I don’t know about you, but sometimes I roll my eyes when people go on and on about trigger warnings.
Why? Because, sooner or later, we’ll end up not being able to talk about anything at all, just in case somebody gets ‘triggered’.
I’m big on self-responsibility. I don’t believe in sitting on our issues and trying to avoid them forever more, then blaming someone else if they inadvertently say something that reminds us of shit we’ve not dealt with.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about deliberate cruelty. We all need to take responsibility for the words, actions and energies we put out into the world, and there’s always room for more kindness.
When we don’t properly address the underlying issues that challenge us, they can infect us from the inside out.
They can turn into envy, frustration, rage, all kinds of dis-ease… and that’s when people start walking around with hammers and looking for nails.
That’s also when otherwise innocent people start getting it in the neck for ‘triggering’ people.
To go off at a slight tangent, I talk about what I call ‘Diana Syndrome’ fairly frequently.
Remember when Princess Di lost her life and there was a massive, global outpouring of grief?
People sobbing, wailing, queuing for hours to sign books of condolence (my wife queued twice!)?
Most of these people had never had any contact with the woman. They had no connection with Lady Diana, beyond pictures in magazines and clips from TV.
And yet, her death was the ‘trigger’ for a huge tidal wave of emotion.
All that pent up energy came spilling out and, I’d venture, very little of it actually had much to do with Diana’s tragic permanent vacation at all.
Her parting gift was a massive hook for people to hang their previously unaddressed emotions on.
And so, when I see angry people ranting and raving about someone – or something – triggering them, I want to ask them what’s really going on.
What is it they’re *really* pissed off about?
I’m betting it’s rarely actually to do with the individual they’re venting their spleen towards.
Put down the hammers.
Stop looking for nails.
Be willing to look closer to home and start to examine all those insecurities and past hurts you’ve boxed away.
Get help if you need to. Make sure you’re working towards healing your past in a safe, held environment – just know you cannot run from it forever more and, if you choose to do so, realise it’s not fair to keep shooting the unwitting messenger when the topic you’re afraid of facing comes up.
Walk the talk
As a coach, of course, I help people recognise, and deal with, their triggers all the time. I’m happy to do so and, because I like to walk my talk, if I spot any of my own, you can bet I’ll work with them.
This past week, I was triggered twice – possibly by people I’d inadvertently triggered myself.
I’ve written before about my thoughts on competition mindsets.
I don’t ‘do’ competition.
I don’t really believe it exists – particularly in small business land, when a gazillion and one people can be offering the same services on paper, yet different people will gravitate towards different providers.
It’s all about energy, baby. People buy people. Most of the time, there’s plenty enough work and opportunity out there for all of us, so there’s no need to start backing ourselves into a corner with a competition mindset.
All too often, when we go to that place, we can end up behaving like a cornered rat, and nobody likes to be confronted by that kind of energy, right?
Anyway, without going into details, let’s just say someone felt I was treading on their toes in the business arena, where I believed I was actually supporting them, and they weren’t willing to hear beyond their accusations.
By the end of the day, I’d been accused of shitting on someone’s doorstep, creating a conflict of interest AND my integrity had been called into question.
Well, ain’t that just a punch in the value sets?
Before too long, I’m pretty sure we’d moved past the initial bolt of rage, though I was being all conciliatory through gritted teeth.
You guessed it – triggered! And that was all on me!
What lit my fuse?
Why did it happen? What pushed my buttons?
The very idea I’d deliberately set out to tread on someone else’s toes is ludicrous – particularly when I’d already discussed what was happening with said person in order to avoid exactly this case of crossed wires and kneejerk reactions.
Despite being pretty conflict-averse, I will always, always stand up and meet a situation head on in order to clear the air and keep the energy clean and bright.
For me, it’s important to never assume and, instead, to ask questions and get the full picture before leaping to conclusions that may not be entirely accurate.
I was told other people had been, essentially, tittle-tattling behind my back – which was what led to a perfectly reasonable situation being blown out of all proportion and tempers being frayed.
Suddenly, a group of people I’d viewed as pals no longer seemed so friendly.
Was my trust radar off?
Was I being taken for ride?
Was that space as safe and supportive as I’d believed?
It sure did lead to me questioning things.
Why was this an issue for me?
It stems all the way back to old, childhood bullying scenarios I thought I’d moved past, not to mention an ancient workplace issue, where I’d felt utterly betrayed by someone I counted as a friend.
Clearly, there’s still a bit of work for me to do around these issues – and that’s always good to recognise.
So often, when these triggers happen, I like to see it as things being brought to the surface for healing.
My integrity was being called into question. And that, for me, is HUGE!
Less blame, more ownership
It’s no wonder my buttons were pressed. But – and this is the most important factor to remember – that’s on ME!
Sure, it appeared other people had behaved in ways that, for me, felt wrong – but that’s to do with MY value set, and we are all different in that regard.
If you spoke to any of the other people involved, they’d probably say the same… and that’s why so many arguments happen needlessly in this world.
If we look at my own value set, high on the agenda will be trust, integrity, authenticity and open, two-way communication.
Every one of those had been slapped, and that stung like a mofo!
Listen first, speak later
What do I mean about open, two way communication?
If we have an issue with someone, where safe and possible, we should get our grown-up selves to the centre and have a balanced, clean, honest dialogue with the person concerned.
It’s not about painting your own picture, filling in the gaps and wading in there, all guns blazing. That doesn’t work for me.
I’d much rather keep my calm, explain the situation, how I‘m feeling, and ask if we can talk it through and find a way forwards together.
That, for me, is the sensible, grown-up way forwards.
It encourages both parties to actively listen and helps everyone to feel heard.
It means we’re open to accepting that, maybe, we’ve misinterpreted a situation, and to finding a good way forward for everyone involved.
It means we’re able to start a dialogue without having the outcome we desire set in stone.
It means we’re able to take the eagle’s perspective, look at all angles, and avoid drama.
But again, that’s *my* value set. It’s a process we teach and work with on my spiritual empowerment programmes and it’s an approach that can take years – and lots of patience – to master.
Not everybody has that.
Most people don’t.
Drama, drama, drama
In fact, when the western world runs with drama as its fuel, an awful lot of people actively seek out drama and get off on it too!
I see it as harmful, others see it as run of the mill normality.
Why am I telling you this?
Because, if we take the time to know ourselves, including recognising our own value sets, it’s much easier to understand why if we find ourselves feeling triggered.
And if we can get to that point, we can start to work with, and heal, the parts of ourselves that feel shot when those shadow arrows fly.
What’s more, when we become more self-aware, it’s easier to recognise that what’s sometimes happening is a clash of value sets and, when that occurs, there’s no point arguing, because every party will be feeling both wounded AND in the right.
Be ready and willing to HEAR
What’s needed isn’t raised tempers and heated discussions.
What’s needed is calm, considered, open, two-way conversation and a very real commitment to deep listening and talking.
We need to be willing to speak our truth AND be ready to really HEAR what’s being said.
Beyond that, we need to look out for our own triggers, recognise when they’re being tripped and do the work – the deep healing need that’s being highlighted by our reaction to that trigger.
When we get to that point, we can drop our anger and, instead, be grateful for the teachings, for the insight, and for the personal growth that might now be possible.
It’s that old flip I’ve spoken of so many times before – life doesn’t happen TO us; life happens FOR us.
Until next time,