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I Love Triggers. I Love Getting Triggered

I’m being triggered right now.

Triggers expose areas for growth. Things that, if addressed, make me a wiser, happier person.

They’re like trail markers guiding me to the summit.

Right now, as I write this, I think am being blown off by someone I am supposed to have a date with tonight.

We said we’d meet up this evening but didn’t nail down where or what time.

He texted me this morning. We chatted. I asked where he wanted to meet up. He mentioned he’s exhausted.

It’s 6:30 pm. Still no plans.

I could be wrong. He could be busy at work. In that case, I can explore why I so easily assumed that I was being rejected.

Whether I’m right or wrong, the way my mind is reacting right now is valuable.

I have a feeling of dread, and the little voice in the back of my head is attempting to replay our conversations to figure out where I went wrong.

We all have a little voice like that. I call it the Toddler Brain because that’s about how rational, mature, and helpful it is.

If I’m reading the situation right, that little voice has a feeling of DREAD because some guy I’ve never met lost interest after I said I don’t sleep with people on the first date. Toddler Brains have a tendency to overreact.

Am I reading the situation right, or am I assuming I’ll be rejected?

(I had to pause writing for a bit. Now it’s 9:18 pm and I definitely read it right. Bullet dodged.)

But back to triggers.

Triggers are habitual reactions.

Something happens. Our brain decides that it is similar enough to a negative emotional experience from our past that it fires up the same neural pathways, and we experience that emotion all over again.

Often it comes with memories of other events that have triggered that same emotional response.

Sometimes we reflexively repeat certain behaviors.

For me, it’s this feeling of dread of being rejected.

It’s memories of the boys in my elementary school cafeteria teasing each other:

“Nicole is your girlfriend!”

“Ewwww no she’s not!”

“You’re Nicole’s boyfriend? Gross!”

HOW INTERESTING THE HUMAN MIND IS!

Now, what do I do with this data?

(Yes, I view emotions and thoughts as data.)

I notice them. I marvel at how fascinating my mind is. The emotion keeps repeating, like waves coming in and going out. My mind flashes to times I’ve been painfully rejected by people I cared about, all across my life.

Clearly, I haven’t let go of my fear of rejection, which started in early childhood.

And…that’s it. Done.

What I used to do is let my Toddler Brain run the show.

“What did I do wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that I don’t sleep with people on the first date. Am I to prude? What’s wrong with me? Am I going to die alone? I should text him again and try to fix it!”

I don’t even bother to argue back with my Toddler Brain anymore. It isn’t capable of realizing how utterly ridiculous it’s being.

“He hurt me! How can people do stuff like that?”

He can’t hurt me. I don’t care about him. Heck, for all I know he isn’t real.

My own habitual reaction was unpleasant. That’s all. Nobody hurt anybody.

I move on with my day, letting it ramble in the background.

I don’t swear off dating. I don’t think all men are assholes. I don’t put my guard way up or announce in my dating profile that if you want to have sex on the first date you should swipe the other way.

I DEFINITELY don’t text him again and try to fix whatever my Toddler Brain decides I did wrong.

What actually helps with a toddler tantrum is trying to understand her, being calm and present, or even doing nothing. Eventually, she’ll stop.

Along these lines, there are a few practices I can use to help myself now and to diminish this trigger over time.

My favorite is what I’ve already been doing. Just observe objectively. Don’t resist, and don’t feel any of the thoughts or feelings that arise. Super simple, takes no time out of my day and doesn’t require me to understand the origins of the trigger or anything.

Others are parts work and inner child work. Both are valuable. I’ll try one of them before bed.

Parts work and inner child work don’t naturally resonate with me. I resisted trying them because they feel silly. I naturally gravitate toward concrete, objective solutions. These involve using your imagination to trigger epiphanies and rewire your habitual reactions. Not my cup of tea, but every time I use them I have an epiphany.

Can’t argue with the results.

What are your triggers? What do you do about them?


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