Current situation colored by what it triggers

 

Today, the primal survival fear is alive in me again. It’s quite familiar now, as it’s been visiting off and on since the darkest phase of the dark night of the soul set in. (I am calling it “the dark night of the soul” just as a shorthand, knowing that it’s a label with a lot of assumptions that have some but limited validity.)

It feels primal and ancient. Some of it may be passed on through family dynamics. Some from epigenetics. Some perhaps from past lives. Who knows. What I know is that it seems primal, ancient, and universal – something that’s a shared experience for perhaps all mammals and even other groups of animals.

I also see how it does what triggered traumas often do. It colors my experience of my current situation. It makes certain things seem really scary, while the reality is that they don’t quite warrant that level of fear. The more I can notice what’s happening, rest with the physical sensations of the primal fear, and notice the associated images and words, the more I am able to notice that coloring, and the more I notice the scary stories my mind creates based on the coloring. It helps me differentiate and relate to it all – the primal fear, the coloring, my current life situation – more consciously.

What’s up for us coloring our experience of anything

 

What’s up for us tends to color our experience of anything.

It tends to color our experience of whatever we bring attention to, and the stronger the mind is identified with what’s up, the stronger the coloring. This goes for anything triggered in us, whether it’s a deficiency story, an inflated story, an emotion, or anything else with a charge.

This dynamic also happens within inquiry sessions.

For instance……

Hopelessness is triggered. And we can become hopeless about inquiry, about anything helping, about the session itself.

Anger is triggered. And we become angry at the facilitator, the session, inquiry, life itself, and the mind has good reasons for each of these.

Sadness is triggered. And we are sad about how the session is going, maybe that it’s not helping as we thought it would, that we are a hopeless case.

Superiority is triggered. (Reaction to own fear.) We feel that the facilitator is dumb or naive and we know better. We feel we could do a better job than the facilitator. We feel we are wasting our time here.

Inferiority is triggered. We feel we are unable to do the inquiry very well. We are ashamed and may try to hide it from the facilitator.

Fear is triggered. We become afraid of where the facilitator will lead us next. We become afraid of looking at what’s here or feeling the sensations. We may want to flee from the session in any way possible. (Including falling asleep, go to the bathroom, start talking about instead of looking at what’s here.)

Frustration comes up. (Filtered anger.) We become frustrated with the facilitator, the way the session is going, with inquiry, and with anything else. And the mind comes up with good reasons for all of this.

The mind will direct whatever is up at whatever is here in the situation. It will try to make sense of the emotion or feeling by pinning it on something in the situation. And in reality, it’s something old.

There may be some truth to whatever stories the mind comes up with. There usually is, and as the facilitator, it’s good to acknowledge this and take it seriously.

At the same time, it’s helpful to notice this dynamic. It can help us take a step back, recognize what’s happening, and look at it in the inquiry session.

Freud recognized this dynamic, as must have many before him, and he called it transference. I like to just call it coloring.

It’s not anything terribly mysterious. We all do it.

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What comes up colors everything

 

When something is triggered in us, it can color everything. I know that from my own experience and from working with clients.

An old trauma may surface, old hurt, anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness, inflation. Something that wasn’t fully felt when it surfaced initially. Not fully loved. Something that remained unfelt, unloved, and unexamined.

So it comes up now, and it can color everything. And our minds tries to make sense of it by explaining how something in our current situation triggered – or even created – this feeling or experience.

This may also come up in a session, and it may be directed at the facilitator or the situation.

Anger may surface, and be directed at anything and anyone in the present situation including the facilitator. Sadness may come up, and our mind makes up a story about how our life now creates this sadness. Hopelessness may color the experience of the session, and the client may feel hopeless about the process or the prospect of ever healing.

This is called transference in mainstream psychology. As usual, I don’t like that word so much. It’s too limited and sounds unnecessarily clinical.

Then there is counter-transference, where something is triggered in the facilitator (or therapist) and color his or her experience of the session and/or the client.

It’s universally human. And it’s good to be aware of. It may happen, and if we notice what’s happening there is a little more distance to it, and more room to relate to it more consciously.

This is something it’s very helpful to educate clients on, as well as facilitator trainees.

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