Triggered Series Part 3: Triggers, Triggers, and More Triggers!!!

by Feb 18, 2017


TrIggered with No Warning

Key Concepts

  • Our natural inclination when triggered is to make excuses for why we feel what we feel and even justify our emotions by blaming what we feel on others or the circumstances around us.
  • Until we choose to stop shifting the blame for what we feel and take responsibility for how we are responding emotionally to what is happening in our lives, we will continue to harbor our lies and subsequently live them out.
  • If it is true that people, things or our situation is the cause for what we feel, then we are helpless victims to our environment and have no option but feel what we feel unless our world changes.
  • Much of our emotional pain can go unnoticed since our behavioral responses are almost automatic and for the most part, spontaneous.
  • Unless we choose to slow things down and honestly look inside, take responsibility, question why we do what we do, we will remain in bondage to our lie-based belief.

The lies we believe are easily “triggered” without warning: when we are stuck in a traffic jam, cut off by a rude driver, corrected by our employer, overlooked by someone, or a person queue-jumps at a supermarket. We are stressed by demanding deadlines, worried and anxious over depleted finances, depressed by holiday seasons and grief anniversaries or emotionally affected by countless other circumstances. When these things happen we have outbursts of anger, feelings of helplessness, being out of control, worry, fear and anxiety and more.  We may feel cheated, rejected, abused, mistreated, or taken advantaged of.

Our natural inclination when triggered is to make excuses for why we feel what we feel and even justify our emotions by blaming what we feel on others or the circumstances around us. Or we use some of the common default explanation, “I’m just having a bad day” or “I’m just not myself today.” (Who are you then?) Excuses such as these will not benefit us and only keeps us in bondage to the lies we believe. Until we choose to stop shifting the blame for what we feel and take responsibility for how we are responding emotionally to what is happening in our lives, we will continue to harbor our lies and subsequently live them out.

Blame Keeps Us the Same
How many times have we said the words, “You make me feel [so mad, upset, frustrated, etc.]?” Or said something like, “My work stresses me out!”  “If you just would stop ________ (or start), then I wouldn’t feel this way!”  The truth is, blaming others or our situation for how we feel is actually illogical and an impractical position to try to maintain. If we would think this position through, we would see that we really do not believe it, even though we often do it.

If it is true that people, things or our situation is the cause for what we feel, then we are helpless victims to our environment and have no option but feel what we feel unless our world changes. If my spouse is the reason that I feel badly, then I will need to seek her permission each day so that I might hopefully feel better.  No one believes this. So then, why do we say it?

The truth is, people and life circumstance cannot make us feel anything. Emotions flow from what we believe in our hearts  (core-beliefs), not because of what is occurring around us. Life happens, and we interpret the situation from what we hold as the truth. We feel whatever we believe in the moment. This is not to justify or excuse other people’s behavior or minimize the life difficulty. Our feelings will always be connected to what we hold as truth.

Because what we feel is caused by our belief, we have hope for freedom, since the Lord can renew our minds and our belief can be changed.

When We Know the Truth, Our Emotions Will Change to Match the Truth.

Because it is true that we will feel whatever we believe, we can be hopeful that, when we know the truth, our emotions will change to match this truth. For example: if I believe the truth that I am wonderfully made, capable, and have a purpose, etc., then, if I am criticized by my boss, I may view his actions as an opportunity for growth and development. I will honestly see his criticism as beneficial and good (even if his motive for doing so is less than pure.) Because I view his behavior through lenses of truth,  I become encouraged, focused, and optimistic, as opposed to feeling put down, rejected or mistreated. The difference in how I may feel in any given situation can be understood by my core belief – how I understand myself (Self-Identity) or how I perceive my situation (State of Being) in the present tense.

My current emotional response is not caused by what happened in my past, or even the circumstances in which I find myself. My emotions are a clear indication of how I am interpreting the moment through the lens of my current core-belief. As life happens, I interpret the moment and my emotions follow.

Bad feelings are designed to motivate us to seek a remedy.

The benefit of feeling bad is that we can choose to attend to the root causes behind what we feel. Because we feel bad, we may seek a remedy. If my abscessed tooth did not hurt, I might not ever go to the dentist. Because of the pain, I go to him, hoping he will do more than just give me a painkiller to make the pain go away. I hope that he will also repair or extract my abscessed tooth.

As when we touch a hot plate, we learn that some plates are hot and that checking before grabbing a plate is prudent. However, it is also possible we may conclude that because this one plate caused us pain, then  all plates are bad and should be avoided. We may blame the plate for burning us and become a victim of hot plate abuse. One thing is certain, we will learn something; truth or lies.


Bad Motivation and Poor Decisions

So we see that emotional pain is a primary motivator that drives much of our behavior. Typically much of this pain is hardly noticed since our behavioral response is automatic and for the most part, spontaneous. Unless we choose to slow things down and honestly look inside, we will continue to go to the refrigerator looking for something to eat even though we are not hungry. We will avoid certain people and situations while making excuses without ever giving an honest appraisal for why we are doing so.

The problem is, whatever we do that is motivated by lie-based emotional pain is doomed for failure. How can we expect to do what is right if our motivations are rooted in falsehood? I can say without reservation, the many stupid decisions I have made in life occurred in the context of my lie-based pain being triggered. Someone may have said something or done something to me, triggering my lie-based pain and setting off my “knee-jerk” reaction. This never turns out well.

For example: have you ever received a troublesome email and then, with unbridled thought and in emotionally charged haste, sent back a response? Do you remember that sick feeling of regret you had in your stomach and wishing you could hit the UNDO key and bring it back? There needs to be a message that pops up on the computer screen when the keypad senses heightened emotion pulsing in our fingertips, one that says, “ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS? WHAT ARE YOU  FEELING RIGHT NOW?  IF PEACE — CLICK SEND.  IF NEGATIVE  EMOTION — CLICK ABORT AND GET TPM NOW!”

Blame and Distraction

People typically respond to lie-based emotional pain in two ways – blame or distraction. They either blame someone or something for the way they feel or they do something to distract themselves from their emotions: have food, drink or sex, do church work, seek entertainment, etc. When our solutions for dealing with our emotional pain has to do with changing those around us or our circumstance, we are doomed for failure.

Even if we can change locations and get all new relationships, or eat 32 different flavors of ice cream, before very long we will find ourselves experiencing the same bad feelings all over again. There is a common denominator here and it is not location, other people or what we put in our mouths. None of these approaches to pain management address the real cause of our pain, so it remains. The common denominator is our own self and our personal belief system.

When we think our feelings are the problem, we are destined for failure. Since what we feel is not the true problem, trying to make the pain go away is not the solution. We must identify the source of our pain – which is our core belief – and receive the Lord’s perspective.  When this occurs, transformation will follow. Transformation is a work of God that is a natural and expected outcome of knowing the truth in our heart – experientially.

When our solution for dealing with our emotional pain involves self-effort, discipline or controlling our behavior, we are on the wrong path. You cannot make yourself feel anything different from what you believe. You may succeed in suppressing your feelings beneath your conscious awareness, but this does not make it go away, nor does it decrease the impact produced by lie-based thinking.  You cannot make yourself believe differently from what you believe at the core level.  You can increase your biblical knowledge, but becoming smarter in what the Bible says is no guarantee of transformation. There are many very biblically educated people who are not walking in genuine freedom and peace.

Performance Equals Predictable Failure.
All solutions that are dependent upon me attaining and sustaining them will fail. True success is the completion of something. I successfully run a race when I cross the finish line, not because I am running well. Success is not determined by longevity – how long I can keep running or how far I get – but finality. Only the Lord can accomplish this level of success. Only He can bring about a finished work. No one, including me, can talk myself out of the lies I believe; however, when the Lord grants me His perspective, the lies I believe will no longer feel true and will never feel true again. Finality!

He can truly resolve the real sources of our emotional pain which are the lies we harbor. He does this when He grants us the truth within our hearts. He will do this when we are in the right position to receive it.

We can educate ourselves with the Bible, but only He can open the eyes of our hearts to KNOW it. The Apostle Paul prayed, “… may [GOD] give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you…” (Eph. 1:17-18). When the Lord does a work in us, it is complete and requires no maintenance on our part to sustain. Mind renewal is His work and is followed by transformation (Rom. 12:2), which is an expression of the fruit of the  Spirit.


Change What You Can but Deal with Belief.  

The disciples were caught in the middle of the raging storm and believed that they were going to perish. They viewed the storm as the cause of their fear. However, Jesus was in the same storm and yet He was asleep in the stern of the boat. He believed something different than they did. They were experiencing a “state-of-being” lie belief. Their fear exposed the actual state of their being and their lack of trust in what Jesus had said they were going to do: “Let US go over to the other side of the lake”(Luke 8:22).

When we know the truth with absolute certainty (faith), we can rest in the midst of our “storm” like Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat. When we know the truth in our hearts, the struggle to live out the truth will cease. We will discover that it takes no more effort to live in the truth than it does to live in the lies we believe. It is the exact same mental process. When we know the truth it will transform how we live, in the same way that our lies have conformed us into their mold. Conversely, if we believe a lie in our hearts, it is literally impossible to walk in continuous obedience to the truth, even though we have memorized it in our heads. Our lie-based heart belief will eventually win out.

Having said all this, if we can bring about change to our “stormy” circumstance and do so in a righteous manner, then so be it.  If we can calm the waves, it may smooth out the ride in some measure. However, until we address the lie-based belief that we harbor, we remain in a perpetual cycle of being triggered and miserable. We may successfully calm the immediate storm, but there are many more headed our way. So we either need to attend to what we believe or buckle down the hatches and try to ride it out over and again.

We must never forget (or deny) the fact that the storm is not the cause of our feelings. We may dodge a storm now and then, but it is certain that we cannot run or escape from our belief.  Wherever we go, it is there when we arrive. People often try and run away from what they perceive are their problems, only to discover that when they arrive at their new destination, their problems are there too. No matter where we go, we are there, and we carry our belief within us. In every issue, conflict, problem and trouble that I have ever encountered there is the same common denominator — me.

No matter what relationship or situation we are in, what job we hold, something or someone will eventually touch our lie-based belief and trigger our pain. Unless we can separate the person or situation from our pain and rightly identify its cause, we will never find freedom.


Strive to Enter Into Rest

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “…strive to enter into that rest….” (Heb. 4:11 ESV) that Jesus offers. This sounds a little strange, that we would need to strive in order to rest. The truth is, it takes much striving and effort on our part to choose to stop blaming others for our troubles, our circumstance and emotional pain, and for us to take ownership for what is ours: what we believe and feel. Until we do, we are in emotional bondage with no way out. Jesus knew the truth and was a sleep in the stern of the boat. He invites us to rest along side of Him.

The striving referred to in Hebrews is not about trying harder to believe the truth or to perform it. Striving to believe the truth will benefit me nothing and the ultimate outcome of spiritual performance is failure. The truth that my heart needs is only granted by God. I cannot know it myself other than with my mind. He will happily supply His truth to my heart when I am in a position to receive it.  Therefore, I have to bring out into the open what I believe in my heart, so that I can make this exchange.

Until I understand these principles, I will probably blame my circumstances, the people around me, my past, or even the devil for what I feel. I may strive to resolve these “issues,” but I will likely end up denying my emotion, avoiding the triggers, self-medicating my pain (eating when not hungry, alcohol, sexual gratification, spiritual performance, etc.)

The fact remains, my emotions are produced by my core belief. Taking ownership for what is mine is the first step toward lasting freedom. I don’t need anyone to rescue me from anything: that includes being blocked, stuck, emotionally shut down, held captive by the devil, or anything else. I simply need to identify what I believe, which is causing me to feel what I feel. Then I can exchange the lies I believe for the truth that God wants me to KNOW.

Learn More About Triggers:

Becoming aware of Our Triggers  – Part 1
Identifying Your Triggers  – Part 2