Triggers are teachers

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that when certain patterns repeat themselves, it’s a sign that I need to change something within myself. In particular, when something triggers my anxiety, or anger / frustration.

I know what my triggers are, yet I keep falling into the same patterns over and over again. It’s vicious cycle, and even though I should be wiser to it, it’s pretty rare that I can actually apply myself. That I can stop, step away from the situation (either physically, or just mentally), and consider how to respond, rather than react.

The former is a well-considered, logical, balanced approach to such stressful situations. The latter is an emotional habit – built-in…instinctive.

And it’s that route which wins out too often.

Where that reaction came from – that same, repeated reaction – doesn’t really matter. Maybe it was learned in childhood – in how interactions were in relationships at home and elsewhere. Or maybe it developed in some other way. Whatever the case is, in the wise words of Maya Angelou:

“When you know better, you do better.”

Maya Angelou

Being aware of your triggers and their habitual reactions is a good start. But then comes the hard work of internal change. And in that, I believe it’s crucial that we do not rely on ourselves alone – believing that we have the willpower, patience, strength…ability – to make the change ourselves, without any help.

As we learn in the Islamic tradition (and possibly others, too…I speak only from my own tradition), God does not change the condition of people until they change what is within themselves.

So, the intention is an important first step to change. But following that, recognise that we need God’s help, and we seek this through prayer.

And then it’s onto the work of trying. Trying our best. And persisting. And getting back up every time we fail. Because we likely will fail.

And even if our progress is slow – virtually unnoticeable – that’s ok, too. Slow and steady wins the race.

A seed grows in the dark, unseen to human eyes, before sprouting out of the ground. And even when it does, we don’t physically see the movement of it growing into a plant. Things take time.

So, the ultimate lesson from all of this is:

Triggers are our teachers.

They teach us how to change for the better. How to grow. Transform. Make lives better – both ours, and the lives of those around us.

Triggers are opportunities for growth.

And if we don’t recognise this, we will fall into the same negative spirals again and again.

We learn more from discomfort and challenges, because those feelings push us into actions that will help us progress more towards the person we want to be.

So, next time you feel yourself getting triggered, stop yourself, step away from the situation, and decide whether you are going to let this hurt you (and others) again, or teach you to be better.

Thanks for reading, and if you found this beneficial, feel free to share it with others.

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I’ve also put together a phone wallpaper (below), which will hopefully be a good reminder of the concept. The visual itself is often used to communicate the power of stepping away, but I think it applies in this context too.

(Click for the full size image)

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