What Triggers You?


img_2087.jpg

No, I’m not talking about guns.

(But fun picture, isn’t it?)

Milan and Kay Yerkovich define a trigger as

…a strong reactive feeling about something that is happening in the present, a feeling turbocharged by a hurt in the past.”

Ever have one of those?

Yeah, I thought so.

It took me years to understand that when my reactions to situations or people were far greater or stronger than the setting warranted, it meant that some hurt or trauma from my past was amplifying my current emotions. I did learn to recognize the pattern, and it has helped me navigate my life better. But today, I discovered through reading How We Love, that ANYTHING can be a trigger.

Anything?

Apparently, and it makes sense why communication in relationships can spiral out of control so quickly and easily. If the tone of someone’s voice, or their opinion, attitude or behavior can trigger an unexpected, agitating reaction in me, then I can become defensive or angry at the other person whether they said or did something good or bad in that moment.

Even my sincere, valid emotions can trigger another person.

Wow. I had no idea.

Perhaps because of what that person has suffered and not fully dealt with in the past, my comment or start of a conversation that to me is neutral, or my sharing a feeling about something that occurred during the day or my tone of voice because of that situation can cause the other person to react negatively.

I probably wonder why they are reacting and may take it personally. After all, if I don’t know what is happening for them, and don’t know to ask, it seems reasonable that their response is directly related to me.

So I respond in a defensive manner.

They do likewise. I react back. See how that happens? We’ve now set a pattern of communication which is not desired, nor intended, but spins out of control leaving both parties shaking their heads in confusion, hurt and disbelief.

Crazy, huh?

Well, the good news is if we are aware of triggers in ourselves and others, we can deal with our past and have grace for the other person’s stuff. Maybe we can even help each other by using the following practical tools to build rather than destroy our relationship.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Settle yourself. Take a brief time out if necessary.
  3. Ask yourself three things:

When have I felt this way in the past? Who was I with? What soul words describe my reaction? What would I like to say to that person (in the past)?

See, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

Okay, so it’s not always easy, and it can be painful. But the benefits to removing triggers by dealing with these issues is two-fold. We become healed and stronger, and we develop healthier relationships.

But there’s also a third benefit.

If we share those feelings with our spouse, and willingly listen to them share with us, we’ll build trust and a stronger, more intimate bond with them.

That’s a win-win.

I credit the Yerkovich’s with all these insights. I’ve been sharing what I’m learning from their book, How We Love. The great thing is that our church has been presenting a series on marriage called, A Love that Lasts. Our pastor’s teaching lines up with this as well.

I don’t believe that is coincidental.

As our pastor, Matt Keller, has shared (and I agree) we have an enemy who is out to destroy every marriage. Marriage is the foundation of community. There is a power in family that can’t be denied. That’s because the union between a man and woman was created by God as a picture of his relationship through Jesus Christ with his bride, the church.

Satan hates us and anything that displays God’s love for us.

So if you thought even for a moment that the enemy I mentioned in the earlier paragraph is your spouse, think again. Our enemy is Satan. But oh, how he’ll use each of us to hurt the other one if we let him.

But our spouse isn’t the enemy.

I for one am going to work hard to remember that, to deal with the triggers in my life and be open to the probability that triggers cause grief for my spouse as well. And other people with whom I interact.

Maybe that’s why God has grace for us, and asks us to love others the same way.

I’ve linked a number of resources in this post. I’d love to know in the comments below if you find any of them helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Are You Angry?


IMG_4658Anger is a secondary emotion.

That what the workbook I use to lead women through a study on relationships says. The truth of that statement recently catapulted me into a season of discovering the source of my anger.

And that what feels like anger isn’t always…well, anger.

The inexplicable rage that builds like a volcano preparing to erupt feels like anger. Looks like anger when I give full vent to it with slamming, flinging or throwing (which only a fool does according to the Bible – good job, Laura). Sounds like anger to my spouse and children…

But surprisingly, is actually not anger.

Well, it is in part. The past part. The little kid who got hurt instead of protected, ignored instead of forgiven or lashed at without warning. That little kid’s feelings of fear, confusion, being unloved or unimportant turned to anger.

Anger at self – nothing is your parent’s fault when you’re a kid. Or anger at the person hurting you but stuffed away – since nothing can possibly be your parent’s fault when you’re the kid. Anger becomes a defense.

Stop hurting me!

Rebellion, tantrums and angry outbursts are often a sign of fear, anger, confusion or other emotions when a child’s world isn’t right.

During my current season of delving into my emotions and learning what it means to control them well (not stuff, ignore or minimize), I jotted down a list of feelings I experienced in regard to a recent event. (I had the help of a list to look at. You can find the list of “Soul Words” at www.howwelove.com)

Initially, anger surged through me.

I wanted to react in anger. Instead, I took a deep breath. (Remember that count to 10 thing? Not a bad idea.) I managed to keep self-control, speak calmly and cry later, asking God what I was really feeling. Here are the emotions I listed that described how I felt:

betrayed, worried, unloved, shocked, hated, injured, beaten down, tired, unwanted, cut off, crushed, grieved, heavy, bewildered, misunderstood, let down, distrustful, unimportant and disregarded

Notice anything?

Yep. Not ONE word of anger. But truly, each of these words really described my feelings. When I read through the list of words describing anger, none of them resounded with me. Go figure.

Fascinating.

This opened up new insight about myself, my emotions and the way I respond to situations. If I allow anger to be the go-to reaction, I miss out on understanding my true feelings and communicating them to others.

Not helpful.

Not only that, but when I don’t deal with the actual feelings, anger spins around like a tornado in my heart and mind. When I try to squelch it because I don’t want it’s destruction, I end up feeling depressed and aimless. (An indication something deeper is going on.)

In addition, my outbursts of frustration hurt those I love, making them defensive. And how can they respond well to me if I am “always angry” at them? Instead, if I share accurate emotions, I invite understanding and intimacy.

Maybe even compassion.

So, here are some practical steps I’m learning to implement to get a handle on anger:

  1. Every time I feel “anger”, ask myself what I am REALLY feeling.
  2. Share those feelings in a journal, with a trusted friend and/or with God. I do all three in the reverse order: God, journal, friend.
  3. Ask myself when I felt those same or similar feelings as a child – usually where it started, but now is being triggered by a similar interaction or experience.
  4. Grieve over the past situation. Cry, pray, journal. Let myself feel.
  5. Forgive anyone that caused past hurts. Looking at the past isn’t to blame, it is for us to acknowledge so we can grieve, forgive and move forward in life.
  6. If I displayed anger in an inappropriate way to someone, I need to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. (God’s too.)
  7. Share with the person involved my true feelings. If necessary, do this with a third party like a counselor or pastor. Sometimes defenses created by our previous anger may require additional outside help to work through and heal.
  8. Move forward. Let go of the situation.
  9. Repeat as needed. Years of these patterns aren’t changed in one time.
  10. Have grace for myself as I establish new patterns.

The Bible says that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:2) As we analyze the way we’ve thought and the emotions established due to past pain, we can be changed and healed. Not simply by “trying harder” not to get mad, but by examining our true feelings and submitting them to our loving heavenly Father.

Here’s to the journey ahead!

I’d love to partner with you in prayer as you address your anger. Please let me know how I can pray in the comments below.

 

 

 

Feel Like Your Life is in the Gutter?


monterey ca

Ever question the choices you make?

Do you wonder why you act the way you do? Or react in certain ways? Do you find yourself in the middle of a road rage moment, a fight with your spouse or yelling at your best friend and question how you got there?

Like, what just happened?

I’m discovering that most of us have. And while it’s bewildering to experience those situations, it’s even more surprising to learn what causes them. Not just that we’re sinful creatures or lacking self-control, although those certainly explain a lot.

The underlying secret is imprints.

So, what’s an imprint you say? I’m glad you asked. An imprint is an impression or a groove in your soul created by prolonged or traumatic experiences in childhood. Especially during those “formative” years.

Imagine pushing your hand into wet cement.

After it dries, the cement hardens with your hand print forever imprinted in it. Or think about cars (or wagons in the old days) driving through mud on the the same road. Eventually the traffic forms a rut.

Our impressionable young lives take on imprints.

All parents do the best they can with what they have. Some do better or worse than others. But let’s say you had a parent who showed great affection and enthusiasm only when you did well in sports or brought home good grades. You subconsciously become a performer for love and attention.

Or suppose you suffered some kind of abuse, lost a parent or sibling, survived cancer or saw your father beat your mother. Perhaps your parents were addicted to drugs, sex or alcohol. To survive trauma and constantly stressful situations, children adapt the way they relate to compensate for something they can’t handle.

Imprints.

The rough part is that if we don’t know this (few people do) and never deal with whatever issues caused these impressions on us, we will act and react in the same unhealthy ways as adults without even being aware of it. And we’ll hurt ourselves and others including our children in the process.

This is why I’m so thankful for  a book I mentioned a few months ago called How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. They set out to figure out why, when they both loved each other, they couldn’t seem to make their marriage work.

But this book isn’t only for married couples.

Everyone can benefit. I read a lot of various books, but no book has helped me like this one in dealing with the bottom line issues of my soul. (Okay, besides the Bible.) I’ve been to counseling over the years. I talk a lot about my feelings and questions, and I thought I’d figured most of it out.

Now I understand the depth of the even the little things.

Why I react the way I do in certain situations. How I think about other people and why. The way I use anger as a defense, and an explanation for why I can suddenly explode in rage at times when I’m a generally optimistic, happy person. Why I’m afraid to speak truthfully to some people, and why saying “no” used to be so difficult.

I can’t tell you all of it here.

Go to www.howwelove.com and take the quiz. Find out your “love style.” Order the book on their website. Read it alone, with a spouse, a friend or in a group and work through the workbook in the back. Take your time. Cry, pray and keep pressing through it. God will use it to reveal your pain and bring you healing and freedom.

You will not be sorry.

Disclaimer: I did not receive anything for this. I don’t get paid anything for promoting or if you buy the book. The authors have never heard of me. These opinions are based on my own gratitude and excitement. I wish I could offer a money back guarantee.

What’s your style…if you feel courageous enough to share?