What Triggers You is Your Opportunity to Grow

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Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

An emotional trigger makes us feel uncomfortable, revealing parts of ourselves that are frustrating, unsatisfactory, unresolved, or worse, reminiscent of old painful feelings, or even trauma.

Triggers are a clue, and if you read my stuff, you know I’m an action taker, so you are probably expecting me to say, they are a clue — it’s pointing you where you have work to do — but hang tight, because sometimes work is the answer, and sometimes, it’s not.

I’m always for greater awareness, so being able to identify what bothers us is important. After we know, we can do the work of getting to the root issue. Digging into roots almost always uncovers old hurts or limiting beliefs, but excavation can lead to clearing and healing.

But, as someone who accidentally cut into the roots of our Catalpa tree this spring, I also appreciate that sometimes digging into roots inflicts additional trauma, which can do more harm than good. Sometimes, it’s best to avoid the roots for our protection.

The idea is not to run away from our problems, suppress emotions, or create a bubble that separates us. Even if we could avoid everything that triggers us, living in a bubble is no way to live. On the flip side, agitated, in a state of constant apprehension, scared, and on the verge of blowing up at any moment is no way to live either.

Being aware of what triggers allows us to dig or not. Kind of like how we don’t watch the news if we know we won’t sleep or don’t buy the Oreos if we know we’ll eat the whole box. Boundaries help. Self-awareness is essential.

Enhanced awareness means we can begin to take responsibility for managing our emotions instead of merely reacting or letting our emotions control us.

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Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

Meditation is one way to manage our emotional responses. I am not an expert at meditation, but since I’ve started practicing it, I’ve noticed that even if you don’t know what you are doing, it still works.

When I feel frustrated, impatient, stressed, or frantic, simply pausing, taking a moment, breathing, being ok, accepting the moment, and recalling peace are instantaneously balancing and empowering. It’s motivating and relaxing if that makes sense.

When you can choose happiness at any moment, you can more easily get into flow, do better work, be a better mom; anything that matters to you comes easier.

Meditation doesn’t mean that you won’t be triggered; it means you’ll respond better. Trauma can create a cycle of hyper-vigilance or apathy. Triggers agitate us further and promote reactivity. We might feel threatened or even experience a fight-or-flight reaction to something that doesn’t warrant such a dramatic response.

Stress hormones continuously flood our bodies, and over time, it compounds. We lose perspective, see the world as a dangerous or others as the enemy, or accept something as normal that isn’t normal at all. Repeat that cycle over and over, and it highjacks our sense of well-being and purpose, and our identity shifts, typically not for the better.

Meditation prevents that from happening. It’s like self-defense or free throws. You practice, so you have the skills when you need them.

At first, meditation feels a little like rest or checking out, but then you adjust, and it feels like the world is less distracting somehow or that you can access the emotions you want to feel more readily. It’s not totally passive, but it’s not a linear evolution either.

For me, practicing is stops and starts, confusion and clarity, progress, and setbacks. Sometimes it comes naturally, and I want to pass on that free feeling to everyone. Sometimes I can’t find peace, and looking for it exacerbates my restlessness.

But it’s like golf too. You only have to hit one incredible shot to come back for more. Meditating makes me more compassionate and present. And since being more compassionate and present makes nearly everything better, even if it’s only for one moment each day, it’s enough to make me want to come back for more.

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Photo by Soheb Zaidi on Unsplash

I learned about equanimity from the Calm app. It means not pushing away or grabbing on to any sensation or experience. It’s having the “inner smoothness of a ninja.” I want that.

Accepting equanimity for me has challenged my belief that if something isn’t this, it’s that. Good or bad. Right or wrong. It offers a third, less rigid option. I know I’m doing a dismal job explaining what I mean, so I’ll use an analogy.

I used to think that to be a mom meant A) You were a stay at home mom or B) You were a working mom. Both options felt a little imperfect for me. I didn’t want to stay at home because I’m a worker. I love contributing, earning, learning, leading, collaborating, all of it.

On the other hand, I didn’t want someone else to raise our children. I wanted to be there for the key moments, to study my babies’ little faces and hands, for them to run to me with ideas, questions, observations, and snuggles. I wrestled with their fleeting stages, FOMO, and if I was doing the right thing.

It’s a tough choice, one of the hardest of my life, and it never occurred to me that there could be a third option.

When I found a third option, C) Start my own business, it was thrilling. A new world opened up with so much possibility and optionality.

That’s what equanimity is. It’s a third option, a new choice for engaging in the world with more possibilities and optionality. It’s neither dreading nor anticipating, neither engaged nor disengaged, neither attached nor unattached, neither sad nor happy. It’s just me.

It gives me permission to be bigger than any one moment, to let go of my need to control or aspire or resist. It transforms how I deal with life challenges. While it is natural to feel tense or overwhelmed in emotionally triggered situations, we can learn to see the transient nature of the moment, let things flow, in, over, and around, and manage our emotional responses accordingly.

By tapping into our unpretentiousness and awareness, we create a counter-balance for tension and judgment. Equanimity clears our minds and keeps us unafraid to work through conflicts, accept what is, solve problems, and think bigger. It makes life easier, and who doesn’t want that?

Written by

Life coach for women. Writer for 29 publications. Happiness, success, productivity, balance, leadership, inspiration. Follow me on Instagram @coachformoms.

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