3 Steps to Return to Love When You Get Triggered
Last week I got an email from my ex boyfriend. He asked me for a favor — he wanted to get in contact with someone I know. And in his email, he spelled my name wrong.
To some people, this may not seem like a huge deal. So what, he made a mistake. But for me, this experience totally spun me out.
The reason I was so affected was because this interaction triggered my most vulnerable insecurities: feeling unseen, unloved, and totally overlooked.
Even though I no longer have romantic feelings towards this man, that wasn’t enough to stop the trigger. Because when we get triggered — no matter who it’s with or where we're at in life — the truth is, it's not about the other person.
What’s really happening is our old wounds are coming to the surface.
My deepest wounds center around neglect and abandonment — they always get triggered when I feel unseen and overlooked. And as shitty as it feels for these insecurities to come to the surface, I know they create a perfect opportunity for me to grow.
It wasn’t too long ago that I had no idea what to do when my insecurities got triggered. I would villianize my partner, feel like a victim, try to change his behavior, and in general, just feel horrible. But none of this made me feel better.
The only thing that did make me feel better was finally learning how to love myself through the experience, so that’s what I’m going to teach you to do.
In this article, I’ll walk you through 3 steps to restore yourself to confidence when your insecurities and wounds get triggered in relationships. Learning how to soothe yourself through insecurities will bring you back to peace, so you can get back to being the confident, beautiful, incredible person that you are.
Step 1: Notice that you’re triggered as soon as possible.
Awareness is the key to growth. Without awareness — especially when we’re triggered — we’re screwed.
The reason awareness is so crucial is because it separates you from the pain you’re experiencing. When you’re triggered, you’re totally overcome with feelings. The only way to get out of the overwhelm is to notice what’s happening in your body. When you notice, you step out of your reaction and into witnessing.
So how do you do this?
Recognize that something happened and now you feel horrible as a result. Don’t analyze it, don’t try to figure it out, and don’t try to fix it. Instead, feel the experience in your body.
Here’s what I did when I got the triggering email: I realized that I felt very reactive to the email, and I noticed how horrible it felt in my body. Because I’ve done this before, I also realized that this was my old wounds coming to the surface. Abandonment and neglect —the feelings I want to avoid the most. And that was it.
I continued to breathe, I stayed in the witnessing mode, and felt the feelings.
This is not easy to do, but what you’ll find as you practice witnessing is that it’s enough to take the edge off of the pain. The more present you become, the sooner you’ll be restored to your normal state of being.
Step 2: Do not entertain the stories your mind is telling you.
Ok, here’s the deal about our minds: they lie. At best they bend the truth. Our minds (or egos) love to categorize experiences into stories that you’re used to telling yourself.
For example, if you have similar wounds to me (centering around neglect ad abandonment), then anytime something feels remotely neglectful, you’ll go into a huge story about what’s happening. “This person doesn’t see me, this person doesn’t know me, this person doesn’t care…”
The pain of being triggered is so acute that your mind wants to figure it out. But the more you buy into these stories, the more they’ll make you suffer and the more they’ll keep happening. That’s right... our stories hold us captive to our wounds.
In the case for me, whether or not my ex remembers how to spell my name really isn’t about me. My ego (or wounded self) wants to make it about me — it wants to say that he never really understood me and that I’ll always be overlooked — but that’s not true. The less power I give to the story, the less power it has to take me down!
When you feel triggered, don’t indulge the stories because they’re just your wounds speaking. They’ll only make you feel worse.
Instead, keep breathing and bringing awareness to what the experience feels like. When you’re focused on how you’re body physically feels, your mind does not have the power to take you down.
Step 3: Feel compassion for this vulnerable part of you.
The final step of dealing with being triggered is opening your heart and feeling compassion for yourself.
Anytime you get triggered, all it means is a wounded part of yourself has surfaced. We all have wounds from the past; this is part of being human. Your wounds are not something to condemn or stifle — they’re something for you to care for.
The way I do this is I think of myself as a little girl — the little girl who at some point, felt really overlooked and alone. When I’m triggered, it’s her who’s coming to the surface, cute curls and all. She’s scared, she’s hurt, and she wants to feel loved. It’s my job to do that for her.
If I can open my heart to this image of myself, relief washes over me. I become the one responsible for seeing her (which is not my ex’s job); I become the one responsible for giving her love and care.
We each have a little one inside us who gets triggered when we feel hurt. When you give that aspect of yourself the thing she or he is looking for, your insecurity will literally melt away, and you’ll restore yourself to being you.
The bottom line is this: Triggers suck, but they don’t have to take you down. Instead of resisting the experience or condemning your partner, turn towards your feelings, let go of your stories, and use this as an opportunity to show yourself unconditional love. In doing so, your sense of self will get stronger, your relationships will heal, and you’ll continue to evolve into the greatest version of yourself.
Please leave a comment below telling us how you’re going to approach your insecurities next time they surface.