You’ve likely heard the word ‘triggered’ or someone saying ‘that’s a trigger for me’. I had a woman in my life who was triggered by people talking about weight loss conversations. She had the balls to tell her coworkers not to discuss dieting in the work place (even at lunch in the break room). I understand being triggered. But, my triggers are MY problem not my family’s, not my co-workers’, not society’s.
I thought it may be helpful to explain what a trigger is by using an example in my own life.
My mom is in a rehab center because of a fall. This is the sixth time she’s been in rehab and each time I am triggered. I step into that facility and I remember (re-live) my own experience in rehab. I remember the people, the smells, the rooms, the work, the exhaustion, the drama. Every time, I feel my heart rate increase. I feel extreme anxiety.
Then, like clockwork, my mom will complain about the food or the loneliness or the boredom. ANGER rises, chokes me, spews out of my mouth. I was gone for nine weeks. NOT one visitor. NO food choice. NO television. NO technology or contact with the outside world outside of regulated phone calls with my husband. NO breaks from 6:30AM to 10PM at night. NO hiding in my room when I wanted space or quiet. NO feeling of safety. NO one did my laundry or brought me a milk shake.
That’s what it’s like to be triggered. I spewed that anger on my brother last night. Emotions swirl and dance and spin you out-of-control.
So, should I tell my mother to quit going to rehab because it triggers me? Is it her job to change her world or is it my job to find ways to deal with my own issues?
The world is full of triggers. The world will not bend to my needs. Nor should it. Desserts trigger my binge-eating gene. Does that mean my husband should not have a cookie? Hell no. It means I learn, develop and use skills to lessen the impact of the trigger.
For example, my mother is in rehab right now and today she complained about not having visitors. TRIGGER. I know one of my best skills is writing. So, rather than throttle my mother with my anger, I’m writing this blog. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go for a long walk, or read a trashy novel, or even disappear into a movie. I’ll journal and allow the words I can’t speak out loud to pour out. But, regardless, it’s my job to manage myself.
If someone tells you that your behavior is a trigger for them, gently explain that your behavior is appropriate (assuming it is). Ask that person what skills they have to manage the emotions that have been triggered. Ask that person how you can help them use their skills. Regardless, remember it’s their problem, not yours.
NOTE: I apologized to my brother first thing this morning. I think he reads my blog so I want to say publicly that he and his wife do an amazing job with my parents. A job I could not, would not, and should not do! Thanks S&S.
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