Triggers…Who’s Really Pulling Yours?

  “Ideas pull the trigger, but instinct loads the gun.”

Don Marquis

I’ve reflected on the last few years and my reactions to people and events..how many times they have been exaggerated and unpredictable.  At times totally out of context to the situation at hand.

Triggers consist of thoughts, feelings and events that seem to “trigger” an automatic response from us.  The word “trigger” is important here because our reaction occurs automatically.  It might seem as if the reaction is involuntary but the truth is…this reaction, like everything else, is a choice.  Learning to identify our personal emotional triggers is the first step to taking control over how we choose to respond.

Living as adoptees, adults of abuse or rape is especially challenging.  Not only for ourselves but for those around us who take the brunt of our reactions.  I’ve been told it’s like walking on land mines or on eggshells never knowing what “trigger” might be stepped on and the fragile shell come crashing down.

When I was first in “reunion” I was so triggered I was someone I had no experience with, a stranger.  I had no control over my tears, my body, my thoughts, my grief….nothing.  For someone who had been so tightly held together for decades every emotion exploded at once.  The grief, the deep..deep sadness was almost unbearable, yet no one, could understand, as everyone around me, had their mother.  Added in to the mix was that my Mast Cells were heading over the abyss in to Hell and I didn’t recognize, nor did anyone else, the physical aspect to my crash and burn.

Until we know how to correctly identify our triggers they will continue to rule our emotions.  It’s an ongoing process of learning for all of us.  The strengths that have helped us succeed are also our most significant triggers.  If you feel someone is not honouring that strength, emotions are triggered and in an instant we react.  Perhaps with anger or fear. Of course we immediately rationalize it so it makes sense.

The Key is to catch yourself reacting when your emotions are triggered.

If you can do that..you may discover the threat isn’t real at all.  Some of the most common emotional triggers, meaning that you react when you feel as though you aren’t getting or will not get one of these things that are important to you are in this group.

being included, acceptance, respect, be liked, be valued, be understood, be needed, be right, be in control, be treated fairly, loved, attention, 

Each of us has some that are more important that others.  Others may hold no emotional charge at all.  This list can be quite long and personal.  Having these needs isn’t a bad thing.  At some point in your life they served or saved you.  The thing is, we may become attached to these needs and when that happens your brain will be on the lookout for circumstances that threaten our ability to have these needs met.  At that point your needs become emotional triggers.

I can only speak from my place, where I sit now, in reflection of my past triggers and pain.  There was a time at the beginning of my reunion I was constantly in a flare.  A flare of Mastocytosis…yes…which plays havoc with my brain but also a place of such pain that the slightest threat to those above needs sent me into protection mode.  Especially, as I mentioned for those who have lived in the adoptee world or world of abuse where we needed to protect ourselves.  I grew up in the era where children were meant to be seen and not heard.  I had no voice in anything.  I had no say in even finding out who I really was, no rights, no love, no validation that I was meant to be on this earth.  I was abandoned at birth, abused and used.  Why wouldn’t I be filled with pain!

Remember when Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth exploded into the world?  It was all about Oprah and Eckhart then.  The online event that captured the world. Millions were brought together through Skype and cyber magic to work through this amazing book together with Eckhart Tolle and Oprah.

I remember the exact moment when I “got it”.  As many buddhist teachings I had been to when I heard the teaching put in a different way… I got it.

The Pain Body

I was going through a particularly difficult time.  My daughter had moved back to Toronto and my heart was broken….enter the pain body.  Huge trigger…abandonment, being loved, being needed, respected and heard.  You name it and IT was triggered.  There were also times in conversation I just lost it.  Pain body took control.  I didn’t see it at the time.  Again, mastocytosis and torn rotator cuff along with dislocated jaw disc created the feeding ground and the pain body gobbled it up and emerged the strongest.

When we have old emotional pain living inside us, as adoptees do, it’s called your Pain Body

This applies of course to anyone but I am speaking as an adoptee and survivor of abuse/rapes.  The pain body is an accumulation of painful life experiences that were not fully faced and accepted at the time.  It leaves behind an energy form of emotional pain and grows with time and experiences all energetic old emotion.

Pain body is the aspect of egoic consciousness.  When the ego is blown up by emotion of the pain body it gains tremendous strength,  taking over the situation.

The challenge is to recognize the pain body when it becomes active, when something triggers the strong emotional reaction.  At that moment, if it takes over your thoughts, the internal dialogue, which is dysfunctional at the best of times becomes the voice.  The actual event is coloured by old, painful buried emotion distorting everything.

For me, living alone gave my pain body the perfect feeding ground.  It gobbled up every negative thought, every painful moment and gained momentum and energy.  You know those times when you can’t sleep and the thoughts won’t shut off or you sit, thinking for hours about a specific hurt..The pain body thrives on those times.  It literally is eating you alive…just waiting for the next time it can emerge after a trigger.

Imagine then, if you are with someone who also has an unidentified pain body!  The ego/pain body loves other people, especially those who jump in and take part in the chaos of negativity.  It even pokes those people to trigger the response it needs to grow.  Of course, if you aren’t present in that moment and aware, you will immediately react….and now, there are two pain bodies feeding off of each other and loving the drama!

I started recognizing my own pain body and it then becomes so clear.  We carry so much unacknowledged pain even from generations past.  The challenge is, of course to acknowledge and recognize our triggers and where they originated.  A huge part of that is  being present.  Being able to step outside of ourselves and see clearly when the pain body is attempting take over.  Not an easy task but the more practice, the more awareness we have..the easier it gets and the pain body loses energy and power.

When you notice that you are emotionally reacting you have to shift your emotional state to think through what your trigger might be.

Relax…breath and release the tension in your body

Detach…clear your mind of all thoughts

Center…drop your awareness to the centre of your body, feel your breath

Focus…find one word that represents who you want to be or feel in this moment

Once you shift your emotional state, you are free to check if someone is actually taking something away from you or not.  You can then ask for what you need or let it go and move on.  Keep breathing and thinking of your keyword and you will deflate your pain body, your triggers and your patterns.

Freedom does exist

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Does it Ever End?

I’m feeling conflicted as I write.  So much in the adoptee world this week about adoptive parents killing their adopted children, keeping them in basements to abuse, selling them on the market for sex, and then, “rehoming them” when they get tired of the responsibility or have outlived their use.

After writing the review for The Declassified Adoptee’s book “Essays of an Adoption Activist” I felt the increasing need to be fighting for change in how the adoption system  works.  The conflict comes, for me, in my own physical ability to do just that, energy wise, because of being ill with Systemic Mast Cell Disease, then I realized that I am, in my own way, fighting as hard as I can by writing Finding Heart Horse and The Wall of Secrets  and putting my words, my life, my trauma out in the world for all to see.  It is because of adoption and abuse that I entered in to such a world of trauma.

My heart breaks reading about the last few little babes who were killed and how helpless they were to do anything, say anything.  We have to be their voices.  We can’t be silent any longer.  Each one of us must find our own unique way to advocate for change, foster education, end violence and abuse in the system.

I will be speaking with kids at Covenant House, street kids, adopted kids..kids like i was at age 15.  This will be my activism, practicing compassion, listening to stories and sharing hope.

Taking Wing

This photo by Robin Toma was taken in Vancouver, Downtown Eastside.  A place where I once roamed for a brief time after hitchhiking out west as a young teen.

TAKING WING

For those of us who have taken the journey of search and reunion know that what is lost can be found, but never fully recovered.

Most of us at one time hoped that we would experience a recovery of sorts, find a family, be part of, at last belong, be loved.  What we were seeking may return in many forms but never  the shape of  what might have been.

I’m sure the integration process is ever quite complete, never quite finished, never whole.  We may feel more grounded because we now know our story, or part of, but our lifetime will be spent grabbing onto brief flashes of insight that fly by with the wings on the wind.

Each  flash brings with it tears, grief, loss, sadness.  While reading  this past weeks news in adoption land I was overcome with a wash of sadness and compassion for all of us, for little Hyun-su and those who are still encased in the system

The Buddha taught that a person needs to develop two qualities: wisdom and compassion.  These two qualities work together like wings allowing us to fly or two eyes, allowing us to see deeply.

 Those of us who grew up without love, without a mother, or those stifled by abuse, rapes or violence find it extremely difficult to love ourselves.  Adoptees suffer from the primal wound and of course, if your own mother didn’t want you or love you….  How could you possible love yourself.

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In this picture I was just a bit younger than the latest victim of adoption violence..Hyun-su.  His death twisted my guts in a knot and I felt ill, chills ran down my spine.  Even now when I look at my picture above I get the chills. It could have been me.  I have that blank stare, the detachment, the clenched fist.   Adoptees feel a visceral response to  an others pain.

 Why then is it so difficult to have compassion for ourselves, for our inner child that suffered just like Hyun-su.

It never ends…

It’s important we all work on our own self compassion first.  For many of us that means going back to that frozen place.  That place of abandonment where the other self waits, in tears,  yearning for his/her mother to soothe and love.

  It’s a must if we want to heal and be able to offer our compassion to others.  It all goes back to our deep-seated belief systems and our belief that we are separate from each other, from the universe.  We aren’t ..we are part of…If you hurt, I hurt.  Collectively we all hurt.  If we start being kind to ourselves, speaking with compassion and tenderness to ourselves and others, the world will indeed change.

A subtle form of Activism yet so powerful

Self-Compassion means to be fully aware and to fully BE with yourself in a deeply aware and non-judging way.  As I was writing these last 8 years I have had to relive that little girls pain of the primal wound, the teens pain of rape, the adults pain of not belonging, of not knowing love.  I had to sit with myself with care and concern, solitude, sensitivity, tenderness, acceptance, kindness.

I was terrified. It was so difficult to do.  I shed many tears just holding myself in that place that was so full of pain.  To see myself from a place of non-judgment and feel the pain without covering it up or trying to fix it has been the most difficult journey of all.

 It never ends.

At the core of every wound is a belief that we are not worthy of love.  It’s a belief. Ask yourself if it’s true.   Look at that little girl above.  Is she not worthy of being loved.  Absolutely.  It’s a belief, a belief only I can change or you can change. Self compassion=change.  We have the ability to change beliefs once we recognize they just aren’t true.

We all have our triggers.  As described in A New Earth, our pain body carries our triggers.  Any circumstance that triggers emotional pain is an opportunity to practice self compassion and sit with ourselves in tenderness on a deep level.  If we sit long enough, dig deep enough we find the core shame that is buried in the rubble of beliefs.  It’s an opportunity to heal…use it.

Accepting the circumstances surrounding our triggers is needed to move forward.  All the should have’s, would have’s, why me’s, are a waste of energy.

 It happened.

Ultimately, we are responsible for everything that we’re feeling, thinking, saying, or doing..not the other person.

No, it never ends, but we can make this world a better place by telling our stories with compassion and grace.  One by one.. we are doing just that.  There is a shift happening, not only with our adoption system but with the world and it starts with you, with your own self compassion.

It never ends…but it gets better..Find your Wings

Generational Pain – Breaking the Cycle

As I research all things connected to my life journey, such as adoption, PTSD, rape, self-worth, loss..well you know where it’s all going.  The list is long, very long for all of us.  One thing we never think about..in our thinking of our own pain is that we carry generational pain.

When I wrote the last post “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” I wanted to continue in posting how much our thoughts affect all aspects of self, physical, emotional, day-to-day function and more.

We are easily carried away by some overwhelming feeling in any given moment I just want to remind you to see that as an alarm clock of awakening to the idea, that you hooked.  Picture the fishing hook and know you are hooked into believing the thought.  It’s not real.  You are living in a story that doesn’t belong to you if you feel depressed, fearful, unworthy, unlovable.

Before you had that particular thought…were you suffering?  You have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really true.  If you were to hold your hand over a candle…do you wait for a thought to tell you to move it?  No, of course not.  It’s automatic.  The same thing will happen if you ask each time you are suffering because of some thought.  Practice and soon it becomes automatic.

ImageALICE AND CLAIRE HITCHON

Ok, so they are my adoptive family but when I think how much pressure i felt as a child to live up to my namesake I shudder.  She was the first female principal of a High School.  Huge for Women’s Rights back in the day.  While I was not genetically related I experienced generational pain just from being subjected to the daily brainwashing.

When we can think past our own ego and momentary thoughts and reflect on  Generational Pain it creates a gap between ego and others.  Eckhart Tolle explains it in a concrete way in A New Earth when he speaks about “our Pain Body”.  I would encourage anyone suffering with pain to read his description of how we accumulate generations of pain in our body’s and with the least little trigger we explode, experiencing what we think is our pain but is in fact, negative, painful experiences handed down for generations.

Our minds and our bodies contain the blueprint of our heritage.  In Buddhism, the belief is, that seven generations of our ancestors unfinished business is still alive in our cells.  Can you imagine?  Seven generations!  That’s a lot of pain considering the earlier generations weren’t so “into” healing and self work.

This pain is cellular, alive, jumping at the chance to be triggered and allowed to  take over and inhabit our souls, while we sit there, thinking it ours to bear.  If we don’t acknowledge it objectively, it may lead us to fates that do not belong to us.  For years we suffer confusion, anxiety, depression and pass it on unknowingly to the next generation.

For those of us who are dealing with Adoption Trauma, PTSD from rapes, abuse, violence, loss,  the impact is monumental.

It’s not just in Buddhism that this belief stands strong but in Native American, First Nations, African traditions and general psychology beliefs, so it’s time we gave this some serious thought and start breaking the cycles of our past.

 When things are not going right in our immediate life, we need to look deeply at the unmet needs of the past generations and it’s only when we are able to find and shine a light on the pain legacies we’ve been hauling around that we can become free and break the cycle.  Can you think for a moment on the burden you’ve been carrying deep in your bones, in your cells of your nervous system that has survived generations…until you uncover the truths.

When I gave birth to my daughter was the moment I experienced full on, the pain my Birth Mother must have felt as “they” disappeared with her first-born.  Her never having seen me, held me, named me.  Her pain was mine now to carry in that instant.  It was so profoundly clear it rattled me for days.  I couldn’t bear to not have my daughter in my sight and back then, babies were kept in the nursery.  She had to undergo light treatment for jaundice and I parked a chair outside the window and refused to move, much to the nurses angst.  When she cried, I cried.  It broke my heart wide open every time they took her from my arms to return her to the room full of babies.  I thought a great deal about the woman who gave birth to me.  I cried for her a million tears and a piece of my heart became hers because I now understood.

Later, I learned that her father had died when she was a child.  More pain, not just for her but for her mother as well.  The pain, the shame, the raw emotion of everything negative was now mine to carry.  I vowed to break the cycle so my daughter won’t have to carry this burden of suffering.  It’s not easy, as you know because  it’s at a cellular level and needs deep insight and work to unravel the threads of suffering and heal them.

The amazing thing is..

If we do the work.  If we can step outside of ourselves long enough to really see our suffering for what it is.  If we can challenge the beliefs behind our thoughts…If we can honour the unresolved pain legacies of our ancestors instead of viewing with anger..

We can put to rest what is already behind us.  We can break free from the strong arms of the loyalty to suffering and become free.

 Our bodies, our minds will be free, powerful, creative.

 The cycle will be broken.