Triggers: What's Your Strategy

Post infidelity, I found myself in a new world filled with all sorts of triggers. Not only would reminders from my marriage and husband trigger me, but I was also triggered by reminders of my AP.

One notable occasion was a breakdown at a diner. The waitress asked, "what type of toast would you like? We have white, wheat, rye, and sourdough." Sourdough bread. Did she just mention sourdough bread? Memories related to sourdough bread rush to the forefront of my mind. Immediately, I'm cascading down a shame and grief spiral and can no longer hear what the waitress is saying, let alone respond. My mood instantly turns dark, and I am flooded with negative thoughts. I'm quickly reminded of the tumultuous ocean my life has become since D-Day; the pain so great that I'm unsure how to continue to bear it.

Hoping she doesn't notice my complete descent into misery, I squeak out, "Wheat toast is fine."

Whether a spouse that's been betrayed or one that's been unfaithful, you've likely found that you may be dealing with a host of new triggers. These triggers can be extremely disrupting to your emotions and mindset. However, unless you plan to hide in a bunker the rest of your days, it's unlikely you will be able to avoid all the people, places, or things that might trigger you regarding an affair. To progress down our path of healing, we must learn to deal with the triggers. So, what's your strategy?

It's critical to realize that we can only control so much. Within our span of control is our reaction to things. We won't be able to control encountering triggers, so we must control what we're able. Michael Singer is a spiritual thought leader who focuses much of his work on this topic. Regarding my situation with sourdough bread, Michael would say:

Sourdough bread is not bothering you. You are choosing to be bothered by sourdough bread.

Choosing? No one would choose to experience triggers! I'm not some type of masochist!

When we take a deeper look though, we can understand the sage wisdom Michael is trying to impart. Triggers will not stop coming up. We can control them about as easily as we can control the sun rising daily. We need to learn to manage through them when they come up. The onus is on us. If we ever want to heal, we will have to deal.

I went to a yoga class tonight and the instructor kept advising us to "surrender," and "let go." In the context of yoga, poses naturally come easier when you calm your mind and relax your body. However, this guidance can be helpful when dealing with triggers as well. When you encounter something that triggers you, take a moment to pause and assess what is happening. Acknowledge that you've been triggered and offer yourself grace. Then, you can practice letting go. Figure out a methodology that speaks to you, such as breathwork, prayer, or mantra. Try to view the situation as rationally as you're able and surrender the situation to God or the universe. Understand that the emotional response is fully within you and within your control and you can choose how you handle it.

Strategy for handling triggers:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge that you've been triggered.
  2. Take a moment to give yourself compassion.
    1. Try saying to yourself, "I realize that I'm experiencing a trigger and it's quite challenging for me. This is hard, but I am strong and can work through it."
  3. Choose a "letting go" practice.
    1. Breathwork (i.e., inhale to a count of 3, hold at the top, exhale to a count of 4).
    2. Prayer (take some time to conversate with God)
    3. Mantra (choose a phrase that resonates with you; for instance, "God loves me, and I am always fine.")
  4. Step back into your day, attempting to focus on the positive and surrendering the ruminating thoughts to God.

I recognize that this advice is easier said than done, which is why I say you can PRACTICE letting go! It won't happen overnight, and it won't be easy. But, in time, if you continue to approach your triggers this way, you will cultivate a strong level of self-awareness and maintain your sense of peace, no matter what the day throws at you. These days, I can confidently order my toast without even batting an eye.

To our healing,

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