Have you ever had a cut on your finger that you had forgotten entirely about?
That is, until you wash your hands and get that nasty zing and that stark realization that the cut is not quite as healed as you had previously thought.
This is what is happening in our energetic bodies when we experience triggering.
There is a wound that is unhealed that becomes activated by some external force.
As with the cut, it is not the water or the external environment that was the root cause of the triggering we experienced.
The triggering was only exacerbating a pre-existing pain that we have not yet healed and released.
Triggering is natural and is bringing our awareness to where work is still needed.
It is an invitation to deeper growth and healing.
Being in conflict can often feel like walking through a minefield of hidden trigger bombs.
Often when we feel triggered, particularly in conflict, it is can feel borderline impossible for us to continue on consciously.
Especially if it is not something we have practiced and become familiar with and this can bring on a lot of feelings of shame and guilt.
Should we choose to work through our conflicts and triggers to create greater harmony in our relationships? Yes!
However, there comes a point where everything external needs to be put on pause – and this point occurs when one or both people have begun to become emotionally overloaded and start to feel unsafe.
This is particularly crucial when the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze, fawn) has been activated.
So what can we do to get back to a state of feeling safety and security within ourselves and the relationship container?
Here is my 7 Step Process for Creating Safety When Feeling Triggered:
1. Communicate with the person that you are feeling triggered and unsafe.
Bringing awareness to this state of feeling unsafe and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system is the first part of drawing the shadow into the light of consciousness.
The caveat for this is that if the situation is actually physically or psychologically unsafe you may want to remove yourself from the situation.
If you feel like the other person involved does not have the awareness to understand you may need to just make a mental note of this to yourself.
2. Hold space for the experience that comes with the triggering of this unhealed wound.
If the person who triggered this unhealed wound is in a space to hold space for you and you feel safe doing so, ask them to do so.
Or if the other person is unable or unwilling to hold space due to their own emotional activation or triggering, or you don’t feel safe asking them to do so, take space to do this for yourself.
If you need additional support – ask a trusted, neutral party to hold space for you to process the experience.
3. Identify which emotions are coming up that are creating this feeling of not being safe.
A lot of times the emotions that arise are fear, shame, anger, and unresolved pain.
Notice what core wound these emotions are stemming from.
An easy way to do this is to ask ourselves what the current triggering experience is reminding us of from our past, particularly childhood.
4. Breathe and become aware of the presence of these emotions in your body.
Allow yourself to experience your emotions without becoming identified or attached to them – this will take practice!
Breathe deeply into the areas of tension and allow your body to reset emotionally.
When we breathe deeply and mindfully, we are soothing the physiological response that happens when we are emotionally activated.
5. Affirm to yourself that everything you are feeling is valid and have a reassuring conversation with yourself.
An example of a conversation you may have with yourself to comfort yourself is – “Hey I know you’re feeling very unsafe right now because of this current situation reminding you of x previous situation and that’s very understandable given x, y, z. What can we do to make you feel safe right now?”
Listen deeply to the part of you that feels unsafe and why they feel unsafe how ever “illogical” your thinking mind may think it is, listen with compassion and non judgement and accept them.
If you have a history of people invalidating your emotions, particularly during childhood, tell yourself whatever you needed to hear in the past to validate your experience.
6. Do something that makes you feel more physically safe in your body and commit to experiencing this mindfully for a length of time.
Choose something that feels good and healing for you as a unique individual with your one-of-a-kind history.
Try to engage all 5 senses – this will help you to come into your body and back into the present moment.
Some things you can do to induce a physically safe environment in your body are ask for a hug, wrap yourself up in a blanket, take a bath, make a cup of tea, go for a walk, light a candle, listen to music.
7. Once you have created an environment that nurtures safety and allowed yourself to come back to your emotional baseline or homeostasis, let others know what they can do to support you in creating safety.
This may include:
- Setting a boundary around taking time and space for yourself during conflict and returning to the conflict afterwards.
- A request for others to offer reassuring and supportive statements that are helpful to you.
- An invitation to do breath work or meditation together.
- Allowing someone to make that tea for you or drawing you a bath or bringing you a blanket.
When you’ve experienced trauma around relationships and conflict in the past (and here’s a secret – we all have), it can feel daunting to work through these challenges without getting overwhelmed to the perceived monumental size of the task.
The more these tools are practiced, the more they will become second nature.
It will take time, Beloved.
Be gentle and kind with yourself along the journey.