Triggers come in a variety of ways. I recently had the experience of being triggered by someone’s behavior that took me back to a painful place, causing me distress. To someone else, who does not have my past, it would be nothing perhaps. But to me, the situation flooded my soul with pressure, old anxiety, and a rush of blood to my heart, flushing my face. I thought, “What should I do?”
What Triggers You?
Do you have instances, times of painful remembrance that trigger you? An argument between a couple in a neighboring apartment, a parent who is offering too much advice, an impatient person, the testimony of someone who has overcome an addiction, the story of abuse recounted by the victim, a liar, an angry person, attending church? These and many other circumstances can take us back to a very painful place in our lives that brings us anxiety, doubt, and fear. BTW: Satan loves this! The more He can incite these emotions in you, the more it keeps you on ice, a bit frozen, unable to move into God’s provision and the future He’s designed for you.
I believe all people “trigger” to some degree, some of the differences in how we respond involve the degree of trauma suffered, denial, or the hunger with which we have pursued healing.
In the example of my trigger-induced-situation, I was able to recognize it for what it was and responded respectfully, not holding the unknowing person responsible for my past. Rather than blaming them for my internal response, I chose to respond through what I’ve learned. While the physiological responses to temporary stress were evident, they dissipated (my blood pressure normalized) and I could move on.
Time can heal some things, but learning how to deal with past offenses takes a diligent pursuit of healing from God.
Often, relationships never mend because it takes desire and skill to navigate these waters; and some feel the relationship is just not worth the effort. Humility is a big part of healing. Recognizing that we all have sinned in some way against others helps us see how important mercy is.
Freeing ourselves from offense through forgiveness is something we can do. Additional action may also be needed. You can ask God to bring justice; He does this through authorities (Romans 13:1-5) He has placed in our world and/or in ways we may never see.
Who Do You Trigger?
Many of us can sense when someone is causing us distress but we may have a hard time recognizing when we do the same to others. We are reminded in Philippians chapter 2 that we are to look out for the needs of others, not simply our own. Paul uses Jesus as our example in these verses. It’s true, we don’t see how often we cause pain to someone without realizing it. We are fortunate when we have the kind of relationships with others that allows for freedom, a loving-exchange of the heart, to where you can talk about these things. This honest communication works toward healing (Ephesians 4:15).
There are many circumstances that God uses in our lives to help us see the condition of our soul, our inner-man. As our creator and the lover of our souls, God the Father wants us to experience what He designed at creation: oneness with Him and others. Jesus came for that purpose; the Father sent Him to bring that about. He desires that we are made whole, fully integrated with Him, finding a place of peace. From there we can move forward into relating well with each other.
Freedom from the past
Think about who or what you have turned to for relief from your internal triggers?
I’d like to encourage you to be aware of the traps that are laid, by your very real enemy, to ensnare you into a false way of overcoming the past. This list seems innocuous enough at first, and you may feel very good inside from switching up to new people, places, and things… but please do not make the mistake of substituting them for the real solution.
1. People (Relationships): When we have had a poor or failed relationship in our past, we often believe that trying again and succeeding will cover the pain. Please be careful here. Unless you seek full disclosure within your own soul and receive healing from the past, this will only increase and multiply your issues. Don’t allow another human being to become a surrogate for God in your life.
People are prone to react to their past by jumping onto the pendulum and swinging it as far to the other side as possible. Overcompensating, compromising your beliefs and standards, and living out of character in a desperate attempt to normalize life, will only bring more pain down the road.
2. Places (Moves): Starting over feels good. Moving to a new location, thinking that you’re leaving the pain behind isn’t the solution. Many people change something up in their lives thinking this will offer relief. How many people have you known who attempt to find relief through some physical change, a new town, school, workplace, church? Changing locations does not change your heart and it may further complicate the situation.
3. Things (Possessions): Gaining ownership or control over things (or people) can lead to addiction if our soul is not healed. We are a society full of addiction and no one is immune from this temptation.
Looking for comfort in good things from God like food and work can become addictions if we’re not careful; habitually going to any-thing other than God is dangerous. Look at the massive time-consuming addictions of our day: social media, fake relationships, texting, sexting, pornography, gossip, gambling, gaming, shopping, drugs, alcohol, workaholism, and numerous other self-destructive behaviors, these come easily to a soul that is lacking fulfillment.
Things cannot replace the peace that God offers and the contentment found in a life centered in Him.
(Note: If we are availing ourselves to needful help and proper counsel there are times that changing people and places can serve as a good buffer for a season, especially where major abuse has occurred.)
Grace and Mercy
So today, will you consider what God might have you learn about yourself? Look within, rather than without at what others have done, or are doing, and realize that you decide your future. Will you be focused upon growing in grace and God’s mercy and love toward others or continuing to live in your past, the pain, the offense. Yes, triggers are real, but they do not have to control us. Our response when we are triggered is determined by the progress we’re making through God’s healing power within.
When Jesus was headed toward the cross, he knew his disciples would face difficult, traumatic experiences and so He had an important discussion with them (found in John chapters 14-15). He reminded them that their joy, confidence, and peace would come from the Father through the Spirit. He introduced them to the Comforter— whom He said would be able to take up residence inside of them. Wow! and it’s the same for us… we will face difficulties but let us be wise; pursue healing from God for ourselves and then, in turn, extend it toward others.
Photo Credit: Google Images
Reading: Forgive & Forget? may be of help.