This essay is a continuation from the last piece I wrote about what are emotional triggers and why we become emotionally triggered. In this essay I will begin by answering the following question, and explaining a process for deep healing.
How have you been able to heal yourself to a point where you no longer get triggered by things that used to really get to you?
Step 1: Emotional Wound Identification
The first step to healing your emotional wounds is searching for and identifying them.
To do this you must look for them. That is where some form of meditation comes in. I should mention that there are two good times to look for the wounds.
During your own reflection/meditation time
Directly at the time you are being triggered
In the quiet meditation time, all you will be doing is searching for memories of times you were triggered and/or trying to trigger yourself by thinking about things that emotionally effect you. (Ironically I came across this skill while doing acting work and trying to think of things that made me “angry” so I could be “angry” in a scene. It didn’t work for me for acting, but I found another use for it here!)
So when heading out in search of emotional wounds, all you need to be able to do as a first step is to take note of your emotions either in the moment of being triggered, or while trying to trigger yourself—searching for memories about being triggered.
Once you can begin to do this in either of these two situations, (whatever works best for you, a lot of people find it harder to do when being triggered, while others find it harder to draw up the memories) you can move onto step two of the healing process.
NOTE: The drawing up of memories could become quite valuable since you don’t have to wait around to be triggered and you can plan your search sessions with a little more ease.
I have always though of the process of reducing a fraction in math as a metaphor for searching for the source of your triggers. You’re looking for the lowest possible denominator. You might start with 12345/24690 but you’re looking to just boil that huge fraction down, one step at a time until you get to ½.
Step Two: Getting To The Root of the Issue
Now it’s time to take a look at your first trigger.
Take the next one that comes to mind and just make note of the actual situations and the emotions it brought up for you:
For example: When she tells me to do the dishes I get sad, angry, depressed, etcetera.
It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
The next step is to ask these questions about the emotional wound/trigger.
1. Why do I feel this emotion when “she told me to do the dishes”?
- because it makes me feel like she doesn’t think I am useful
- because it makes me feel like I let her down
- because it makes me feel like I’m not a good person
2. How does it make me feel that I get/got ______ emotion when she told me to do the dishes?
The second question is designed to get you to look for more emotions and/or triggers hidden at the next level of depth.
Do you see how the metaphor of reducing a fraction fits into this idea now? From here you begin to repeat the process of asking how do I feel and why do I feel that way, about every emotion, reason, and new trigger that comes up as an answer.
This seems like a lot of work, and it is at first, but eventually you get really efficient at it and no longer even need to make note of every step. You also may eventually find that there are a lot less common denominators than you even realized. You might be triggered 50 ways by the same fundamental open wound.
A lot of people like to write a classic web, or flow chart, or write a journal or just take point form notes to complete this process. You can do whatever method works for you as long as you allow this process to take as much natural time as it needs. You might spend months pondering why you have a certain reaction. Or you might find that several answers come at once like falling dominoes. Allow the process to take the time it needs and allow yourself to stop and take a break from it if you become overwhelmed.
So how does it end?
Eventually you come to a point where you can no longer ask how and why. If you made a flow chart you may have it written on several papers that spread out all over the table.
In my experience the last of the last, of the last thing I have come to is usually a memory from childhood. For me, that is where most of the emotional pain that I carry began. I often have something like this at the bottom of one branch of my flow chart that began with one particular trigger.
Using our example from above: When she tells me to do the dishes I react in anger, because it makes me feel like less of a man, because of that time when I was 6 years old and I picked that beautiful flower for my mother and she said “real men don’t pick flowers”.
Now that you have identified the deepest source of your wounds the last step is healing. We cover this in part 3 of this series where we talk about the final stage of healing emotional triggers.
NOTE: The process of searching contains a lot of the healing process. You will find that simply the act of making these feelings known to yourself consciously, allows you to let go of a lot of the pain that you have been carrying for so long.