I don’t enjoy being triggered but I do enjoy working out if my thoughts and beliefs are helping me or not – which is a good thing. In this post I’ll show you what I mean, but first…
What do I mean by being triggered?
The word ‘triggered’ originated in 1918 and came from Dr. Arthur F. Hurst, who worked with soldiers psychologically scarred by World War 1.
The word has a wider usage now but still includes Dr Hurst’s meaning:
1.) something that sets off a memory or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.
2.) when someone gets offended or gets their feelings hurt.”
I define being triggered as feeling bad (all of a sudden) because something has happened or someone has done something or said something that makes us think a fearful thought (Shady thought).
Human beings are continually triggered by events, people and memories. This is actually a great thing because it gives us ongoing opportunities to express our feelings and question our thoughts. If we take the time to look at our thoughts when we are triggered we can choose to change them if they are not helping us or we can take action to stand up for ourselves or others if something unfair or unjust is happening.
How the triggering sequence works…
1. First you experience an event, interact with a person or recall a memory
2. Second you experience a fearful thought
3. Third you experience a fearful feeling (fearful feelings include anger, sadness, guilt, envy, jealousy etc)
The trigger (1) is not the cause of our bad feelings.
The cause of our bad feelings is the fearful or Shady thought we had either consciously or subconsciously about the event, person or memory.
When we think a fearful or Shady thought (or an angry, sad, guilty or jealous thought) our amygdala and hippocampus release chemicals and hormones into our body that make us feel bad emotionally. It is worth noting that no feeling is ‘bad’ – they are all significant and therefore ‘good’, it is just that the ones released as a result of our fearful thoughts or beliefs feel bad.
Thoughts can be a once off but are more likely to be the result of a belief. A belief is stored in our subconscious and is a collection of like thoughts we have had over and over again, which in turn cause us to think more of the same types of thoughts over and over again (vicious circle). For example, “I always cook tea.” “Why do I always have to organise the meals?” “If I don’t buy the groceries no one would eat around here.”
Once off thoughts can definitely trigger us, but the hard-hitting overwhelming feelings which often result in irrational and disrespectful behaviour are due to our beliefs. We may be able to rationally question a thought but a belief is a lot harder to manage.
Let’s look at an example using the numbering system from above:
1. I asked Jeremy if he wanted me to help him cook dinner last night and he said, “Yes”.
2. I thought to myself, “I cook dinner by myself when he is busy working on the computer. Why can’t he cook dinner on his own? He didn’t even work today and I’ve been working all day!”
3. I felt angry.
I noticed I felt angry (I was triggered by having to cook) so I said to Shady in my head, “Shady that’s not helping anyone, I’ll just help and we will get to eat quicker, I can finish this work later.”
I also asked Sparky, “What now?” (which means what do I think, say and do now) and Sparky suggested asking Jack if he could help Jeremy clean up so I could finish my work. Jack said “Yeah, okay mum.”
This was all handled very rationally and respectfully which may not have happened if I hadn’t previously worked on my beliefs about having to do the housework. In this example I was dealing with a thought not a belief. Here I’ll explain…
When I first gave up teaching to work on Sparky and Shady fulltime I did everything around the house because Jeremy was working 50 hours a week to support our family. I felt like a fulltime mum, fulltime housewife and fulltime business owner and I believed I had to do it all because I wasn’t earning much money.
For ages I kept getting triggered when I did the housework, had to go shopping, had to drive Jack around, had to sort the bills, make all the appointments, follow up all the school stuff, work on my own business and the list goes on – I’m sure you know exactly what I mean – it was easily more than 50 hours! Anyway, I didn’t talk about it with Jeremy and I just bottled up my feelings because I believed that was my lot in life until I could earn a compatible wage. “Suck it up Princess!” I can be quite fiery so this tactic didn’t work at all, instead I would begrudgingly do the jobs while making snide or nasty comments or totally lose it in an angry tantrum going on about how I wasn’t appreciated. (This was a belief I had too.)
One day when I was washing up while the boys were watching a movie and I still had to hang out the washing and feed the rabbit, I felt like I was about to explode! “Why do I have to do the bloody washing up? I just cooked tea. Why do you guys get to sit down and watch a movie while I have to be the slave?” I thought in my head but said nothing out loud.
I stopped what I was doing, walked past the boys on the lounge, shut my bedroom door and lay on the bed and cried. When the crying subsided, I wrote down everything I was angry about and how my life was not what I had planned when I gave up a fulltime income to follow my dream. I’d turned into a bloody housewife who was expected to do everything because I wasn’t earning a decent wage. After a ginger knock at the door and a, “Are you okay?” I told the boys I was taking a Pit Stop and would be out when I was ready.
I had been taking Pit Stops myself for other things before, but I hadn’t realised that being seriously triggered was a GOLDEN opportunity to get rid of unhelpful Shady beliefs (or baggage) in my subconscious like, “I have to do everything around here. I’m not appreciated.”
AHA moment! Being triggered is a good thing – because it gives us a chance to get rid of Shady beliefs that are not helping us! If we follow up the triggered event, person or memory with a Pit Stop we can release our repressed feelings and fearful thoughts and beliefs and replace them with loving uplifting beliefs that empower us!
A Pit Stop is a process that helps us turn being triggered into a good thing. It is where you listen to and write down or say out loud everything you are angry, sad or scared about and you express the bad feelings you have repressed and stored inside you as a result of these ongoing thoughts too. It involves a bed, pillow, tissues, diary, pencils and pen, water and up to an hour of time. You can do it on your own or with someone you love (preferably not the person who triggers you!)
After you get all the fearful (Shady) thoughts out of your head and the fearful thoughts out of your body you ask Sparky (your inner loving wisdom) what to think, say and do next.
The final step is to let go of the unhelpful belief (Shady baggage) that was triggered and replace it with an uplifting Sparky belief that helps you and others in the long run. Which also means you are no longer triggered by the events, people and memories you were once triggered by!
When I took this Pit Stop I realised I believed I had to do all the housework because I wasn’t working a ‘normal’ job and that I also believed I wasn’t appreciated. These beliefs probably formed in my subconscious between 0 – 7 yrs old, when I watched my mum who didn’t work in a ‘normal’ job like my dad. Instead she stayed home and did all the housework, organising us kids, shopping, cooking and most of the cleaning. I suspect she also felt unappreciated!
We form our base beliefs about ourselves, others and how life is between the ages of 0-7 so this baggage seemed pretty logical in hindsight.
Sparky told me to let those old beliefs go and replace them with, “Everyone helps at home.” “If I want help I just have to ask.” And “I am appreciated.” I wrote these down with coloured pencils on a piece of paper and stuck them on my bathroom wall. I also said them to myself and told the boys I would now be asking for help and getting them to help more, surprisingly they were all for it! A happy wife (and mum) is a happy life!
After a couple of days, weeks, and months I noticed that the stuff that used to trigger me didn’t trigger me anymore or on the occasions that it did, I either asked for help (like I did when I asked Jack to help clean up in the first example) or I simply didn’t do the thing I didn’t want to do and did my work instead.
I still feel overwhelmed by fearful thoughts and feelings when someone or something triggers me in my life, but I believe this is a GOOD thing because it means I am ready to evaluate my thoughts and beliefs to see if they are helping me or not! If they are helping me I stand up for myself or others (for instance having the belief that it isn’t okay to bully others is a good one to keep) and if they aren’t helping me (like a recent one I had that I have to have full workshops to make a difference) I let them go and replace them with loving and uplifting beliefs from Sparky instead (like I make a difference no matter how many people come to workshops)!
Hope that helps you when you next get triggered! (Cause getting triggered is good thing!)
PS If you would like to learn more so you can live a happy, loving and fulfilling life with your child/ren and family you might like to join us for nine weeks of After School Classes. They start Wed 9th May and go from 4 – 5.15pm every Wed at the Coffs Showground for nine weeks. Cost is $792 for one child and accompanying parent and includes both kids’ books, a one on one follow up and the Online Course for Families. Classes limited to 6 kids. Money back guarantee. sparkyandshady.com/classes