We identify them with certain behavioural rewards, eg; excitement or reducing tension etc. If I have a bad day and start feeling stressed, I’ll crave what I know will give me a hit – even if I know that in the long-term, it’ll do me harm.
Triggers are a bit like getting the top scraped off your scab. You look like you’re healing, but one little bump and pus and blood starts oozing out. A tiny scratch can hurt like crazy, because it touches on an area that’s been badly damaged in the past. Your reaction to a little event is out of all proportion, because it’s not about the little event at all. It’s about the bigger hurt that it uncovers.
This means that they are as varied as we are – but you might identify with some of the following;
Low blood sugar
Meeting an ex
Major life changes – moving house, pregnancy, death
Christmas and birthdays
All you can eat buffets
Some triggers are avoidable (reading magazines about ‘fat’ celebrities). Others (boss downloading on you) are not. Sometimes they’re deliberate self-harm, (phoning an unsupportive friend when you get some bad news or setting yourself up to fail), whilst others masquerade as self-care, (having a drink to calm your nerves).
Triggers can look very similar to problems. But that’s not necessarily the case. The real problem is when we use them as crutches or to justify our behaviour. ‘I’ve had a terrible day’ for example, morphs very quickly into ‘I deserve to feel better’ or ‘it’s your fault’. It’s vital that we challenge this. Just because something sets me off, doesn’t mean I have to follow the same path – even if I’ve done so for a long, long time.
With the work of the Spirit, even triggers can be redeemed. They can be catalysts for growth, not just despair. They enable us to open up and out, instead of closing down and shutting off. To look to relationships instead of stuff. To learn new ways of seeing, coping and being, instead of sheltering in the past. They teach us where we’re vulnerable and shed light on areas that might otherwise stay hidden.
Triggers are not comfortable. But they can be opportunities for grace. They show us who we are (messed up children) and where to find real redemption (in a loving Father who offers healing and hope). At the end of the day, we’re not lost because we have them or because we make mistakes. We’re lost if we try to deal with our triggers by looking to ourselves, instead of to Him.