Triggers and thorns

When somebody ‘triggers’ us or touches one of our thorns, we often feel like our reaction is out of our control, so we start trying to control the person or situation so that everything and everyone behaves the way we want. In other words, when events on the surface make us uncomfortable, instead of engaging in a bit of introspection and practicing being able to manage Fred so that we can respond instead of reacting, we just try to control the surface. This is exhausting and ultimately a battle we cannot win because inevitably we will come across a person we cannot manipulate or a situation we cannot control. This reaction to things not going our way begins very young and can be rewarded, which leads to habits that can be hard to break. As we get older these habits can cause us pain and suffering. For example, a young child may learn that throwing a tantrum ultimately gets them what they want. Later in life, this can lead to using aggression or other forms of manipulation such as pouting, to get their way. Some people become very reactive to situations on the surface that they cannot control and will release Fred every time one of these situations occurs, or even if they just imagine it could occur. One common example is having to wait. Whether this is in line or in traffic, many people become triggered and release Fred, causing themselves needles suffering. If Fred is in fight mode, they will respond with anger and frustration to the fact that they must wait. They will often begin to try and find someone to blame for the situation, or someone at whom they can direct the attack energy that Fred is flooding into their system. If Fred is in flight mode, they may become overwhelmed with panic and ‘what if’ scenarios such as ‘what if I’m late for my appointment and the doctor won’t see me?’

Another common situation is when someone says or does something that we find offensive. Instead of finding the space between the event, and our story about the event, we immediately release Fred and react as though that person is our enemy. Depending on whether Fred is in fight, flight, or freeze mode, we may attack, withdraw, stuff our feelings down, or some rotating combination of the three. Simply reminding ourselves that the world does not revolve around us and being able to laugh at ourselves is a very effective way to begin the process of removing our thorns and becoming less reactive to the circumstances that occur in our lives.

It’s important to start with small things, like accepting the fact that we can’t control the weather. Instead of making up a story about how terrible the weather is, and letting it ruin our experience of the day, we can practice choosing a better story. For example, rainy days can be described as cozy instead of miserable, or we can adopt the saying there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. This can completely shift our story about a situation and remove our thorn or trigger. Learning how Fred works and understanding how he tries to protect us is key to learning how to manage him and respond to the ups and downs of life in healthy ways. Learning how to reduce or eliminate our triggers and thorns is a key component to living a fulfilled life.