Just Because You Still Feel Triggered Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Healing

Healing isn’t a perpetual upward path. Healing is mostly uncovering, mirroring, and figuring out what the heck to do with yourself. 

Healing isn’t a place you suddenly arrive. Healing isn’t the place where you stop doing the work. Healing isn’t becoming enlightened or awakened. Healing is a constant putting away of the old to make room for the new. It’s seeing the beauty in our pain.

It’s a house filled with boxes that need unpacking. Some boxes aren’t labelled. They’re filled with old pictures in broken picture frames, covered with shards of glass. Healing slices; it makes your soul bleed. You can be both triggered and healing.

Triggers are anything around you that remind you of past trauma. It’s when you have a palpable emotional or physical reaction. Triggers feel like your heart beating out of your chest; triggers leave you feeling like throwing up or passing out. It’s the sudden rage, sadness or pain you feel. Triggers blind your vision. They prevent you from seeing straight.

Why are you still becoming triggered? According to Psychology Today, we become triggered when we see reality as more than it is. We become triggered when we believe that people behave in ways that remind us of past trauma. We become triggered when we believe that someone is viewing us in ways we no longer identify with. 

We become triggered by our inner critical voice. We aren’t just processing what a person is saying or doing; we’re processing what we’re telling ourselves about what they’re saying or doing. Our inner voice thinks of the worst possible scenario, which most often isn’t true.

We become triggered based on our attachment history. We develop patterns of being and loving as children that make their way into our relationships as adults. We’re more confident and self-assured when we feel secure in our attachment patterns. When we’re anxious or avoidant in our attachment patterns, we may subconsciously choose partners that increase those fears and behaviors. 

Sometimes we feel so deeply that we can’t pinpoint what we’re feeling. Often, the emotions are tied to our past, not what’s happening in the present. We experience intense primary emotions that protect a secondary wounded one. When someone close to us speaks words that trigger us, we may at first become angry to protect an underlying emotion, such as hurt. We must look at our deeper feelings to heal. It will leave you vulnerable and exposed, but it’s one of the most courageous things you can do. You are courageous.

I want you to know that you’re allowed to be both triggered and healing. You’re allowed to have moments that you’re totally unprepared for. You’re allowed to have moments where you’re left wondering what to do. You’ve protected your heart so well that the layers are slow to peel off. You’ve forgotten that some wounds are even there.

You can be both triggered and healing. Healing is a dance that knows no rhythm. Healing is a wild woman travelling, collecting, and putting away. Healing is inclusive and limitless. Healing doesn’t keep track of time. You’re allowed to be triggered, but you don’t have to stay there. 

The next time you’re triggered, here’s what to do

First, you breathe. Dig your feet into the ground. Feel the rise and fall of your chest. Breathe.

Commit to giving yourself at least five minutes of nothingness. Do nothing. Just feel the waves of emotions ride through you. Your mind may protest, “But I need to defend myself, but they’re wrong.” Assure your mind, “You will get to say what you want. I am not trying to silence you.” You’re just giving yourself time.

Ask,

Who is triggering me?

Would I be triggered if it was a different person?

Why does their opinion/comment/action/reaction matter so much to me?

Why am I triggered? (Be honest)

What emotion am I feeling?

What does this mean to me?

What am I afraid of?

Why am I afraid of this?

Am I taking this personally? Why?

Did I have a conversation with the person triggering me within 24 hours to clear up any misconceptions or skewed interpretations?

What are the unhealed parts of myself that I need to look at? What am I responsible for?

How am I going to show compassion towards myself?

What support do I need right now? (A walk, distance, journaling, a listening ear.)

You won’t remember every question in the moment. It’s about recognizing that you’re experiencing an initial emotional response. It’s about slowing down the time between being triggered and reacting. You might not get it the first time, or second, or third, and that’s okay.

You’re moving towards awareness, growth, and healing. You’re doing better than you know. Yes, you’re triggered, but you’re also healing.