We all have triggers. It doesn’t matter how old you are – how strong you have become – there are things that will set off a chain of reactions before you realize it is happening. It is a natural tendency, a trained response. In any addiction, those triggers are the biggest obstacle. In any lifetime, addiction or no, those triggers plague us all.
Any self-help book will tell you that you must first learn to identify those triggers and then be ever vigilant to their influence. Easier said than done, they are sneaky, devious and ambiguous. If you are like most of us – there are multiple triggers and they are always hovering just under the radar -waiting to slide in, create chaos, then slip back out totally undetected. Score!! Slippery little buggers!
I can always tell when they have breezed through my world. I suddenly feel as though I’m ten years old. My knees are knobby, my face is pale and my hair is just this side of boyish. I pull myself as far into myself as I can – trying to make myself very small. Fear ripples through my mind and stomach. I have to work very hard to hold down the panic. Someone is mad at me and I have to rush to figure out why and what I can do to make amends. Even writing about it makes my stomach turn. The trigger could be someone actually being mad at me but, usually, it is just my fear that they are or will be. I have said or done something unfavorable and am at risk of being judged an idiot or a fool. I am like a little puppy – I must find my way back into the good graces of my pack. This is the affliction of being a “people-pleaser”, you spend a lifetime trying to overcome that malady.
And here is the nub: we can certainly identify the triggers but affecting the change necessary to establish new responses is the true hardship. For most of us, these responses are a lifelong routine, a means of emotional survival. While those responses were developed by a child, they are believed to be a safety net as an adult. We always fall back into the net — without thinking — because we know we can. Stopping ourselves before we fall back is hard. It requires a lot of awareness and butt loads of self talk.
I often have to talk to that little 10 year old girl with the knobby knees and tell her that it is going to be okay. The world is not crumbling. Sometimes people do get mad. Sometimes people do judge. Nonetheless, she still has a pack and the pack still loves her.
When we know better, we do better. It’s the knowing that is the challenge.