Perhaps he didn’t text you back, or she forgot to plan the trip that was promised, or your partner heart-emoji’d the half-naked photo of some sexy Instagram model. WTF!
Relationships – whether your’e getting out of one or in one – THEY TRIGGER US.
The things that trigger us reveal our unhealed wounds. Many of our deepest wounds come from childhood trauma. Even with the most ‘perfect’ of parents, as children we were completely dependent, and absorbed everything happening around us without the cognitive and emotional skills to process.
Trauma is not limited to a major catastrophic event. In many cases it can be subtle and come in the form of neglect, lack of nurturing, subtle manipulation and excessive controlling. This is known as “covert abuse’ – it’s unintentional, indirect and often hidden. Chronic trauma, inflicted daily and repeated over years leaves psychological scars. The child who’s brain is still developing, adapts and develops coping mechanisms to survive. These coping mechanisms follow us into adulthood.
This is the reason why something that seems trivial – like not getting a text back – can trigger a cascade of intense emotion and anxiety. It’s usually not about that one isolated incident – the trigger brings up emotional and psychological trauma from the past.
When we are triggered, we feel the same pain as a wounded child or adaptive adolescent.
The Wounded Child (Age 0 – 5)
Feels less than (inferior), has no boundaries, is needy.
The Adapted Adolescent (Age 6 – 18)
Feels more than (superior), has walls, is needless.
Once we learn how to ‘reparent’ ourselves, we start to respond as a functional adult, instead of age regressing to how we reacted as hurt children.
The Functional Adult
Feels equal to others (people are not more or less than), has healthy boundaries and communicates needs.
This doesn’t mean you won’t feel emotions when you’re triggered, it means that through practice and self-correcting, you start to heal your inner child.
The question to ask yourself each time you’re triggered is:
“What age am I right now?”
If you are reacting by going into a shame hole by self-flagellating and feeling inferior – you are regressing to your wounded child. If you are reacting by thinking you’re superior, with a ‘fuck you’ mentality, you are regressing to your adapted adolescent. If you respond with clear communication, accountability for your emotions and healthy boundaries, then you’re responding like a functional adult.
Also learn to recognize when others are age-regressing. It’s futile to problem solve and work things out when you’re dealing with a hurt child. Give space for the person who’s upset to cool down, so their nervous system can calm from fight/flight mode, and then, communicate like the functional, healthy adult that you are.