When we get upset, what’s going on isn’t exactly what we tell ourselves is going on

When we get upset or triggered, what’s going on often isn’t exactly what we tell ourselves is going on.

(a) We have wounds (velcro, beliefs, identifications) waiting to be triggered. These are often initially created in childhood, and then recreated until we take a closer look at them. (b) These are triggered by life circumstances. (c) It seems scary and painful to feel the sensations and look at the associated images and words. (d) We go into stories instead, and these stories are usually about the current triggering situation. We distract ourselves from feeling and looking by going into the stories about the current situation.

This means that although there may be things we need to take care of in the current situation, what’s going on in us isn’t what we think or tell ourselves is going on. What’s really going on is that something old (and also new since it’s here now) is triggered in us, we avoid feeling and looking at it, and attention instead go and get absorbed into stories about the current triggering situation.

Of course, as we get to see and become familiar with this, we do recognize it more as it happens. We may use language such as “this triggered an old wound in me, and I feel scared / hurt / upset / angry”.

It’s important to not get too one sided here. The story we have about the current triggering situation often has a grain of truth in it, and there is often something we need to take care of. At the same time, we can notice and be aware of the dynamic described above. We can do both, and that becomes easier with experience and familiarity with the dynamics.

And this is definitely not something to use against others to deflect from our own behavior and for us to avoid feeling and seeing things in ourselves. Some folks will say “you got triggered, you need to look at that”. There is a grain of truth in it, of course, but it’s also cheap and very often used by the person to avoid taking responsibility for something they themselves did or said.

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