Am I Still Not Over This? – What to Keep in Mind when Faced with Old Triggers

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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When you are doing emotional work, when you work on trauma’s or limiting thoughts/ beliefs/ behaviors, it can feel very rewarding. You get a lot of insight into your own quirks and see what choices you have apart from your automatic learned responses. You start to see how your life could become very different from the way it’s been up to now. You finally perceive some of your biggest pitfalls and are able to grant yourself the grace of compassionate boundaries. It’s wonderful!

And then, something happens, perhaps something really small, and it seems as if you’re thrown back to point zero. You see yourself responding in the same way you always did. You notice yourself thinking thoughts you promised you would let go of. You find yourself confronted with emotions you had decided were no longer helpful. It’s as if all that work you’ve gone through, is for nothing.

It would be alright if this happened once. But for many of us, this is a pattern. Growing as a person is not a linear process. It goes in waves, with hiccups, obstacles and fall-backs. This can be, you guessed it, extremely frustrating.

Let me offer you some comfort by first telling you that going through the process this way, two steps forward one step back (sometimes three steps back), is very very very normal. It’s not fun, no, but it’s the norm.
Secondly, it helps to remind yourself that changing patterns that you’ve held for years, or even decades, will take some time. Sure, there are insights which can create a sudden, major shift in our perception, but even then, life-long triggers are often not dearmoured in the blink of an eye.

I like the analogy of chipping away at a piece of rock of whatever size your trauma or ingrained pattern might be. Every time I do some work on this particular issue, I chip away a little piece of it. It’s hardly noticeable, because the pieces are so small, but with time, as more chips fall off, there will be changes.

You don’t really notice these changes as you go along. You don’t really realize it might take you a second longer to start criticizing yourself. Or that you didn’t get angry that one time, though you still did all those other times. Or that you didn’t eat the last few cookies in the box, even if you did eat most of it.
Yet, when you take a moment to look back and see where you were a few months ago, a year ago, a few years back… you suddenly see the shift you’ve already made. You notice that some things have already become easier. Perhaps you can talk about your past more than you did before. Maybe you are getting more things done than you did last year. You see you’ve finally started mending that broken relationship when it wasn’t even on your mind 10 years ago. Reading old diaries can be a great way to dive into this, and a real boost to your emotional growth mindset.

These are the things I tell myself when I’ve, again, let my house return to chaos. Or when I find myself pulling away from my partner out of fear of commitment. Or when I lash out at my children because I’m stressed. All those things still happen way more than I’d like them to, and at times I feel like I’m not making any progress at all. But when I look back, know it takes time and focus on taking off one piece at a time, I know I’m moving forward, and I’m grateful for the progress I’ve made.

I hope you are, too!

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