December 1, 2017

What to do when the People we Love Trigger Us.


The people I adore the most, love the most, and want to be with the most, make me the craziest!

I am sure you may have noticed the same pattern in your life. Personally, I find it funny.

I like to joke that if I were a passenger in a car and the driver was a stranger, and they were slow in choosing a parking spot, I would most likely sit patiently and wait for them to park. But when my spouse of over 20 years is slow to park the car, I frantically yell at him, “Don’t you know how to just park a car for God sakes!”

Yes, only the people we love the most can send us into screaming fits about mundane issues. Although this is annoying, irritating, and at times comical, it is also a great opportunity to grow.

These people are our oldest, dearest soul friends and they are meant to be in our lives—even if it isn’t always easy.

The work we do to evolve is deeply personal and is something we ultimately do alone. However, we also live as part of a community which is evolving, learning, and growing.

This can be difficult. But, just because it is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t fulfilling.

Our most difficult relationships are usually with the people we love. These people trigger us constantly. They push our buttons, make us doubt ourselves, leave us with hurt feelings, and can send us into our habitual, neurotic reactions of how we respond to intimacy and vulnerability.

Even though this generally doesn’t feel great, it can be good for us.

As Pema Chödrön explains: “We have a culture built on ignoring ubiquitous nervousness: The minute you feel it, you can whip out your cell phone, you can reach for the 900-millionth song on your iPod, but when things are falling apart, then you have to work with it.”

And, oh how the people we love contribute to us falling apart.

When we are stuck in the blame and shame cycle of thinking other people are responsible for our emotions and reactions, it is impossible to get any benefit from being triggered and falling apart.

When we think other people should act differently to make us more comfortable we are basically giving away our own power to change our lives. We are all going to get triggered. This isn’t optional.

There is no way for you to go through life and not be triggered. We all try to make this possible, but it is never going to work. We all try to be so plugged into screens, addicted to substances, or numbed on repression that we won’t be affected by the world around us. But this does not work toward us feeling fulfilled.

When we are triggered by the people we love, not if but when, then we need to ask ourselves, “Where does this hurt? Why does this hurt? And, how can I take responsibility for my own pain?”

We then need to share with them the information about where we are tender. This is how we teach each other to be kind and loving.

Being compassionate to each other’s trauma and tenderness is such a gift. We won’t always be able to protect other people’s soft spots, that is not a fair expectation. But, we can live in a way that we are aware of them.

All of our pain is going to be triggered, but when we stop seeing this as a problem, and embrace the opportunity that it is, increased joy opens to us.

So, get out there, fall in love, spend time with people you care about. Offend others, get offended by others. Stay in the thick of the mess of relationships and then use all that gets stirred up within yourself for your own growth, even when it is uncomfortable, especially if it’s uncomfortable.

The dysfunctionality in our important relationships are true gifts for our own growth. But, we will only benefit from it if we take responsibility for our own tenderness.

Your own tenderness is so beautiful that when you see it clearly you won’t be able to stop yourself from being truly touched.


Author: Ruth Lera
Image: Tristan Bowersox/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron


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