There is plenty for us to have feelings about in today’s world. Plenty of feelings in the here and now. And what is going on in the U.S. today is an ample source of our current, in-the-moment feelings.
But in addition to the current feelings we’re experiencing, all over the world we’re all “triggered” by what’s going on in the U.S. – whether we know it or not. And if we don’t know it, we feed the triggers, the being triggered, and the lack of awareness in both ourselves and others.
Triggered. A word in the healing arts that means something is being awakened beneath our awareness, buried at some time in our past – especially our early life – something we are reacting to with feelings, thoughts, and actions, while either having no idea of what we’re doing or why, or while believing our thoughts, feelings and reactions are in response to some experience in the current day.
If that is where we stay, we will be stuck. Stuck believing we’re acting in response to the here and now, while we’re really reacting to something in our past. Stuck believing we’re acting as mature adults in the current day, while we’re actually acting like children in a time long, long ago. Stuck believing we are helping to solve or resolve what’s going on right here and right now, while we’re really still defending against what happened to us in days long past. Convinced we are having truly here and now feelings – and nothing but – while we are having feelings that are more in the range of 95% from the past and 5% here and now.
How do we resolve something in the here and now, when we’re still stuck in the past? We don’t! No matter how hard we try!
In order to resolve something in the here and now when we’re still stuck in the past . . . we need to become aware. We need to tease apart the past from the present. We need to heal the place(s) we’re stuck that are still alive within us. We need to use our feelings from that stuck place in the past to help in the healing. So that when the healing is done – and even in process – we’ll have a better sense of which feelings are here and now and which are from long, long ago.
Here’s an example:
Andy is terrified by all the lying that is going on in the US Government. He’s afraid of the lying taking place in the US public. He’s afraid of the lying that is being acted out and of the lying that is being believed. It terrifies him. If you ask him what it reminds him of, he says “Nothing. It’s just scary to see so many people lying day in and day out. And it’s as scary to see how many people accept the lies as the truth.”
But if I were able to help Andy go deeper and younger into his childhood experiences still alive inside him, we would find out … he was terrified as a little boy, day in and day out. His father lied every day when he smacked Andy’s mother and claimed it was her fault, that she wasn’t loving enough. When he punched Andy’s older brother and said if he’d gotten better grades, this wouldn’t be necessary. When he kicked Andy and told him if he were better behaved, there would be no need for these kicks. Andy was terrified of his father’s lying, and of his brutality. Of course his brutality. But there was something about his lying that turned Andy upside down and inside out.
No one contradicted Andy’s father’s lies. Not his mother, not his older brother, not anyone in the family or neighborhood who witnessed these scenes. It appeared to little Andy in the silence that everyone believed father’s lies, and that everyone thought they were true. And it made it hard for Andy to stay with his gut instinct that father wasn’t telling the truth. In that sense, it made him feel kind of crazy. And that, also, was terrifying.
If Andy will only allow me to help him with the young experiences and feelings, he can come back from the deep work – the deep inner exploration and healing – more able to stand in the here and now knowing of the culture of lying that people are attempting to create … not feeling crazy, without the real here and now fear impinged upon by the real once-upon-a-time fear from his childhood, and having a deep sense of knowing how he needs to respond in the face of today.
So Andy has a choice:
*to keep avoiding his own early pain and fear; and, as a result, be out of touch with the here and now reality; and, as a result of that, help to co-create even more the culture of lying that is both being attempted in the here and now and also existed in his childhood.
*to do the inner exploration in such a way that he discovers the root of his terror of the lying culture, so he can take responsibility for his own healing; be accountable for the way in which his wounds had contributed to the development of the lying culture; stop feeding that cycle; and have a new sense of how to respond in the face of lying – in a matured way in the here and now.
We each have this choice.
We can each take responsibility for our part in what’s going on.
Or we can disown our responsibility.
We can each take responsibility for our triggers.
Or we can refuse to be accountable for the reality that we have been triggered.
We can each follow our triggers to their root …
or we can insist that our feeling responses to things that are going on are only here and now responses.
We can each insist that our responses are righteous and warranted in the here and now,
even if we are working for truth.
Or we can realize that there is some way in which we are being triggered
that will, in the end, not serve the greatest good …
if we don’t follow the triggers and resolve them at the root –
even if all our actions seem to serve the greatest good;
even if all the intentions we’re aware of seem to serve the greatest good;
even if we can convince ourselves that we are serving the greatest good.
Some of us are acting out – lashing out – sure our anger is justified and will help,
even if it is really destructive and not helpful at all.
Some of us are becoming activists in the outer world, each in our own way…
making calls, signing petitions, sending out information, going to protests, volunteering our help.
Taking action is absolutely needed, but it also can be a way to defend against
the deep feelings within.
And as Gloria Steinem, an activist par excellence, has said,
“Being a social activist can be a drug that keeps you from going back and looking at yourself.”*
Some of us are watching and reading reports about what is happening.
We want to know what’s going on.
We don’t want to be in the dark.
But we can become addicted to those reports.
We can use them for an adrenaline rush.
We can, unknowingly, hope they will hold our own deep feelings at bay.
Some of us are stepping away from the television and the internet. Some saying we’re trying to achieve more balance. Some, in truth, putting our head in the sand or hiding under the covers.
Whatever we are doing that is, in fact, in the greater good, that doesn’t mean we have no triggers that need to be tended. We all do.
All of us. Everyone on every level of the government in every country in the world. Every member of the media all over the world. Every citizen in every country in the world. And not only are we feeling the impact of our triggers … our children are feeling the impact of our triggers, too. With no way to hold it, no way to ask about it, no way to process it.
If you ask me if I’m having feelings in this time, I would say, “Of course I am! We all are.”
If you ask me what I do with these feelings, I would say, “I do my own inner work to find out which are here and now feelings and which are feelings from the past that are being triggered.
I follow the feelings to times and feelings long, long ago and utilize what I discover for healing. I utilize the current feelings and the healing I do with the past feelings to support me in finding what I’m called to do today … in Love and Truth.”
If I ask you if you’re having feelings in this time, what would you say?
If I ask you what you do with these feelings, what would you say?
If I ask you what you do when you’re triggered, what would you say?
If I ask you what efforts you’re making to do your own inner healing, what would you say?
If I ask you if you are truly serving the greatest good or merely defending against your own early feelings and wounds, what would you say?
If I ask you what are you going to do now, what will you say?
© Judith Barr, 2017
* From the synopsis for the HBO documentary, “In Her Own Words,” https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/gloria-in-her-own-words/synopsis.html
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP KEEP OUR WORLD SAFE
FROM THE INSIDE OUT
We are all triggered sometimes … more often than most of us can imagine. It is crucial that we become aware of the times we’re being triggered and commit to explore and heal the ancient feelings that can become enmeshed with our here-and-now feelings.
Whenever you have feelings that are much stronger than the situation truly warrants … refrain from acting on them. Rather, trace those feelings back as far as you can into your past. When, and in what situation, was the last time you felt this particular feeling? And when was the time before that? And the time before that? Trace the feeling as far back as you can … and, with the help of a caring, integritous healing professional, begin or deepen the journey to heal those feelings to the root.
Won’t you join me, and commit to truly healing the feelings triggered in you to the root … for your sake and for the sake of our world?