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Getting The Most From Getting Triggered

“The universe will always give you an opportunity to take your own advice.”

We walk around all day being triggered by one thing or the other. Triggers are experienced as inconvenient emotional pangs that we try to manage, deny, fix or avoid and they are unique to us. Sometimes it’s an event, sometimes an individual, sometimes it’s mild, sometimes intense. Common sense, aka the brain, dictates that we do best to avoid our triggers. We avoid places, people, and circumstances that may push our buttons and set us off.

On the surface this seems reasonable. Why stick around for things that make us uncomfortable? This strategy comes from a misunderstanding of the purpose of triggers. They are not there to taunt us but as an invaluable resource to guide us. They are the key to unlocking treasure troves of personal intel buried deep in our psyche. Like it or not those pesky hot buttons point us to places within ourselves that are clamoring for our own loving attention. Triggers will not be going away so instead of getting angry, get curious.

Feeling trapped, stuck or stagnated? What if it is not the result of your life circumstances but your propensity to avoid and evade your triggers? This stuck and stagnant feeling is the experience of having stalled your own evolution. And your triggers are the reset button! Follow them and you will soon be back on the fast track to healing, personal evolution, growth and expansion. Not sure where to begin? Go to the experts - your kids. (No kids? Any family member will do.)

Kids manage to push buttons you never knew you had. And there is no avoiding them. Despite our efforts to rise above, we are often worn down by their impish and relentless tenacity. By divine design they possess the uncanny ability to show us what we need to learn to get to the next greatest expression of ourselves. Our kids may manifest our weight or body image issues, our social suffering, our low self-esteem and shaky self confidence, our dependency, anxiety or lack of self-love. Believing (perceiving) that our children are struggling as we did causes our own unhealed pain to bubble to the surface (often with an added dose of guilt). Though we may have long ago learned to avoid, manage or overcompensate for our wounds, weaknesses and traumas - this is not the same as healing them - and seeing them play out in our kids lives doubles the ante. If we want to resolve the pain conjured up by a trigger we are going to have to own it, feel it and heal it.

I recently spoke with a father struggling with his daughter’s approach to her college choices. She wanted to choose an ‘easier' school because she did not want the stress or . the stressed out lives her parents were living. Her choices would be different.

The father was triggered. He saw his daughter’s behavior as spoiled and entitled for not taking advantage of all that was at her disposal to reach as far as she could. As we spoke it became evident that the daughter was not being defiant or condescending - she was riddled with debilitating anxiety and feared that college would stretch her coping skills beyond their limits.

The dad misread his daughter’s anxiety and had no awareness it was triggering his own.

Rather than acknowledge his own fear, he over-compensated for it with bullish certainty that he knew best. To bring his anxiety front and center, I asked him to give up his agenda for his daughter’s life, allow her to make some decisions, acknowledge that she may know what’s best for her right now. He resisted. That would be really hard. I don’t think I can do that. My question made him visibly anxious. He began to see that micromanaging his daughter to quell his own anxiety was actually exacerbating hers and her rebellion was the tell. But making changes in his behavior that was another story.

My credo is never ask someone to do something you are not willing to do. If he was asking his daughter to manage her anxiety, it was incumbent upon him to manage his. And while change seemed out of his comfort zone, he softened to his daughter’s struggles.

In my own parenting evolution, I regretfully admit that it has taken me too long to see that offering advice to my kids on things I had not yet mastered was not parenting but straight up hypocrisy. No sugar coating that one.

While many believe that anxiety, depression and other mental states are hereditary, I believe they are our unhealed wounds passed on generationally through learned repetition. We do what we know, over and over. But I also believe we can be healed at any moment and it begins by making the parenting the pain of our kids become an inside job. When we take it upon ourselves to heal, we can then model something completely new for our children.

Owning our part frees us from operating from the perspective that our children are damaged, and frees them from feeling that way. The onus is on us. Sidestepping the work seals in the pain, both theirs and ours. Once we stop trying to subconsciously heal ourselves through our kids, life gets much easier for everyone.

It is not a mystery that we can’t teach what we haven’t learned, though we try to do that. Fake it til you make it, am I right? Not so much... The trigger is the only thing that alerts us to the error of our parenting ways. So when you are triggered by what you see, embrace that there is healing here for you and do the work that needs to be done. Let your kids be your compass to what ails you no matter what their age. While you are working on your sh*t, refrain from offering any advice in the trigger zone. Default to the parent who isn’t triggered (if there is one). Experience will show you that asking kids to 'do as I say and not as I do', is usually met with defensiveness and disrespect (and deservedly so).

As we move through our own pain and healing process, we model for our children how to move through theirs without saying a word. When we grow, they grow and life is beautiful. The old impulse to micromanage and script our children’s lives gives way to mutual self-trust and respect, obstacles become opportunities and there's no limit to what everyone involved can achieve.

So how do we begin? Get trigger-happy. Actively seek out those things that push your buttons. Make a game out of seeing the opportunity in every trigger and do the following...

Feel it:

Triggers are worm holes to old beliefs and wounds which can be felt. Access and activate the feeling in your body that you associate with the trigger belief about yourself i.e not being good enough, being unloveable, being damaged (these are examples of some core beliefs we all have). Bring to mind all the times you have felt this way in your life and notice how far back it goes.

Deal with it:

Repair-ent your inner child (not your outer one). Virtually put your arm around the 4 year old in pain who and strike up a conversation. Love the one who feels unloveable, love the one who is never enough, love the one who feels broken, love the one who feels invisible, love the one who feels like a failure. Don't let your brain knock it til you try it...

Heal it:

As you send love to these neglected, old aspects, feel yourself begin to slow down and soften. Notice your ability to release judgement, and to access your compassion, gratitude and joy in a way that was not possible before. Notice how all that love feels in your body. Unburdening feels pretty great. Nothing else needs to be done.

Avoidance is for amateurs. Get out there and get your buttons pushed!!