I used to wonder exactly what it was that people were talking about when they said that an event or comment triggered them. I had a text book understanding, of course, but could not think of an event that personally triggered me, bringing back overwhelming feelings stemming from past abuses.
Recently, however, it happened and I experienced something I never had before. Honestly, I am surprised it took as long as it did. It was not a proud moment, as retrospectively, I can now think of about five different ways that I could have better handled the situation. At the same time, I wouldn’t really have changed it because of what it taught me. My reaction was honest, showed me that my priorities were in fact, intact, and also allowed me to further learn about myself and the severity of what I lived through.
The scene unfolds
The event began in a benign fashion. It was a simple matter. I started out with words, a simple conversation. I felt those words fell on deaf ears, since nothing changed afterwards and the individual involved did not seem to understand just how important and significant the points I raised were to me. Some finger-pointing ensued, although I tried to keep that to a minimum on my end. At the same time, I truly felt that all was not being done to prevent the situation from escalating. Nonetheless, I tried to make it as clear as I could that I was not interested in assigning blame or going to battle, but rather, finding a solution.
It did not work. As a result, I moved up the chain of command, involving the next layer of authority. At this level, I felt less placated than I had with the person on the first rung of the ladder and had hopes of being heard. This person acted swiftly and did what it took to attempt a solution. However, it appeared that things were stalling and beginning to move backwards. Frustration set in, as we began moving opposite what was necessary.
I tried to speak gently, but firmly, yet the accusations began flying toward me and some of the others involved on my end. Suddenly, I began feeling just as I did with my abuser, on the defense for something I had done my best with. I did not feel that anyone was willing to take responsibility for the matter at hand. I had owned the part that I could, but would not accept all of the blame because it wasn’t all mine to take and doing so still would not improve what needed improving. I recognized that more intervention was necessary and moved toward making that possible. In doing so, however, I lost my cool. It was not major, but it was clear to me that my emotions drove my reaction. I could not understand why I felt as though I was on the battlefield over something that did not need to be a fight. Why was I meeting with resistance over something everyone involved should have wanted to solve? Why were my concerns being overlooked and my efforts to solve a problem shut down? Why was I not being heard?
Swimming against the current
Regardless of the reasons, I felt time roll backwards, leaving me feeling overwhelmed by the unfolding events and ineffective in my attempts to solve anything. It was hauntingly familiar, but I also recognized that I had never had such feelings before outside of my experience with my individual with psychopathic features. I struggled with my reaction, wondering how and why it came to that. Soon, I figured it out. The goings on had triggered me.
In the end, things worked out as we pulled together to fix the problem. We really were a group of people who did want to solve things, but had to put some issues aside in order to get there. There is no doubt that each of us could have said or done things differently. However, ultimately we did what had to be done.
But the experience taught me something valuable and proves that we do not escape our past abuses unscathed. It took me a little time to realize that I had been triggered and that the events of the current occurrence had less to do with my upset than my past. I found this especially interesting since I no longer feel this way when dealing with my individual with psychopathic features. I fully understand what that individual is about and how he operates. As a result, I am no longer shocked or surprised by any of the actions or behaviors. They are all relatively predictable. However, I was shocked that I still carried what I had lived with me in other ways.
Just another curve in the road along the path to recovery
I believe each of us does to one degree or another. Becoming aware of this allows us to correct for it and deal with it. With that, it may offer us the opportunity to become healthier than many who are never forced to confront their feelings. There should be no shame in our experiences. We lived through some incredibly unbelievable things. The only shame would be if we failed to acknowledge them or swept them away, refusing to admit they exist.
Since my realization, I have concentrated on employing coping skills that afford me peace. After what we have encountered, there may be times when we must mentally talk ourselves through situations that stir old memories of the abuse. This may take a bit of training or trial and error, but we can do it. It’s just part of the learning process, that like all else, begins with our understanding of the disorder we were touched by. Recovery from anything is almost never free from obstacles. This is no different and simply one we must become aware of.
Most importantly, we must not beat ourselves up if we do not handle things perfectly every time. Look around at others and realize that few do (not that that is a standard by which to gauge ourselves or make excuses, but rather to realize the fact that we are human.) However, if with each experience we grow and learn, we are making progress. I think that is a positive thing. Here’s to our successes as we live and learn!