So what are emotional triggers and how do they affect personal growth? Emotional triggers are past thoughts and feelings resulting from a present event that takes us back to past experiences and feelings associated with them. Most of the time when I have heard the term "trigger" used in relation to human responses as it relates to feelings like fear, anger, hurt, etc. Occasionally, I have heard it used in relationship to memories of fondness and positive past experiences. I think a better term for this would probably be, "flashback."
The Importance of Processing
A saying I've heard is, "emotions buried alive will stay alive." Whenever we experience a trigger, it's important to evaluate if we have processed what we are feeling now fully vs. burying our emotions. Depending on the nature of the event and the degree of hurt experienced, the time needed to process these emotions can vary.
The "Onion Effect"
I've heard one person mention that the experience of processing unprocessed or not fully processed emotions is similar to peeling the layers of an onion. As you peel away each layer you cry. Sometimes it may take some time to go through layers of what we feel and fully understand how it has affected our lives.
Hitting the Center
Eventually, you will get to "The center of the issue." Emotions will still be present, but the intensity of what you are feeling can decrease with the processing of each layer. Forgiveness of any offenders on an emotional level will become easier as we begin to consciously make an effort to reframe this event by including an understanding of the offender. This understanding will most likely include, "the cycle of abuse" meaning many abusers were once victims of abuse themselves. Now the possibility of feeling sympathy for an abuser can present itself. The concept of "hitting the center" gives us the hope of these past events no longer profoundly affecting us in the present.
How to Deal with Those Close to Us
First of all, we want "safe people" close to us when sharing some of these hurtful experiences. Safe people summed up very simply are those who understand, accept, and encourage us through the healing process. Although safe people will at times need to "step away" and/or enforce boundaries depending on our behaviors, they will come back to support a friend in their efforts to heal and grow.
Emotional triggers are past thoughts and feelings that come to the surface as a result of a present event that takes us back to a past event and the emotions surrounding that event. When past emotions are triggered, it's important to evaluate whether we have fully processed those emotions. If not, we need to be completely honest with ourselves in regard to how we feel and go through each layer of those feelings until we can live fully in the present and experience emotional forgiveness when applicable. We need safe people who will understand and encourage us.
What people, events, or circumstances trigger you and what are the emotions you discover? Have you fully processed these emotions and are you able to live in the present and forgive emotionally when appropriate? Do you understand your emotional triggers are where you are at in your personal growth?