Opening the Box: Understanding the World of Emotional Triggers

Mar 12, 2024

Today I received a package. No, not the kind you're thinking of, but something far more intriguing. It was wrapped not in paper and ribbons but in complex layers of emotion. I'm talking about triggers. Those intricate, sticky emotions we'd rather not feel, let alone unwrap and examine.

You know the drill. Here comes a trigger, and our first instinct? Shove it deep into that steel box inside our hearts, clamp it shut, and throw away the key. Why feel it if you don't have to? We pride ourselves on being great at this emotional hide-and-seek. We lock away our feelings, convincing ourselves it's for the best. But is it?

This whole emotion-shielding game we play is where we try to protect not just ourselves but everyone around us from feeling anything remotely uncomfortable. It's like putting up a wall. Supposedly, we’re doing everyone a favor by keeping all of these difficult emotions at bay. We’re shielding them from the pain. 

The reality is that we can’t actually make anyone feel anything. We can’t force the people in our lives to feel comfortable and happy all the time. We wield our emotion shields like some sort of magical barrier, but they cannot keep our loved ones from experiencing pain, sadness, or anger. It just isn’t within our power. However, helping our loved ones cope with pain is a different story. Helping our loved ones to grow through adversity is well within our ability. Instead of dodging these emotions, why don’t we start embracing them? Emotion Shields don’t keep the emotions away, they only keep us from supporting people in their hurt.

Imagine this: a loved one is going through a tough time, wrestling with their own set of triggers. Instead of trying to smooth things over or distract them from their feelings, we sit next to them, gently pull at the metaphorical ribbon, and help them open up that daunting package. "Let's see what's inside," we say. "Let's figure out why this hurts, why it's scary, and maybe we’ll find a way to grow from it."

It's not about keeping the bad feelings at bay. It's about diving into them together. It's about acknowledging that these emotional triggers aren't just obstacles; they are opportunities to grow and build lasting connections with those we care about.

Pay attention to the people in your life that you treat with a little extra sugar. The people that you take care to be extra nice to. Let’s change the script from "I don't want to make them feel [insert uncomfortable emotion here]." to “I want them to accept their emotions and understand them as the gifts they are, and I’ll be right here to navigate it with them.” It's time to let them feel, share our boundaries, and sit with them as they explore their own emotional gifts.

Take a moment to identify those people in your life. The ones you're always going out of your way to shield from any discomfort. Commit to helping them and (and yourself) unwrap the gifts that emotional triggers truly are. Let’s Drop our shields and open up to the full range of human emotion together. Let’s transform the triggers into stepping stones to growth. Together, we can turn what once seemed like obstacles into opportunities for deep, meaningful connections.

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