It’s fashionable to talk about triggers these days. People refer to triggers in all sorts of ways.
Psychotherapists talk about triggers, when working with past trauma. Relationship counselors talk about triggers, when working with couples seeking guidance for conflict. Spiritual practitioners (and even some spiritual teachers) talk about triggers, when referring to powerful emotions. You probably talk about triggers yourself, when you feel hurt or confused or misunderstood by your husband, your girlfriend, your brother, your mother, your friend.
But triggers are mostly hijacked by an immature understanding. And especially so in nondual circles. The true meaning of a trigger is often diluted to suit the spiritual bypass. How convenient that we can point the finger at someone and say “you’ve been triggered” when there’s a display of anger or irritation or sadness or grief. How opportune that we can over-ride the dark power of our gut feelings in order to appear awakened. How much more comfortable it is to “be nice” and deny the truth of our humanity rather than deal with conflict by facing it. But triggers are not feelings or emotions.
Triggers are a flashback to a traumatic memory. A memory of abuse, an invasion of boundaries. It can be major abuse or minor abuse. It’s the violation of power that makes it traumatic. It’s the “being helpless in the midst of what happened” that makes it a stressor to the nervous system. Any stimulus that reminds of us of a threat to our sanctity can throw us into a triggered state. It could be a tone of voice, a look in the eye, a specific word or words, an energetic stance. It happens in the midst of relating to another. A trigger always involves someone else. In being triggered, we fall out of presence into the past. We vacate the premises. Our eyes glaze over and we’re not quite here. We withdraw into shame or guilt or terror. Or we retaliate with rage and blame and vengeance. We do anything to clench that fist again, in the attempt to defend ourselves. We stop seeing clearly and fall into separation.
Real triggers need to be dealt with compassionately. Held tenderly in the light of acceptance. Explored with kindness and understanding. Given space to breathe. Teased into present-moment awareness. Invited out of the memory and into the belly of now.
So, let’s not take on the mantle of an infantile nondual perspective. Let’s not mistake feelings and emotions for triggers. Maturity is developed by listening to our gut feelings, being sensitive to the tenderness of the heart, standing as openness in the face of uncomfortable emotions, discerning the difference between “right anger” and “self-righteousness”.
Let’s drop the idea of a candy-coated love. Let go of the rigidity of absolute truth. Stop being so “nice”. And be open beyond imagination. Openness can hold it all .. the good, the bad and the ugly. This is a world away from reactivity. And it’s also a world away from spiritual bypassing.
Friend, become of a master of surfing the storm. The storm that rages within you. And the storm that rages within the world.
Be unafraid of facing all monsters. Because they only exist in your mind. Every imagined monster is love in disguise, offering you the open hand of being fully here. Be naked, as you are. Not enlightened or awakened or self-realized or spiritual. But fully open to what is here.
Friend, become a master of being human.
– Amoda Maa