By: Harsha Kulkarni, LMFT
Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, #92699
Could triggers serve a purpose?
As we go through life, we all have hurtful experiences which may not have been adequately addressed and healed. Have you ever wondered what happens to the memories of these unhealed experiences as time goes by? If something is forgotten, is it also healed? Or, can we take comfort in thinking – out of sight, out of mind? If a wound is out of conscious awareness should we not care about it anymore? Can we safely assume it will never come back to hurt again?
Life seems adept in throwing a curveball. Who has not experienced this? At such times it is quite natural to get emotionally upset (triggered) by what is happening with and around us. It is very human (and very common) to not stop and think – does the present situation completely explain the nature and degree of the upset that I am experiencing? In other words we automatically feel that all the upset that one experiences at these times is entirely created by the present situation.
It can be helpful to ask, is this current (person, situation or event) causing my upset or might it be triggering an earlier wound. Most often it is not only current reality causing your upset, yet serving as a “trigger” for the unhealed past.
Consider a physical wound. If you get hurt at exactly the same spot where there already is a raw wound would it not be more painful than if you were to be hurt in an area where there was no prior injury?
Similarly, consider someone who experienced rejection as a child growing up. As an adult, this individual will more often than not be prone to experience a hypersensitivity in relationships and situations that elicit (trigger) fears or concerns of being rejected.
So if something in your present day life is emotionally upsetting, it might be worthwhile to ask, “is this person or situation unconsciously reminding me of a past situation that caused me a lot of hurt? Could it be that there is hidden and unhealed pain and hurt from the past that has been triggered by the present situation and this may be why I am hurting so much? Put another way, how much of the hurt that I am feeling right now is actually coming from a past experience?” These are some simple suggestions that can help one gain some clarity and perspective.
If the situation continues to be upsetting, consider seeking professional help. Therapy can be a tremendous asset in healing the past so as to minimize or even eliminate its impact on the present.
We could look at present day triggers as blessings in disguise that come into our life to bring awareness to past experiences that hold us back from the very peace and joy that we are seeking.
At Community Resource Center’s Counseling Department, we provide empathic, dynamic and solution-oriented counseling where clients can learn to navigate and transform challenges and live healthy lives.