woman in sun


By Dana Gornall

“You have to die a few times before you can really live.” ~ Charles Bukowski

There is a color that brings forth a flood of feelings, pictures and even—a taste that seems to originate from the depths of my throat.

It’s hard to describe. The images and sensations evoked are vague, like glass that has been fogged over with a warm breath, leaving all of the edges and colors blending into one another. I can’t place where this color resides in my mind or why it suddenly triggers a jolt through my being, but it is there.

We all have them—triggers.

Some are as clear and glaring as newly cleaned glass while others seem to be just beyond reach, causing a reaction before one has given any thought to words that are said and eliciting a response sometimes so guttural it comes as a complete surprise.

We’ve seen it posted in articles and pictures, {Trigger Warning}.

They are caution signs warning the viewer to tread carefully ahead, lest be triggered.

I’ve felt it happen myself. Usually the aftershock is what gets me. Why did I respond in such a way to that statement or remark? Why am I so damn sensitive? Chalking it all up to an overly large heart worn a bit too often on my sleeve, I’ve often let it go. But the truth is that triggers are there and they leave physical fingerprints on our brains.

But there is good news. We can work with them.

Triggers can be uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. We don’t want to get to the bottom of them because the bottom is a place we really don’t want to be. There is a reason we often bury these thoughts so deeply that they only bring up unclear images and feelings like a glass that has been fogged over.

In reality, we form memories by encoding the information. We do this through all of our five senses and then we attach a meaning to it. This helps later retrieve those experiences and we use this process for human survival. We remember that the stove is hot when turned on and therefore, we avoid placing our hands on it, right? The thing is that the brain is so much more complex than that and memories shift, new stories become written over old ones and others get dropped so far down into the abyss that they become lost.

Except Dr. Rick Hanson explains in Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, that our brains tend to store negative experiences at a higher rate than good experiences. So what do we do when a memory is pressed so deeply into our minds that an idea, a thought, a picture, a person or even an article, triggers the pain all over again?

It’s in the triggering—and in the response that happened after triggering—that uncovers pieces of ourselves that need healing.

As humans we naturally lean toward the light part of life. Love, happiness, sunshine, smiles, lollipops, unicorns and daisies all bring about an air of weightlessness, and we gravitate toward it, especially in times of heaviness. And this is good, because we need balance. Shadows come from light.

But seeking out the reasons for triggers—the reasons for why we respond in the way that we do or why certain colors or comments bring about a visceral pushing back—the defense—breaks apart the strings we have tied to it in the first place.

Guru is a term often used but not often understood. A Sanskrit word, referring to a teacher or master, comes with a host of idealized connotations and connections, depending on one’s experience and background.

What is a guru? The origin of the word comes from gu, meaning darkness or shadows, and ru, disperser of light.

In searching through the shaded parts of ourselves and why we do what we do, in letting ourselves feel the discomfort and uneasiness that comes with being triggered, we are in essence our own gurus—our own dispersers of light.

While the initial knee-jerk reaction can be difficult to control, coming back to it, thinking about and accepting it is a way to begin poking holes in the clouded bubble that seems to surround us when we are in that place of triggering.

This is when we sit and become mindful. This is when we come back to that person we responded so quickly to, and apologize. This is when we pare back all of the layers and look for why it hurts—the root of the trigger. We break it piece by piece finding meaning to it, such as a lesson to be learned or a shape of a puzzle that has shaped us into who we are today.

Sitting with all of the shadowy places, letting ourselves feel the all of the sharp edges of discomfort, we disperse the light.

And it is here where we heal.

So, trigger me. 


Photo: e-ngram/tumblr

Editor: Ty H Phillips



Follow here