Triggering is a (typically) subconscious, spontaneous reaction to some sort of stimulus (stimuli).
The reaction is usually out of proportion to the trigger, and can include: fear, anger, rage, sadness, panic, flashbacks, pain, emotional disconnect, self pity, etc. When triggered, we switch to our “fight or flight” response, or self preservation mode of thinking.
The person suffering from addiction typically responds by attempting to avoid the rising pain, and seeks comfort or reward.
What triggers us is not always obvious. Typically, there are two triggers: The first trigger touches us deeply, but we bravely set it aside. However, it still festers in us, so that when there is a second trigger (however minor), it pushes us over the edge.
Trigger #1: I argue with a friend, and I lose the argument. I feel bad, but I tell myself that I am OK. Maybe there is some self-talk, but I’m OK!
Trigger #2: The next day, I work all day and I feel tired. I feel overworked or taken advantage of. So I “need” comfort or deserve a reward. So I indulge in my addiction. (The turmoil from the previous day’s argument was slowly burning within me, making me more vulnerable.)
Neither trigger #1 nor #2 is painful enough to push me into my addiction, but the combination of the two is enough.
When you have unresolved trauma, you live with that constant weight (or shadow), and are far more susceptible to being triggered. It’s as if Trigger #1 has always just happened.
- Keep a journal and track your day-to-day experiences.
- When triggered into indulging in your addiction, review what was happening in the hours and days before the trigger occurred. Look for patterns, so you can identify your triggers.
- When you are going into a situation that is likely to trigger you, pray that you will be safe or insulated from the trigger. Being aware of your triggers will rob them of their power over you.
- In the long term, make peace with, and seek healing for, your triggers. Understand that the trigger is not the problem. The trigger is a symptom of something deeper.
When triggered, pray:
- Jesus, what is the lie I am believing?
Identify the lie.
- Jesus, what is the truth?
Proclaim the truth out loud.
- I reject the lie (the lie from above) and I proclaim the truth (the truth the Lord revealed).
Thank you, Lord, for your love and healing.
Simple Spiritual Diaphragmatic Breathing is another method that may help pull us back from the edge, once we are triggered.
It is very difficult to avoid trigger behaviour / addictive behaviour, once we are triggered. The trigger behaviour itself alters the way our brains function. Once triggered, we step into behaviours that we would simply avoid when not triggered. Our ultimate freedom comes from doing the (often hard) work of healing. The best results we see are empowered through Jesus.