Becoming Aware of Our Triggers – Trigger series Part 1
Just Make the Pain Go away
- Painful emotion is not seen as a problem to be fixed, but rather as a means for identifying lie-based belief.
- Being emotionally triggered in any given moment, is due to our minds interpreting the present situation through the lens of a lie-based core belief.
- Emotional pain alerts us to the fact that we are believing lies, making it possible for us to identify and expose them.
- What we feel in any given moment is a clear indicator of whether we are believing the truth, or something else.
- When life happens and we find ourselves being triggered, we are in position to identify the lie that has been exposed, and look to the Lord for His truth that will renew our minds.
People typically come to a ministry session feeling badly, and wanting the bad feelings to go away. They view the pain as a problem needing to be fixed. They also hope the ministry facilitator will be the one to fix it. However, in TPM we know the bad feelings are a necessary part of the ministry process for identifying the person’s lie-based belief, which is the true source of their bad feelings. So the person’s bad feelings are not seen as a problem to be fixed, but rather as a means for identifying the person’s lie-based belief.
In TPM we use the non-technical layman’s term “triggered” to describe this state of emotional upset. Being “triggered” comes about when something happens in our current life situation that results in our reacting with a negative emotion. It is the “knee jerk” emotional response that instantly stirs up in the moment, seemingly apart from our consciously choosing to react.
When we are triggered in any given moment, it is due to our minds interpreting the present situation through the lens of a lie-based core belief. Core belief carries with it a matching emotion. So when life happens, our minds look for a way to understand and interpret what is going on. If the interpretation is made using a lie-based core belief, we will instantly feel the emotion that is attached to this belief; thus we are triggered. The pain is not the problem, but an important warning system pointing out a lie-based belief.
Those who are applying the principles of TPM recognize that being triggered is a good thing that just happens to feel bad. Being triggered alerts us that we are operating from a lie-based belief and therefore, we can use it to identify these same lies. Our pain alerts us to the fact that we are believing lies, making it possible for us to identify and expose them. This allows us to position ourselves to receive truth from the Lord.
What we feel always matches whatever we believe.
A catchphrase often used in TPM circles is, “We feel whatever we believe.” What we feel is a clear indicator of whether we are believing the truth, or something else. Both truth and lies carry their own unique emotion. Truth feels like joy, peace, assurance, resolve, confidence, rest, etc. Whereas, lies make us feel stressed, worried, fearful, anxious, overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, powerless, alone and abandoned, etc. If the emotion that I feel is not truth-based, then I am believing lies. There really is no middle ground here.
Because this principle is true, we can re-frame our painful emotion. We can see it as a necessary part of the process. This process allows us to more effectively participate with what God is doing in refining our faith, renewing our minds and transforming our lives. So then, when life happens and we find ourselves being triggered, we are in position to identify the lie that has been exposed, and look to the Lord for His truth that will renew our minds.
What Does a “Trigger” Look Like?
- Being “triggered” is a predictable and expected response our minds are designed to make since we always feel whatever we believe.
- We can say that we are not triggered by what we believe, but rather are in control of our feelings. Our need to control our emotions is evidence that our emotions are controlling us.
- As we choose to pay attention to our “triggers” and embrace our emotions as a God-given warning system, we can move toward freedom.
- If we choose to blame others, deny what we feel, or distract ourselves from what we feel, then we will wake up tomorrow with the same beliefs and the same outcomes.
Rachael was again searching through the refrigerator, looking for something to eat. However, she knew that she wasn’t even hungry. She had eaten a full meal just an hour before. Nonetheless, something was driving her to eat a slice of cold pizza out of the box she bought the night before. Rachael is triggered and has not yet realized it. Instead, she is managing her pain with another slice of pizza.
John cannot understand why he is unable to break free from the pull to look at scenes on his computer that leave him feeling guilty and shameful. It is not what he wants to do, but he just cannot seem to find the power to stop. He hoped that his joining the accountability group at his church would help, but it is just making a liar out of him. There is something that keeps him from walking in the freedom his heart desires. John’s emotional pain gets triggered, and his mind automatically defaults to self-pleasuring in order to distract him of his pain.
Frank has had his feelings hurt again. He feels childish because of it, but it hurts nonetheless. He took his Saturday off, and volunteered to paint the rooms in the youth department at the church. Sunday morning the youth pastor acknowledged several people who had also helped out, but completely overlooked Frank. Several things are at play here. First, Frank’s motive to help out became exposed when his work was not recognized. Secondly, he was triggered by his own lie-based belief that was exposed in the moment.
Kaitlyn has run up a major debt with her college loans and they are coming due. Because of her limited income, she has no idea how she will make the payments. She believes the Bible verse that says, “God will supply all of your needs …” is true, but she is filled with worry and anxiety. She tries hard to stay focused on what the Bible promises, but any time that she thinks about her indebtedness, she gets triggered and her fears stir up.
Luke and Carol have had another major blowout in their marriage. It seems that they do well for a time, and then it all implodes. They keep finding themselves in the same bad place over and over again. They tried marriage counseling and learned things that seem to help, but nothing is consistent other than their recycling the same painful issues. It is like walking through a relational mine field and never knowing what the next step will bring. Though they are careful where they step, it seems it is just a matter of time before things blow up again. They are beginning to lose hope. The problem is, neither Luke nor Carol have come to realize that the pain they each feel is coming from their own lie-based belief, and not being cause by the other person. They are being triggered and are completely unaware.
Josh was sitting in his pastor’s office just a week ago, determined to completely forgive his dad for all of the hurt he had caused him. He genuinely wanted to let go of his anger and resentment once and for all. He has grown weary of how he feels every time he comes in contact with his father. His pastor read several passages of Scripture including, “… whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” and “if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Col. 3:13, Matt. 6:15). It scared Josh to hear that God might withhold forgiveness from him unless he forgave his dad. He was very motivated to do the right thing.
His pastor encouraged him to deny his feelings and choose with his will to obey the Scripture and to forgive his dad. His pastor led him in a prayer to confess his anger and had him choose to forgive. He hoped that something had occurred. He actually did feel a little better and went home believing in faith that change had occurred. He was determined not to allow his anger to surface again.
However, a few weeks later Josh was at his annual family reunion, and his father made an offhand comment in Josh’s direction. Instantaneously, Josh was triggered and then flooded with the same old anger and resentment. He tried hard to swallow what he felt and push it down but it was to no avail. He was unable to restrain an eruption of angry words spewing from his mouth. Now again, discouraged and defeated, Josh decided to go back to his pastor and try to forgive once more. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said “seventy times seven.” However, Josh is not sure if he can do that.
Josh needs to understand that the bad feelings he feels toward his father are coming from his own lie-based belief, and not because of what his father has done or is continuing to do. The bad feelings are not the problem, he is just being triggered. He could approach this in a different manner. Rather than confessing and trying to forgive, he could identify the actual belief that has him in his current cycle. When he is able to identify the lies he believes and receive the Lord’s perspective, he may actually forgive his father from his heart, as opposed to trying to do so with his willpower and determination.
Ed was told by his doctor that his blood pressure was off the chart and that he had to reduce some of the stress in his life. Ed blames his work for his current feelings of stress, but doesn’t realize that his work is not causing him stress, but rather is triggering his lie-based belief. Nevertheless, since Ed is not aware of this dynamic, he is thinking about how he might better manage his stress. He is considering taking a yoga class, jogging each morning and even taking the painting class that the church is offering on Thursday mornings. He is convinced that the stress is coming from his high pressure job, and his attempts to keep three kids in college. Hopefully the painting class will help.
Andrew and Marty’s little baby girl died unexpectedly, just a few days shy of her first birthday, right after the Christmas season. They never saw it coming. She seemed perfectly healthy that evening while playing with a new toy on the floor beside the Christmas tree in their living room. She died without warning from an undetectable aneurysm in her little brain, and their lives seemingly changed forever. The grief was more than they ever thought they could bear. Even though their child died over eleven years ago, every year shortly after Christmas, their deep pain resurfaces. Sometimes it comes as a heavy depression that may last for several days. Recently, a well-meaning friend said to them, “You never really get over the death of your child. It is something that you will always have to carry.” Now after eleven years it appears that what they were told may be the truth.
The truth is, there is “… a time for weeping…” but it is not a lifetime. The fact that their pain lingers a decade after their loss, is an indication that something is wrong. The anniversary date triggers their lie-based belief that stirs up the emotional pain that they feel. God’s Word confirms that The Lord “…borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isa. 53:4-6) so the question that remains is, why are they still trying to bear the load?
Marcia cried out in anger, “You make me so mad!” as she found her husband resting on his recliner. He had promised to take out the trash and it was still sitting right in the middle of the doorway. (She had made it easy for him to deal with by placing it where he would have to step over it in order to get to his chair.) She felt completely justified in her tirade and totally blamed him for what she was feeling. If he would just do what he was supposed to do she would not have to feel so bad.
As long as Marcia continues to blame her husband for what she feels, she will remain trapped in a cycle with no hope for freedom. The truth is, her husband’s behavior is simply triggering her lie-based beliefs. This does not excuse her husband’s behavior, but anything that she feels is only because of the interpretation she has ascribed to him and his behavior.
“Triggers, Triggers, Everywhere!”
All of the above troublesome life scenarios have one particular thing in common. This common thread is the very reason that we do TPM. The common thread may appear to be their bad feelings, when in fact, this is their common outcome. The common thread is their lie-based belief—in particular, their “triggered” belief. As life occurs around them, they draw from their belief to interpret the moment.
When the belief that is accessed is a lie, it will produce a corresponding negative emotion. When this mental process is engaged, we are being “triggered”. When life happens and we feel emotion, we are accessing core belief. This “triggering” is a predictable and expected response our minds are designed to make since we always feel whatever we believe.
Our belief is the seat of our emotions.
Some people claim that they are just never triggered. They say that they have control over their negative emotions and choose to dwell on the positive ones. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are highly influenced and even governed by what we feel. People may say that their emotions do not control them, but this is probably not so. They claim that they control what they feel by practicing positive thinking and choosing to focus on “happy” things. The very fact that people have to resist and deny their feelings says they are really not in control.
Their painful emotions are controlling them by requiring their attention to deny and suppress them. The only reason that they are having to control what they feel is that their emotions are dictating it. If their painful emotions did not have controlling power, then there would be no need to control them. Our need to control our emotions is evidence that our emotions are controlling us.
When we choose to pay attention to our “triggers” and embrace our emotions as a God-given warning system, we can move toward freedom. As long as we try to control what we feel, block it out, distract ourselves from it or blame others for it, we will remain in a cycle of defeat that cannot be resolved. However, when we know and believe the truth everything changes. When we know the truth in our hearts, we will discover that there is no reason to control what we feel. Our negative emotions are the result of belief. When our belief is renewed with the truth our emotions will transform accordingly.
Paying Attention to the Warning System
It is vitally important that we become aware of the triggers in our lives. The “knee-jerk” emotional reaction to life situations we experience (almost daily) is God’s warning system for alerting us to the falsehoods we believe. If we ignore the warnings, we will continue to believe the lies and believing lies has consequences. Lies also will not resolve themselves. If we choose to blame others, deny what we feel, or distract ourselves from our pain, then we will wake up tomorrow with the same beliefs and the same outcomes. However, the Lord has a better plan. He desires to give us the truth. All we have to do is choose to move in His direction. The first step in His direction is taking responsibility for the lies that are being triggered within us and the emotions that our beliefs produce.
Learn More About Triggers: