Working with Triggers 101
Thank you all who sent me notes about my previous email on getting triggered. It truly warms my heart to learn that this can be so useful to you.
I will be giving a free bonus workshop on Working Through Triggers for those who join the coaching group by August 5th.
It's interesting that we tend to think about triggers as bad things.
The truth is that everything, even good things that we desire, can trigger us
Triggers cannot be superficially categorised as bad or good.
They’re a spark that turns your defence mechanism on and puts into motion any limiting beliefs you’ve unconsciously developed as part of your mother wound (or any other wound).
The important thing is to learn what turns your automatic defence on that leads your emotional body to feel somehow under attack. This allows you to work through it and, with repetition, to defuse the trigger’s explosive charge.
I’d like to share with you today a case study from my coaching work which will give you a sense of what kind of support, experiences and healing are available to you when you join the coaching group.
THE BODY NEVER LIES
I’ve been working with my client, I’ll call her Julie, for nearly a year now. When she didn’t show up for two meetings in a row I tried to sense into what was going on beneath the surface.
It is important when choosing to work with someone, that you know that they’re able to lean into their instinctual intuition and are happy to meet you as a full human being rather than only through methods, theory and techniques.
As soon as I had tapped into the depth of my inner knowing, a voice told me that Julie feels safe with me now — she had said as much in our previous meeting — but that this is precisely what had triggered her.
For someone who has been repeatedly betrayed by a narcissistic mother, it was not a small thing to say, or even feel, that with me she is on solid ground.
“You are the only person who takes me seriously,” she said, recalling how everyone, including her doctor, didn’t.
Julie‘s explanation for not showing up to those two meetings was that she didn’t wake up in time. I knew she was telling the truth. One of her superpowers is honesty—with herself and others.
Yet, there was another truth that spoke loud and clear through her body when she didn‘t wake up in time: not knowing how to be in healthy relationships, her emotional body was suddenly triggered and her pattern of cutting off and defending herself from possible future harm was activated.
Triggers live as a body memory which makes them not easy to detect. It is the reason why somatic work has to be part of the process of breaking through them.
HONESTY IS A HEALER
I’ve seen this many times before with clients—a good job offer gets turned down because your mother instilled such self-doubt in you that you suddenly don’t trust you have what it takes to succeed in it; a dream-like relationship triggers jealousy fit because your suicidal mother didn’t let you go peacefully to hang out with friends; your friends offer you help in times of great distress but you turn it down because you always had to be the strong one (stepping into the mother’s shoes) and their help triggers a fear of being rejected for your weakness, or shame in your vulnerability.
To your emotional body, all those good opportunities—which most of us in our calm presence of mind would probably welcome in at face value—would feel dangerous because your emotional body doesn’t know how to trust such unfamiliar situations and your defence mechanisms kick in.
When I did finally see Julie again, I shared with her my reflections on what had triggered her and why she had overslept. I then asked her to tell me how it landed with her.
Healing spaces should never be about getting it right, but about sharing impressions from a refined and distilled conscious presence, so we can check within ourselves, for ourselves, what really goes on.
At first, it was a flat-out ‘no’. Julie explained that she was really overwhelmed, she was troubled by recent events with her family: “I’m all on my own, it had nothing to do with ‘a relationship’".
I clarified what I meant by a relationship, witnessing that the word ‘relationship’ made her edgy.
“I’m not angry at you”, I said “I don’t have any demands on you. In our relationship as therapist and client, I want us to be able to talk about things freely and openly.”
I didn’t need Julie “agreeing with me”. I expected my reflections to be challenging, but I also expected to plant them as a seed in her psyche that she would start chewing on.
“Be honest with your clients,” says Jordan Peterson when he speaks about what helps his clients heal.
RELATIONSHIP AS A CONTAINER FOR FEELING SAFE
“Maybe there’s truth in it”, Julie replied, meaning that our safe bond had indeed triggered her.
Julie then went on to talk about how scared she is that people will get hurt when they come close to her.
It was then that some of her most deep-seated beliefs emerged:
1. “I listen to you and notice I’m waiting for the blow—where is the AND…?!, where is the BUT…?!”
2. “NObody’s like that” (meaning without manipulation and simply to be trusted).
3. “Even people who seem to be healthy lie in the end”.
Only a relationship that feels safe enough can give rise to the hidden narrative living in your psyche and governing your responses, even to the good things.
In a group setting, I teach people how to create safe containers and how to respond to one another, not in order to give unsolicited advice or a mini-psychological analysis (I’m allergic to this happening in groups), but how to listen in a way that helps each other notice limiting beliefs by themselves.
100 SHADES FOR A CRY FOR HELP
By now, our session was rolling, and I saw that Julie was more relaxed on her sofa-chair and that she was smiling and gesturing enthusiastically with her hands, as she does when she’s feeling more confident.
When Julie said earlier that she’s all on her own, I heard it as a cry for help.
We want to be reached out to but we’re afraid of people seeing us as imperfect.
We’ll always have ways to cry for help, ways that will bypass our defence mechanisms and limiting beliefs, because we cannot survive without close connections.
In groups, I teach people how to listen deeply and pick up on unspoken requests so that they can check them with one another and create the possibility for help to be received.
Julie began to realise the paradox she was trapped in:
“I always say I’m all alone but in fact, I don’t want anybody.”
It was time to introduce a new narrative, one that could reshape her emotional body to fit a new reality, a trigger-free reality.
I shared with Julie the following words, asking her to pay attention to how they land, without needing to agree or disagree with the words:
“I don’t need you to take responsibility
over me or over this relationship.
You don’t need to show up perfectly,
I can take you in just as you are”.
I invite you, as you read these words, to take them in for yourself and rest for a moment to notice how they work within your own body, heart and mind.
Another one of Julie’s superpowers is the ability to discern between the different dimensions of her being and how each responds to the situation:
“I feel my body’s relaxing”, she said, “but I also note what a different experience my mind has. ‘I’m not taking responsibility’, I thought, but then also: ‘But I’m not a cold person’…”
Repeating my words to her and asking her each time to notice how they affected her, I witnessed Julie relax more and more as new insights came up.
As we approached the end of our session, she said she felt “grounded, not fragmented and all over the place”.
I offered some last words to plant as another seed: “It’s safe to allow the healthy and trusted people in your life to come a bit closer.”
“It energises me hearing this,” Julie said. “I feel safe, and that I can breathe.”
I can teach you how to work through triggers, how to help your loved ones in triggered states and how to respond to other people’s triggers—not in a condescending way, which seems to be so popular on social media—but with honesty, compassion and wisdom.
This was my motivation to start a coaching group for healing the mother wound: to teach women how to grow beyond the mother wound—the personal and collective wound—and find an undivided space of connection.
If you want more of this you can join my coaching group. Join by August 5th and you’ll get a FREE WORKSHOP on working through triggers.
If you want to dip your toes in and get a real-time sense of what this could be like, I invite you to a 40 minutes FREE WORKSHOP on MEETING YOUR WHOLE SELF on August 3rd at 6:30 PM CET / 5:30 PM BST / 12:30 EST.
I’ll lead some group and pair exercises similar to those I’ll offer in the coaching group.
If you want to join the free workshop write to save your spot: love @ shelly sharon dot come
Shelly’s helping women on a journey of healing the mother wound who are struggling with the ways it affected their sense of self, relationships or the success of their calling and want to reach deeper levels of healing and step into their wholeness
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