Triggered Series Part 2: Identifying Our Triggers
Triggered! Who Me?
- What our being triggered may look like can take on many different forms. Some are obvious while others are more subtle.
- It is safe to assume that any time we are feeling negative emotion, that more often than not, we are feeling our own lie-based belief and not truth-based emotion.
- When what we feel is because of the truth then we are feeling what God would feel in the same situation.
- Most of the negative emotion we feel is never biblically acceptable (Phil 4:6, Lk. 12:29, Eph. 4:31).
It comes natural to deny, make excuses, blame others, or suppress our triggers by distracting ourselves through some form of “self-medication.” Therefore, an intentional and crucial skill we need to develop is the ability to rightly identify when we are triggered by our lie-based belief. Following this, it is important that we take ownership for what we feel, and be willing to admit when we are triggered. It is much easier to say things such as, “I am having a bad day” (blaming our circumstance), “He makes me so mad!” (blaming others), “I’m just not myself today” (not sure who is being blamed here).
What our being triggered may look like can take on many different forms. Some are obvious while others are more subtle. What follows are some of the more common forms people will encounter.
Our emotional status is a dead giveaway of being triggered.
The primary way we know when we are triggered is by what we are feeling in the moment. The Bible says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart…” (Col. 3:15) and “… may the Lord of peace himself, grant you peace in every circumstance…” (2 Thess. 3:16). God desires that we walk in His peace at all times. He is always ready and available to grant us peace in EVERY circumstance. So then, if we are feeling something other than peace, something is wrong. Of course there are rare situations in which we may feel truth-based emotions such as sadness, disappointment, regret, etc., but these are rare moments. Often these same emotions are rooted in lies and not the truth even though it seems so.
We would be safe to assume that any time we are feeling anything negative, that more often than not we are feeling our own lie-based belief and not truth-based emotion. We can be 100% certain that no person, thing or circumstance can cause us to feel ANYTHING that we are feeling. Our emotions are always the outcome of how we are interpreting the moment no matter what is going on around us. Our situation is not producing what we feel. However, it is possible that on rare occasions that the painful emotion we may be feeling is actually truth based and what that truth feels like.
This is a hard principle for many people to embrace. One reason for this difficulty is, we somehow think that if we do not blame the person or the situation for our emotions, then we are minimizing what the person has done or the situation itself. This is not so. What the person has done very well may be unjust, inappropriate and downright evil. Nevertheless, we feel whatever we believe and not because of what has happened. Our belief is always the interpretive grid through which we understand our circumstances.
What About Jesus
Some people will say, “What about Jesus? He got angry, was stressed in the Garden and felt forsaken of His father while on the cross. So if Jesus felt badly, why can’t we?” Jesus provides the perfect example of the reality of this truth. For example, on the day He was crucified, He was treated with total injustice, falsely accused, tortured and killed, and yet the peace of God continually ruled in His heart. There was no evidence of any anxiety, fear, worry, hopelessness, feeling out of control, powerlessness, etc.
Jesus did feel some negative emotion on this terrible day, however, what he felt was because of the truth. When Jesus cried out to the Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” it appeared that he was feeling great abandonment. However, this was truth-based emotion that He was feeling (Matt. 27:46). The good news is, we can never justify feeling abandoned or forsaken of God since He has promised to be with us always, “…even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Feeling alone, abandoned, lost, etc. is never based upon the truth even when everyone around us has rejected us. If we could possibly comprehend the truth of our being accepted of God, fully loved and beheld by Him, then even being exiled to a lost island would have no bearing on our emotional state.
Prior to his trial and crucifixion Jesus was heavily burdened with stress to the point of shedding drops of blood. The questions to ask here are, “Why was he feeling what he was feeling and did he have a legitimate truth-based reason for this stress?” The Father was asking Him to take on all the sins of the world, be falsely accused, beaten, tortured and even forsaken of God. All of this was was the truth and being asked of Him by His Father. As He considered the magnitude of this request, he was feeling what the truth felt like.
Jesus felt other emotions as well while He was here upon this earth. He felt grief when he looked over Jerusalem and when His friend Lazarus died, but there is a “time for weeping” (Ecc. 3:4) that we too may share. Nevertheless, weeping is for a time, but not a life time. Jesus expressed righteous indignation when he threw the money changers out of the temple. We are given permission to be anger over injustice, but just “don’t sin.” (Eph. 4:26) Our anger cannot and “…will not accomplish the righteousness of God.” (Jam. 1:20)
When what we feel is because of the truth then we are feeling what God would feel in the same situation. However, much of what we feel is never biblically acceptable as the Bible makes this clear where it says, “be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6), “don’t worry…” (Lk. 12:29) “fear not…” “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Eph. 4:31) and more.
Our “personality” type may be an indication of being triggered.
- Much of what we call personality may actually be our outward expression of the solutions we have come up with in order to deal with the negative emotions that we don’t want to feel.
- A true God-given personality trait is fixed and static. It is the mold that we were poured into by God when He created us.
- Much of our outward behavior is not our personality, but only our vain attempt to solve the pain that is caused by our lie-based core belief.
- Often our assumed personality is not a God creation, but rather a “mask” that we have designed to cover over that which we do not want others to see.
- If people could ever see our true self and personality—the person that God created in His image—they would easily love and embrace us.
- To the degree that we know the truth and are able to effortlessly walk in it, our true self—personality—will be made evident.
Another area where we get triggered and fail to recognize it, is in our labeling our behavior as personality types. We use labels such as introvert, extrovert, type “A”, “B”, and etc., to categorize our personality. I believe that we have God-given personality traits granted to us at conception. However, I also believe that much of what we call personality may actually be our outward expression of the solutions we have come up with in order to deal with the negative emotions that we don’t want to feel.
For example, an introverted person may be socially retreating because he fears being hurt, mistreated or rejected. An extrovert may be overcompensating for his hidden fear and feelings of worthlessness. A driven type “A” personality may be trying hard to disprove what he believes about himself. Whereas, a “type “B” personality may have just given up.
A simple test to see whether our outward behavior is indeed a personality trait or a solution to pain, can be done by challenging why we do what we do. For example, ask the introverted person who is sitting in the back of the room to come into the circle and join the group. If he declines, ask him how it made him feel when challenged. If his introversion is a personality trait, then he shouldn’t feel anything. However, if he felt anxious, fearful, or anything negative at the thought of joining the group, then this is lie-based.
As the “Type A” and highly organized person how he feels when he finds himself in the midst of disorganization? If he says he feels anxious, out of control, overwhelmed, a need to restore to order, etc., then he is probably triggered and not anything else. However, if he feels peace and a desire to help organize the situation, then he may be operating from the personality that God gave him.
A true God-given personality trait is fixed and static. It is the mold that we were poured into by God when He created us. However, much of our outward behavior is not our personality, but only our vain attempt to solve the pain that is caused by our lie-based core belief. When our lies are replaced with the Lord’s truth, our behavior will naturally transform as well. Solution-driven behavior is only needed as long as there is a perceived problem to be solved.
What is behind the mask?
The word personality is a derivative of the word persona or “mask.” Too often our assumed personality is not a God creation, but rather a “mask” that we have designed to cover over that which we do not want others to see. Our true personality was fashioned to look like Jesus and is wonderfully made. If people could ever see our true self and personality—the person that God created in His image—they would easily love and embrace us.
However, because we have a false belief of who we are, our true self gets buried beneath the layers of false perception. To keep people from seeing the false self that we believe we are, we project a pretend self or personality by putting on a mask to hide what we believe is an ugliness beneath. The problem is, our pretend self is typically not always well received since it falls short of God’s intention.
However, as the lies we believe are replaced with His truth, our pretend self will no longer be needed since it was our futile attempt to solve our pain. As the pretend personality falls off it uncovers our true heart; the personality that God bestowed upon us when He created us. To the degree that we know the truth and are able to effortlessly walk in it, our true self—personality—will be made evident.
Our outward behavior can be an indication of our being triggered.
- Much of our behavior moment-by-moment is not motivated by our lie-based pain, but rather is simply living life from the general knowledge we possess.
- However, not all the good things we do are motivated by the truth, but rather are vain attempts in managing our lie-based pain.
- A good question to ask is: “Why am I doing what I am doing?”
- Other people’s reaction to us can be an indication of our “triggers.” No matter where we go or who we are with, people basically react to us in a similar fashion. The common denominator is us.
- Procrastination is typically the outcome of being triggered and an avoidance of something.
- Being triggered can sometimes be mistaken as a “spiritual Gift.”
- Our physical bodies will alert us that something wrong in our belief through manifesting many different issues.
- Some mental disorders may be a state of being triggered.
- The only people who do not experience some measure of emotional pain from time to time are those who have so suppressed what they feel to the degree that they have become consciously unaware of it.
Much of our behavior is just spontaneous living that is not driven by any lie-based core belief, but rather just carrying out general knowledge. For example, when we drive to the store we are using our knowledge to get there as we navigate through traffic, find the store, and park the car. However, some of our behaviors go beyond our intellectual belief of general knowledge, and are solutions to our lie-based pain. These behaviors are clear indications of lies we believe.
Some of these behaviors are so habitual that we do not even notice the pain behind them. For example, overeating, compulsive buying, biting our nails, undo concern about our appearance, obsessive religious rituals, and even much of the good things we may do in our Christian service, can be a part of these. However, if we are willing to slow things down and examine what we are doing and why we are doing it, we may discover that some of our behavior is a symptom of the lies we believe being triggered.
A simple question we can ask is “Why am I doing what I am doing?” We should probably throw out the first thing that comes to our minds in that it is most likely not the truth. We are prone to lie to ourselves about why we do what we do, and to over-spiritualize our actions, blame others or make excuses. Asking ourselves this question is designed to get to the heart of, or motive for, why we are doing what we are doing.
Our bad behavior is a dead giveaway of lie-based thinking, however, it is just as important that we ask ourselves why we do the good things that we do. Our spiritual performance may be an attempt to solve our emotional pain problem. Doing good things is not always motivated by the truth. People are often serving in order to be noticed, loved, appreciated, affirmed, included and not rejected. When the good things that we do are a vain attempt to solve our lie-based pain problem, then they cease to be spiritual.
Other questions we can ask ourselves to get to the motive behind our behavior are the De-Solution Tool questions. We can ask ourselves: “If I were to consider stopping what I am doing, do I feel any resistance or hesitancy to do so? What do I believe might happen if I stopped doing it? What is the reason that I am doing what I am doing? There is a good chance I will find that my behavior is a solution to the emotions I do not want to feel.
People’s reaction to us can be a mirror of our lie-based pain being triggered.
If we can be honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that no matter where we go or who we are with, people basically react to us in a similar fashion. The common denominator is us. People reflect back to us what our “personality” is giving them. They respond and react to what they see, sense and hear and how they read us. Without question, they too are doing the same thing. In the same way that we act out our emotional lie-based pain, those around us are operating from their lie-based core belief as well. This is where it can get messy really fast.
Nonetheless, we are moving about throughout life as walking mirrors that are reflecting back and forth with those with whom we have relationship. If we can choose to address and learn from what is being reflected back at us—rather than making the other person the problem—we can benefit from this process and identify lies that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Procrastination can be an indication of being triggered.
A common behavior that is on the other end of the performance spectrum is procrastination. When we have a task set before us that we know we need to do and yet come against a wall of resistance, this is probably a trigger. If we will allow ourselves to feel what we feel when we think about doing the task set before us, this emotion can help us to identify the lie that has shut us down.
What we call a “spiritual gifting” may not be spiritual and may be a “solution” to our being triggered.
In like fashion to personality types, we sometimes ascribe a spiritual gift to a behavior. For example, a person who is always serving at the church, working in the nursery, feeding the hungry, teaching the women’s weekly Bible study and more, may be said to have the gift of service. This may in fact be the truth. But it also may be because she cannot say “No.” The highly organized pastor may be viewed as having the gift of administration, when in fact his need for order is because of the anxiety that disorder triggers within him. Here again, we need to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”
Physical issues are sometimes rooted in lie-based belief and can be an indication of being triggered.
A common testimony we receive from people using TPM is the occurrence of a spontaneous physical “healing.” I put the word healing in quotation marks, because I do not view these phenomena as a “healing” per se. Healing is a God intervention where that which was physically broken is restored. What is happening in a TPM session where physical “healing” occurs is more likely the body doing what God designed it to do. For example, if I cut my arm I can expect that it will “heal” whether I pray about it or not. I expect my body to do what it was designed to do: heal itself.
When I believe lies, my belief sets off a chain reaction of chemicals in my physical body that can produce all manner of physical manifestations. Such things as chest pain, dry mouth, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, change in appetite, upset stomach, body aches, shortness of breath, weight loss or gain, ulcers, recurring sickness, back pain, fatigue, etc. If any of these physical issues are rooted in lie-based belief, no measure of prayer will bring about healing. However, if the lies believed that are behind these symptoms are replaced with the truth, the body should “heal” itself.
As far as identifying triggers in context of our physical bodies, we can consider the possibility that our bodies are trying to tell us something. If we will choose to listen and give attention to what they are saying, we might discover that our belief is the cause to our physical ailments.
Some mental disorders may be solutions to being triggered.
Some mental disorders have been reported to have been “healed” following ministry sessions. Such things as panic disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, multiple-personality disorders (DID), and more have been reported to instantaneously go away after a person receives the Lord’s truth. This is not to say that all mental illness is solution-driven, but if the condition changes after a person comes into the knowledge of the truth, then something has happened. If these conditions were the person’s solution to their emotional problem, then knowing the truth alleviates the need for the solution.
Not a question of if, but when
The only people who do not experience some measure of emotional pain from time to time are those who have so suppressed what they feel to the degree that they have become consciously unaware of it. No one has perfect truth-based thinking, we are all infected with lies. Since we will feel whatever we believe, our lies will eventually be triggered and we will feel whatever the lie produces. There are no exceptions.
The good news is however, emotional pain is our friend and provides us with a warning pointing out our lie-based thinking and providing continual opportunities for us to have our minds renewed. As we choose to take ownership for what we feel and look to the Lord for the truth, we can cooperate with God as He refines our faith, renews our minds and transforms our lives.