Recently I was walking my beloved little Boston Terrier Bosco along the beautiful canyon behind my house. It was just before sunrise. I approached the rim and gazed into the distance, taking a present breath and allowing the beauty of the moment to wash over me.
The air was crisp, clean and cool.
The sun glowed behind the mountains and cast its light down into the lush green valley below, giving the world a gentle preview of the radiant day to come.
Bosco pooped quietly in the distance, effortlessly appreciating the gorgeous view while doing his business. He’s always been a good multi-tasker.
The serenity of the moment was intoxicating.
Then I saw a sign at the base of the hill before me, one that reminded all who enter the valley that this used to be a military bombing area during World War 2, and that explosive shells are STILL buried below the surface. It explained that with the passage of time and erosion, or if someone were to dig in the valley, these dangerous weapons can become unearthed and could EXPLODE if mishandled.
Then it struck me – each of us are so similar to this timeless, beautiful valley.
We all want to project peace, beauty and strength; and on the surface it’s easy to present that to those around us.
That’s the image we usually show to our coworkers, loved ones, and ESPECIALLY our social media followers. We want to believe that this projected image is all that we are, and we want everyone else to believe it too.
But the truth is that we have all gone through trauma in our past; we’ve all been “bombed” in one way or another by people and experiences.
No matter how much time has passed, and how peaceful, stable and lush our lives may look from the outside, if we haven’t done specific work on ourselves to REMOVE these shells…some of them are still with us.
They lay just below the surface of our consciousness in our emotional core – our ego. They leach their poison into the soil of our hearts and minds, influencing our thoughts, perceptions and actions. And if they get unearthed without prior awareness, they can explode and cause MASSIVE damage in our lives.
These bombs are called triggers, and believe it or not we all have them. Their danger and power is most profound when they exist in secret, so here’s an exercise that will help you identify them in your own life.
I want you to remember a time in your recent life when you massively overreacted to something that happened to you. And when I say overreacted, I mean you went 10x or more beyond what the normal reaction would be for that situation.
Also it’s important to confirm that you weren’t subject to another powerful influence that would explain it – hormonal issues, lack of sleep, etc.
DING DING DING! You’ve likely found a trigger! Celebrate for a second, then get your game face on – now the real work begins.
I invite you to look back at your life and go trigger hunting.
Examine the trauma of your past, find those shells lurking beneath the surface. Evaluate how they’ve unearthed themselves in your life over the years, exploding and turning minor situations into dramatic distractions. Ask yourself if the wounds you’re carrying, and the fear and pain they cause, have influenced the decisions you’ve made over the years.
What have they cost you personally and professionally?
I challenge you to take responsibility for your triggers, rather than be victim to them.
Here is a three step process to banish them from your life forever.
1) Identify – Recognize the times you’ve melted down over minor things and the wounds that they are dredging up in your life. Triggers begin to lose their power once they’re seen and acknowledged.
2) Take ownership – EMBRACE your triggers as a part of who you are, and consciously disallow them from impacting your reactions and feelings. Once this happens then they lose EVEN MORE of their power.
3) Forgive everyone involved – Surrender the bitterness and anger surrounding your triggers and allow yourself to forgive not only the people/situations that hurt you but most importantly FORGIVE YOURSELF. Remember you can never pour from an empty cup. Once you release the blame, guilt, self-loathing and whatever other poison you’ve been holding in regarding these experiences, you can finally let them go.
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING – So Mat, are you saying that if you do this that you will never be triggered again? Absolutely not. Whether we like it or not, our triggers are a part of who are.
BUT you will be emotionally aware enough to see and manage your triggers effectively, and empowered enough to not let them derail your life. The more you practice this, the better you will get at it and the more peaceful, free and joyful your life will become.
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Have you recently experienced yourself getting triggered over something that shouldn’t have been that big of a deal?
What is your reaction during triggers, and how do you deal with them as they occur or after?
Post your answers in the comments!
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