These times of great change and upheaval bring out emotional triggers of rage, fear, blame or victim mentality in many of us. We may have learned how to deal with our own triggers, and how not to act out or project our unhealed emotions onto those around us. But what do we do when those we love act out from an emotionally triggered state? How do we not take on their stuff when they insist that we are at fault for what they are feeling?
Most humans will get emotionally triggered during difficult times. Our status quo of comfort and safety has been disrupted, and our unhealed emotions are coming to the forefront to be healed. If we ignore our own increased need for healing as the sh*# is hitting the fan, we will involuntarily project our unhealed emotions onto those around us to get rid of the discomfort that these intense and destructive feelings bring.
Most of us on an awakening journey, are highly empathic and can feel other’s emotions even when they are unaware. We can feel their pain and want to help. In close relationships this can create an imbalance toward co-dependence, being a doormat for others, and a savior complex, if we lack healthy boundaries and place the needs of others before our own, carrying their emotional and energetic burdens for an extended time. This is different from being there for someone fully in a healthy way, and setting our own needs aside for a short period of time as a loved one is going through surgery, deep loss, or especially difficult times. Our support may be what gets them through, and what gets them on their feet again. But when we make it a way of life to carry the burdens of others, feel overly responsible for their lives, and let them act out with us, these are our emotional issues to heal. We have probably grown up in an environment where our parents acted out the generational family dysfunction and dumped their anger on us when we were children – and that is all we know. This is the healing work we have to do. These are our lessons.
So, what would be a healthy way to deal with our loved ones as they are in a state of being triggered? The first step is awareness. If we can see that they are triggered, and have regressed to the age of their inner child, or to childhood behavior, we do not have to react. We have to remember that regardless of what a triggered person says in an attempt to rid themselves of their painful emotions, it is not personal, and we don’t have to take it. When they (or we) talk in sentences that start with “you never” or “you always” that is a sign of all-or-nothing thinking. Often triggered people are actually not addressing us, but their parents. Listen to what they are saying. Are they reacting to you from a child’s perspective as if you were their mom or dad? If you know enough about their story, you may be able to see where they need healing, and have compassion and understanding.
When they blame you for how they feel, or for all kinds of things you did or didn’t do, take a breath and step back. They can’t even see you right now. Do you really want to get into a heated argument with someone whose mental/emotional capacity has just reduced to that of a cranky, rageful five-year-old? These are their unhealed emotions coming up to be healed, and they are for them to deal with, not you…
The provocation and blameful case against you may be very cleverly set up, quoting personal details and shortcomings to get you to react. Remember in most cases the triggered person’s goal is for you to take their entire emotional and energetic burden off them, and to load them onto you, so they can feel better. This is an instinctive response, and is the purpose of blame and shame. It is a manipulation tactic. And it is your decision, and yours alone, whether you allow this to happen. If you also get triggered and try to fight back, chances are that you will end up with all the yucky stuff on you. If you can keep a cool head, and observe how someone you love has just changed, and has basically been usurped by a temper tantrum throwing child, you are in a position to not take their accusations so seriously.
Breathe deeply. You cannot control them or the situation. Let them be, and forgive them as much as you can. Give understanding. We all have been triggered before, and have made someone else’s life hard. Know that their projections have nothing to do with you, and that you don’t have to accept them.
If you know that you have been in the wrong and have hurt them, offer them your sincere apology. You can try it while they are triggered, but you may have to do it later after they had a chance to calm down and come back to their nowadays self. But don’t apologize just to disarm them. Don’t make yourself small just so they can feel better.
Depending on how much healing your loved has done, you may be able to tell them that they are in a triggered state. In most cases, you will not be able to reach them, and they will deny reason. Let them be. Let them work it out. You will have your loved one back, but now is not the time to push anything. You can tell them you love them, and that you are there for them if they want help healing what they are going through, but you must set clear healthy boundaries for yourself. Close a door, or simple walk out of the room, depending on the severity of the situation. Leave the premises for a while if you need to. If you are in danger of physical harm, remove yourself immediately. Do not try to help them while they do not want your help, and while anything you say triggers them even more. This is their load to deal with not yours.
We are learning healthy boundaries, and how to nurture and love ourselves. But our belief that we owe someone else our life often has us staying in harmful situations. These are our lessons. This is the deep healing work we have to do… It is time for us to let go of the door mat syndrome and being the goody-two shoes wife, husband, sibling or friend, and to take our power back.
If we can heal our own emotional issues and triggers, we can show love, grace and compassion toward another’s struggles and humanity, as well as our own. We can hold space for a loved one going through a hard time, without getting enmeshed and doing for them what they are not willing to do for themselves. We can let them get the consequences of their own actions and behavior rather than enabling them, and taking away their lessons. We can stop playing god… If we can focus on ourselves and our own journey, and do our own healing work, we can offer healthy support to those around us, and hold them lovingly in our heart while they experience all that they choose. As we embrace our own authenticity and freedom, we no longer have the need to control our loved ones. We can let them be fully responsible for their lives, and allow them live according to their own nature, while we do the same.