Everyone Gets Triggered
Ah, friends. What would we do without friends and honest conversations?
I never want to find out.
Walking back to my car after dropping my child at school a parent from my 9-year old’s class said to me, “Thank you for what you are writing. I’m finding it very helpful.” I looked at her in some surprise – because surely her daughter is the epitome of sweetness at all times? I asked, “Is it happening in your house too?” In response she rolled her eyes in a way that told me everything I needed to know about what was going on in her house with her 9-year old. “You always go around thinking everyone else is just fine, don’t you?” I commented and we laughed. It’s such a relief to find your insanities are actually quite normal, isn’t it?
Three minutes later, still not back at my car, my dear friend and I had an impromptu roadside mutual speed-therapy session. She told me the wonderful craziness happening in her world – how her daughter and her scream at each other and each feels unheard – and I told her about mine – how my son just does what he wants and I feel powerless and unimportant – and she said, “You should start a support group for parents of 9-year olds.”
Our summary and ending of the speed-session was my saying, “We know that whatever is going on for us right now with them is just reflecting to us how we felt when we were 9-years old, right? I can really see now how I felt powerless and unimportant when I was 9.” She responded, “And I felt unheard.”
We laughed and stood quietly for a moment in acknowledgement of little us.
My day continued with someone saying to me about this same topic, “Small children are easy. You just have to be patient with them. I don’t see why people get so upset with trying to control them and mould them into who they want the child to be. Wait till you get to teenagers. Now that’s hard!”
I felt a pang of, “What’s wrong with me? I am one of those people who get so upset. I am clearly very messed up.” Then again, she’s probably forgotten her triggered moments from back then as she manages the challenges of now – or maybe I am just very messed up, but the thing is, if something is hitting on a nerve for you, you ARE going to get stirred up. What you react to depends on where your wounds are situated – in the early years, in the teenage years, both… How you react depends on your temperament and on your unique defences. You may explode and be angry or you may shut down and withdraw into yourself in some way. Our defences and our temperaments are different so our expressions and our feelings are different but we all get triggered by stuff and we all do react in some way. (Unless we have no hurts or misperceptions from our earlier life – let me know if you meet someone like that will ya?)
It’s easy to judge someone’s reaction when their nerve has been hit because it’s irrational. They look out of control and a lil’ bit crazy. That’s because, in that moment, they are. Have you ever seen a parent lose it at their child for something you think was no big deal? You think, “Sheesh, poor kid. That parent is over the top!” That may be true but you could also look at that same scenario and think, “Ouch. Right now that parent has forgotten s/he is loveable and worthy and important. S/he is in so much pain s/he can’t see the outside world. S/he can only see the old wounding that the child is reminding her/him of.”
As we go through our child’s childhood, we invariably review our own. It is a great gift to be able to revisit with your younger self and practice LOVING him or her in the way you needed back then. This is their gift to us – to re-parent ourselves and heal that old stuff.
When you feel triggered by your child, notice what is happening in the scenario, notice how you feel in response, notice where you feel it most strongly in your body and know that those feelings you feel right now are very likely to be how you felt when you were their age.
Realise that the hugeness of what you feel is probably because that’s how huge it felt to you back then. How hard is that for a child? Have compassion for yourself. Don’t pass the pain onto your child if you can help it. It isn’t theirs. Take yourself to a quiet place – lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to – hug yourself and say all the soothing things you wish someone had been able to say to you back then.
Take the opportunity that is being offered you to love yourself all better.