Our relationships can inspire the best in us and also trigger our most painful wounds. We’re not necessarily doing anything wrong when these triggers happen because in a lot of ways it is actually to be expected.
One of the most interesting things to observe when starting out on the healing journey is that our subconscious attracts us to people, situations, and circumstances that will either validate or heal past trauma. It can be thought of as the mind is trying to seek reconciliation, healing, or catharsis and so is creating opportunities for us to respond to a triggering situation in a new way. In this sense then, our partner is our greatest mirror in those triggered moments because they are revealing something to us that we haven’t resolved from our past.
Seeing Triggers as Healing Invitations
In order to heal past trauma, we have to first see our current triggers as opportunities to heal and look inward rather than continue to validate the past hurt. The immediate reaction of the mind in triggering moments is to project the discomfort of the trigger onto something outside of us, such as our partner or the circumstances. For example, “you are making me anxious,” or “these bills are making me anxious.” Instead of letting this auto-pilot reaction keep us stuck, we have to acknowledge the actual source of where the discomfort of the trigger is coming from—within us.
So instead, we view it as, “anxiety is arising within me,” or “I am experiencing anxiety.” This is an imperative distinction because we can’t make any progress so long as the source of the discomfort can be blamed and projected as coming from outside of us—most commonly our partner. Whatever triggered our hurt is serving as a mirror reminding us of our past trauma, which is why it hurts, but the deeper suffering is the story attached to that particular trigger.
With this distinction made and our gaze turned within, we can now ask ourselves things like:
What is the story my mind is telling me about this person or situation?
What value am I giving to this person or situation?
What belief or perspective is creating this discomfort?
How am I viewing this situation?
What do I believe is happening right now?
When we inquire into the nature of our suffering and become curious of its origins, we have officially embarked on our hero’s journey of inner work. Our partner can help us explore these questions and help us get clear on the answers. With this approach, we can finally feel empowered to heal the actual root of our trauma rather than just continuing to let the mind project or mask our hurt and suffering.
Getting to the Root Instead of Trimming the Leaves
As we examine the origin of our suffering, it will always be caused by a certain perspective of ourselves or our life and is revealing what we like to call a root program belief. Some common examples attached to traumas are:
I’m not enough
I’m wrong or broken
I can’t handle this
I always lose
It will never get better for me
These hurtful beliefs about ourselves that get brought to the surface during a triggered moment are the actual source of our suffering that accompanies trauma and can continue to hurt us even years later until we do our inner work to release them.
Accidental Attachment to a False Identity
When we go through traumatic and painful experiences, our subconscious absorbs the energy of the experience and naively identifies with the pain of the experience as, “This must be who I am, what I deserve, or what to expect.” It automatically does this because the subconscious is always trying to form and maintain an ego identity of who it thinks we are and what to expect for our future based on our past life experiences. The evolutionary advantage of this was to help us survive and predict possible future threats.
However, because of this automatic identification and prediction process, our mind falsely attaches our identity to our traumatic experiences as somehow defining who we are rather than something painful we went through—there is a massive difference. So instead of seeing the wrongness or violation of the traumatic experience while maintaining our innocence as lovable, whole, and safe, the mind abandons our innocence and thinks, “I am this experience; this is what I should expect.” So, if the experience is painful the mind will accidentally assume, “I must be wrong or not lovable,” instead of, “This experience is wrong and hurtful—but has nothing to do with my worth, identity, or value.”
Opening the Door to Heal Past Trauma
To get this far in our self-reflection is already monumental progress in taking our power back and is the most challenging part to observe. Having our partner to help support us through this uncovering process is incredibly helpful because they can see things that we might not be able to and more easily remind us of the truth that we are loved, safe, and worthy of happiness. Which brings us to the final step.
Now that we have separated from our false identity that is attached to the original trauma and found the origin of these hurtful beliefs about ourselves, we can explore questions such as, “Who am I truly if I were to let these negative perspectives of myself go?” In other words, “Who am I really if I stopped believing I am not enough? How would I like to see the world? How would I like to view myself and my life? Who do I want to be, and how do I actually want to live?”
For the first time in our lives perhaps, we get to consciously choose who we are and how we want to view ourselves, whereas before we were only seeing ourselves and our lives through the biased lens of the trauma. With our power to choose restored, we can break free from the hypnosis of the mind’s false identification by seeing ourselves as we really are—innocent, loved, worthy, capable, empowered, etc.
The view of us that our partner fell deeply in love with and can best help us remember.