Loving God, help us to be gentle with ourselves so that we might be gentle with others and all of our wounds be healed. Amen.
Triggers. I’m guessing that most people have a few whether we are conscious of them or not. Triggers are responses to unresolved pain and often catch us off guard when least expected. That trauma, wound, insult, injury, grief, loss, etc. that we told ourselves was long gone appears center stage, right where it left off, spilling over into the present moment and likely onto people and circumstances that had little or nothing to do with them in the first place.
These past two years of COVID-19 have unleashed a lot of triggers for many of us, especially with heightened levels of anxiety, vulnerability, fatigue, sickness, death, violence, and hate. It’s easy to think that the Christian thing to do when wounded is to simply move on, let God fix it, mask the injury, or bury it altogether, which rarely seems to work.
So, what are we to do when we find ourselves triggered by something from the past? I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I have been working on:
I’m learning to pay attention; to sit myself down and try to figure out exactly what is going on and why am I reacting a certain kind of way. Is my response completely about the present situation, and if not, what other incident(s) is it recalling? And how can I deal with them?
I also give myself permission to cry when I need or want to. Full disclosure: that can take a few hours, because once the floodgates open, a thousand other cuts resurface that were truly worthy of tears (and more)—but I was too afraid, vulnerable, or determined to hold myself together at the time that I simply did not, could not, or would not. While I don’t think it’s healthy to go around crying all the time without seeking professional help, a good cry can go a long way, cleanse the soul, and flush away debris from our eyes so that we can see more clearly.
I am also trying to find the courage to confront the pain head on: something did happen, it did matter, it did hurt and it still does. I am not ok. Having some honesty about that is empowering, as it helps me to see the thing for what it is and determine how the story might end versus feeling powerless or victimized forever. It sets the pattern toward freedom, forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, and love which are also triggers—the very best kind.
If you are being triggered by something or someone right now, just know that you are not alone. Also, know that the road to healing is a process and, much like loving, it can take time but is a worthy pursuit. If you need professional support, please seek it out. The church staff and I are also here to assist however we can.
Grace and peace,