don't feel as though you need to find all the answers on your own, and don't trick yourself into thinking that recovery has to be a one-person job. The more support and encouragement we allow ourselves to receive from the people who care about us, the stronger we'll be in facing our pain. Use journaling, meditation, yoga and energy healing practices like Emotional Freedom Technique to help yourself process your triggers in deep and meaningful ways. Talk about your triggers in your support group meetings and therapy sessions. Discuss your triggers with friends and family. We can be surprised how similar some of our issues are, and how universal it is that we're triggered by certain things. We're all facing difficult things that we have a hard time talking about. Our typical default emotional response to our triggers is to want to rid ourselves of them, so when we're triggered, we tend not to want to explore them. We don't want to talk about them or be honest about them. Dive deep into your triggers and face them. Share them with people you trust. Give them the light of your conscious awareness and healing attention. Whatever we avoid tends to hold power over us, but when we confront it, we reclaim our power, and we stop it from overtaking us. Allow yourself to be uplifted and supported as you do this important internal work.
Remind yourself that your triggers are there to teach you, not to hurt you. Yes, they might cause us some pain, but the more we explore them and stay open to them, the more we can learn how to make peace around the issues that have been causing us to feel triggered in the first place. What painful, traumatic experiences do our triggers represent? What parts of ourselves are they showing us still need healing? How can we become more accepting of our triggers rather than being resistant to them? When we think of our triggers differently, we become more curious and openhearted about them. We see them as part of the spiritual test of our recovery. We see them as lessons to learn, challenges to overcome, crucial parts of the self-discovery process to explore. We can be inspired by them as part of our personal growth and transformation.
WinGate Wilderness Therapy offers therapeutic services for troubled teens and struggling young adults suffering from emotional and behavioral issues.
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P.O. Box 347
Kanab, UT 84741