Leaning into Triggers
Why “sitting” with your emotions is actually a sign of growth in your recovery
I just got back from the Trauma Recovery Coaching Advanced Certification Intensive and my head is swimming with thoughts (more on that in another blog post!) but I learned something very important in terms of my own recovery.
I still have a long ways to go. And that’s okay. We’re all a work-in-progress. Anyone who tells you that they’ve fully recovered from their trauma is not being truthful — because, as human beings, we are always evolving and learning and growing. I came home with a long list of takeaways both personally and professionally but there was one thing, in particular, I felt I really needed to address when I got back from my training. And because life is funny, I didn’t have to wait long to face it.
Lean into the triggers to learn to get out of them.
I know, that sounds pretty counterintuitive, right? What I mean is that some people (like me) haven’t even accepted the fact that they get triggered. I’ll admit that when Bobbi Parish (the founder of the International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaches) warned us about potential triggers and activation that could happen at the intensive, I downplayed it. I thought, “oh, I don’t get triggered. This won’t be bad.”
Except that it was bad. And I do get triggered.
What I discovered is that I’ve never had to sit very long with my triggers or activations. I am a master of distraction and can easily manipulate my attention to be directed elsewhere. Avoidance is a key skill of mine.
But at the intensive… faced with the triggers I didn’t even know I had… there was no avoidance. No distraction. I had to sit with those awful, yucky, shitty feelings. Not only did I have to admit that they existed… but I had to decide how to move forward after acknowledging them. I wanted so badly to put my attention on something or someone else. To avoid thinking about the emotions the trigger had brought up in me. It is our body’s natural defense mechanism to try and flee from danger (whether that’s physical or mental).
But I couldn’t flee. I couldn’t avoid. I had to face it head-on.
I’m glad I did because the reward was worth it. Finally learning how to sit with a trigger and work through it was a huge step in my recovery. Learning to accept that yes, I do in fact get triggered and no, I can’t avoid it, is a piece of my growth that was missing. Sitting with my emotions after a trigger means accepting that there are still parts of me that are undiscovered. It means that there are still some unresolved emotions lurking deep down and it’s my job (and my right) to dig and dig and dig until I get to the bottom of it. Because that’s where the magic of recovery happens.
It doesn’t mean you have to like the emotions. It doesn’t mean you have to like sitting with the emotions, either.
But it does mean that you are bravely weathering the storm and acknowledging that you want to get through it to see the sun. Acceptance is only half the battle, but so often, we can’t even make it to that point.
I am a better person, a better survivor, and a better coach because of this experience. Every time I learn to sit with those emotions and decide what they mean to me, I move forward in my recovery and life.
And, if I can do it… you can, too.