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Trigger Truth: they can help you heal


Today we’re continuing our discussion of the chakras and grief, which brings us up to the 6th chakra (your 3rd eye) – which is all about seeing, intuition, and big picture thinking. It reminds me of the song “I can see clearly now” by Johnny Nash.

Because if we want to see our future clearly, we gotta deal with those dark clouds that are keeping us blind.  🎵🎶

The past hurts.

The triggers.

The trauma.

The old wounds.

They prevent us from seeing the truth about ourselves. They keep us stuck in the secrets, lies, and illusions that contribute to unwanted patterns in our lives.

And all those old wounds have a way of sneaking into our present when we least expect it.

“Sometimes the new things happen and they look so much like the old things that it’s hard to distinguish between the two.  Don’t despair.  Hold out for hope.  And know that because you got through that other thing you’ll get through this one too.”  Dr. Bertice Berry

 

It’s normal to want to protect ourselves from the reminders of our past pain (especially true if we haven’t healed it yet) but moving through life walking on eggshells, cautiously trying to avoid our triggers means we’re always on the lookout, hypervigilant about staying safe and we miss seeing the beauty and opportunities for connection along the way. 

If you find yourself always rehearsing what happened, what you “should” have said or what you “wish” you had done and feeling a little bit worse each time you do – that can be a sign that your past pain is interfering with the opportunity for present joy.  

There’s an anxious sense of safety that comes from always being on guard (but let’s face it, you can’t avoid every trigger). And there’s a deeper, more relaxed sense of safety that comes from knowing you have the tools to deal with whatever comes up.

Our triggers are a guidepost, pointing us towards what still needs to be healed.

Triggers are a very real experience. And I’ll wager we all have them to varying degrees. It’s not a sign that something is wrong with you. It’s an opportunity (albeit an uncomfortable and challenging one) to heal. And if we can meet them with curiosity that’s when the healing can begin.

What triggers have been surfacing lately in your life?

Look for all or nothing statements if you aren’t sure. For example, “No one gets me”, “Why do I have to do everything?” “I’ll never be able to fix this.” “I’ll always be alone” or “I’m the only one who can deal with this so there’s no point in asking for help.” 

Or look for emotional reactions that are disproportionate to what happened – that can be the moment you realize you’re treating the present event as if it’s the past trauma.

This pandemic kicked up a big ol’ wound for me that, honestly? I wasn’t even aware I was still carrying.

Loneliness.

Now, I enjoy quiet and my own company. I’m quite happy to be on my own for days on end. In fact, I need time alone to refuel so I definitely didn’t see this coming.

When the first lockdown happened in 2020 I thought, “Sweet!  I can just hunker down and get shit done – it’s all good.”

But the weeks turned into months. And months stretched into years and now we’re riding the 4th wave (deeeeep sigh). As time went on an unfamiliar feeling rose in my chest. Part anxiety (which was also new to me in that “slow consistent rumble like a train coming down the tracks” kinda way) and this other feeling that was a little more painful. It took me a while to recognize and label it – loneliness.

Ugh.

I pride myself on being a strong, independent person. But ohhhh how I missed hugs and laughing over a meal and those deep conversations on my balcony couch.

Suddenly a missed phone call or postponed meeting that I was soooo looking forward to was enough to throw me off track for a bit.

My intuition told me to meditate on it. So I sat myself down and asked what it was that I wasn’t seeing.

Immediately, I saw an image of myself at 6 years old in a hospital gown. Bald and gaunt. Alone and isolated from friends and family in the hospital.

I realized that was when the loneliness started. And I’d been carrying around this proverbial black box of loneliness ever since.

But I was no longer a 6-yr-old cancer patient. I was strong enough and ready to do the work to heal it.

Our hearts might be wounded from all manner of trauma and heartbreak – stitched up in the moment of survival. But when we’re ready to take out the stitches there is the most breathtaking silver scar underneath. It honours what we’ve been through and reassures us that we’re strong enough to see past the pain and open our hearts again.

When we fail to see others

We aren’t just in the dark about our own wounds and how they motivate our present behaviours.

We do it to others.

We do it as a society.

We have a pattern of isolating and shaming people instead of seeking to understand.

When someone has a mental illness we ask, “What’s wrong with them?”

When someone ends up homeless we make assumptions about their character (maybe they didn’t work hard enough, maybe they alienated all their friends and family, maybe they were careless with money) or dismiss it as a symptom of addiction (which we also treat as a character flaw).

When someone goes to prison we don’t consider what drove them to break the law unless it supports our narrative of “othering” them or labelling them as a “bad apple”.

These are all examples of people who have endured heartbreak and trauma just like us. People, who are trying to escape the pain of their reality because they were never taught the tools to deal with it.

The first question should not be, “What’s wrong with them?”

The first question should be “What happened to them?”

 

You need to let go of the old way of seeing yourself if you want to embrace a brighter vision for the future.

 

Part of that letting go is grieving. Forgiving ourselves and others. Acknowledging that the rain is over, the dark clouds are gone, and we’re ready to see clearly into our bright sunshiny future. When we do this for ourselves, we start to see others with more compassion as well.

Humans have a unique way of recovering from trauma – we talk about it. We share our broken hearts with others. And that’s an important step in the process of healing.

But there’s a difference between honouring our emotions and wallowing in them. Between telling our story and rehashing the pain over and over again in our minds.  

We need to be honest about what happened (no sugar-coating) AND give ourselves the opportunity to change the way our story ends. To set down the black box of loneliness and smash it to bits, as it were. To acknowledge that we survived something hard and actually, we’re kind of a badass because we made it through.  And we need to be willing to listen (even when it’s uncomfortable) to the lived experiences of others with an open heart and extend them enough grace to help change the way their story ends too.

It’s about seeing ourselves, our stories, and others in a new light.

Life leaves us feeling weary and battle-worn sometimes. Protective and maybe a little ashamed of the scars we’ve accumulated along the way. But those scars can be beautiful if you look at them in the right light.

Let’s start by shifting how we see ourselves. By looking at our past wounds with curiosity and compassion. And…let’s not stop there. Let’s remember to extend that grace to others – from our friends and family to the most vulnerable members of our community. Because we could all use a little more love, non?

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