All of us, every day – are triggered. You’re triggered whenever you have an emotional reaction to a person, event or circumstance. Most people know when they’re upset, but fewer look at it in terms of being triggered. Instead, they blame the person, event or circumstance for “making me feel this way,” when in reality their upsetting feeling is coming from inside; it’s been there for a long time and is now coming into awareness.
So I’m here to share one of my triggers. It’s really simple. It plays out like this:
In the middle of the day, I walk into a room in my house. There are lights on in the room. The combination of skylight through the windows, which tends toward blue, and the orange artificial light coming from the ceiling fixture or lamp – instantly triggers a feeling of discomfort in me. My first reaction is to get to the switch and turn off the damn lights as quickly as possible! As you can imagine, this can cause problems whenever someone I care about is there in the room – minding their own business.
I’ve reacted this way to “lights on during the day” for as long as I can remember, but it’s only recently that I did the work to understand it.
If you want to uncover the source of any emotional reaction, the first question to ask is, “What am I feeling?”
My answer was, “When I walk into a room during the day, and lights are on, I feel bad.”
At this point you want to go a little deeper, “”Bad’ covers a lot of ground. Can you be more specific?”
My answer, “… a gnawing discomfort, as though something bad is going to happen.”
The next question was, “What’s your earliest memory of a situation where you felt like this?”
A vague memory began to come out of the mist. It was a winter day in the kitchen of our home in Massachusetts. I was about 4 years old. Somber, gray-blue light was coming from the windows. Lots of lights were on in the kitchen. The warmth of the artificial light was enhanced by the thickly varnished, knotty pine cupboards. (Watch a scene set in the Draper’s kitchen from an early episode of Mad Men – that was the decor.) My father was there cooking. I sat at the kitchen table. Suddenly, I accidentally cut myself with a razor blade. The site of my own blood and the pain was traumatizing. When my heaving, convulsive tears finally sputtered out, I was a little less innocent then when I woke up that morning.
That day, in my 4 year-old mind, I created a link between the quality of the light – and the expectation that I was about to have sudden, traumatizing pain and bleeding.
The whole of humanity is being triggered millions of times each second. Is it any wonder that we seem, as a species, to be hell-bent on self-destruction?The good news is, when we uncover the source of our triggers they loosen their grip on us or disappear altogether.
It’s been a tough year. A lot of triggers. If you’ve read this far, I invite you to call me, to have a conversation about what’s triggering you; how to get more clarity in your life; how to move forward in the face of change, and how to do it all with less fear.