It was clear my client was agitated. Worked up.
He thought he was worried about his board chair being unreasonable.
I asked the question again. “What do you notice in your body?” He seemed irritated, but he answered.
“There’s a tightness in my throat. I feel like I can’t speak, like I’m choking somehow.”
“Have you ever felt this before?” I asked.
He paused. “My dad. My dad used to get angry at me. I would get into trouble and he wouldn’t allow me to speak. I would try to object and he would just shush me. One time he was so mad he actually tried to choke me for a second or two.”
We sat for a bit with that. My client looked at me.
“I wasn’t really mad at my board chair, was I?”
So much of the time, when we are really triggered, it’s because on a subconscious level, the situation reminds us of something long ago.
We are reacting in the present, but we are reacting TO something long past.
In those times, we say things we regret. We do things we regret. We lose control.
We call those moments “triggers,’ and essentially we become unconscious.
Our bodies, with much longer and clearer memories than our brains, are on high alert. Doing their best to keep us safe, from threats that passed long ago.
Seeing the trigger for what it is can unravel it. Or it can be a longer process of catching it more and more quickly.
But the other side of this is freedom. Freedom to create what is called for in the moment, rather than reacting to a memory.
I still think I am going to get in trouble with my parents sometimes. Like I’ve been caught doing something wrong. But I recognize that quickening in my gut sooner now. And I can know the difference between what is in front of me and what is in the past. Most of the time.
This work, in some sense, never ends. But over time, it does get easier. And we all can become just a little more conscious.
Where do you notice your triggers? And where do you still struggle with them?