In my experience, emotional triggers are important and uncomfortable reminders that there is some underlying work that needs to be done. Wounds that haven’t truly healed; simply pushed deep into our subconscious, the place where our deepest traumas lie (and wait). In my case, anxiety provoking stomach aches, and racing thoughts, are usually a good indicator that I have some emotional baggage, which requires attention. These triggers, or as I like to view them, gifts, come up when I least expect it. Although at times, un-welcomed, I tend to view my triggers as an opportunity to grow. Grateful for the light, and the insight that comes from looking within.
Recently, I ran into a woman from my past. Someone, who once upon a time, was a significant part of my teenage years, and during a period when I felt small and insignificant. I considered her family, and in many ways, she kept me grounded during those days when I felt as if I was constantly teetering between hope and despair.
When I was younger, I was deeply consumed with fear and anxiety, with a propensity to self-destruct, all of which shaped my decisions and behavior. Never fully comfortable in that state of dis-ease, I have spent my adulthood working to overcome feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and shame. Fully aware that I am not my feelings, nor my past, and as I’ve matured, so has my view of myself. With every step toward emotional well-being, I’ve been able to shed versions of myself that have kept me stuck in my old way of thinking.
Following my conversation with this woman, and without hesitation, all those feelings I felt when I was younger, came rushing back. And I found myself overcompensating. For what exactly, I am not sure. However, by mere association, I suddenly began to downplay my life, making excuses for not having what I thought people expected me to have at this stage of my life. Instead of being proud of all that I’ve accomplished, and embracing my life purpose, I fell victim to my past and limiting beliefs.
I spent a day overwhelmed with emotions, tearing up in an instant, and playing our interaction over and over in my head, wishing I said something differently. Wondering why I so easily gave into her expectations, or my own criticism. I had every intention of going about my day, with plans to practice yoga, run errands, and spend time with friends, and yet my heart was telling me that I needed something else. Instead of diving into distractions, I listened to my intuition and decided to lean into the feelings, a practice I am accustomed to but not always willing to participate in. As I sat quietly, in meditation, with no outside distractions, this is what I discovered….
Despite coming into my own, albeit a little later in life than planned, there is a part of me who still worries how I’m perceived by others, still questioning my self-worth (yes, I said it). Seeing this person, who was so connected to my past, reminded me of that deep fundamental fear that I DON’T MATTER. The fear that I have worked long and hard to move past still exists somewhere deep in my being. The heart of the matter, I still carry a level of shame, that despite the emergence of my best self, keeps that 16 year-old girl hanging in the balance. Instead of running away, and throwing myself into a number of activities, to prove my sense of worth, I decided to view her as my teacher that day.
Here is the sweet spot, the life-affirming “ah-ha” moment associated with this experience. I am human. I’ve made mistakes, sometimes act out, and fall victim to my past. And yet, my ability to identify, acknowledge, and challenge my old way of thinking, or feeling, is so much stronger than the emotional pull of my triggers. Instead of believing the negative self-talk, I can pause, give allowance to my feelings, choose loving kindness; while altering the state of my belief system.
There is tremendous humanity in our stories, whether old or new, and even in the toughest of times, being able to recognize when I am being affected by mine serves as one hell of a reminder. The change is knowing that I am not defined by my inner critic, and that I have the power to change, one thought at a time.