‘Tis the Season for Holiday Triggers.
We all have them, to some degree or another! We tend to look at them as a detriment, or maybe we even condemn ourselves for responding with anger or tears.
Well, I am here to say, these kind of triggers actually come with great benefits. And, I hope to help you look at them in a different way.
Don’t get me wrong. I know firsthand that triggers at family gatherings can be like a flambeaux that scorches us to the core.
You know, the uncle who always makes a comment about how you look. Too skinny. Too fat. Too plain. Too made up. (Insecurity. Shame. Jealousy. Envy.) Never just right, in their eyes.
The aunt who challenges every morsel that touches your lips. (Guilt. More shame) You’ll never be fit enough. Good enough. Whatever enough!
Conflict between family members. (Anxiety. Fear.) Hurt people hurting more people because wounds beget more wounds.
This battle is real.
Someone gets a beautiful sweater and you get toe socks up to your knees. (Rejection. Feeling less than.)
You are the one cooking or cleaning while everyone else watches TV, plays games or goes to ski. (Taken for granted. Taken advantage of.)
Will your family dynamics ever change?
Some people do change. And, we must allow them the space to reveal that to us. However, if our wounds are left in the hands of others, we’ll likely continue to fulfill our role as the “reactor,” giving the “trigger” more energy to burn.
We can merely avoid these gatherings, where many stabs originate, but we’ll merely respond the same with different people in a similar scene, if left unchecked.
Until you recognize them for what they are?
Red flags for your own unhealed wounds.
A few years ago, I arrived back “home” from Africa after months of mission work, knowing that where I headed would be hard.
I’d been mostly gone from my home state for well over a decade, living 2000 miles from my family triggers. But, when I returned back to the USA from Swaziland, God let me know where He wanted me.
Face your family wounds, let Me heal them, and you will be able to walk in peace amid the darkest times that come.
The thought of this a year earlier made my stomach do flips, my heart race, and pure fear say, “Heck no.”
But, the move back to my home state was part of the preparation for what was to come over a year later. And, by then, I’d lived in enough places to realize this:
We can avoid the origins of our triggers for the rest of our lives. But, when the wounds are left unchecked, the rawness remains, festering as we act out of them, instead of from a place of peace.
I agreed to go back “home” to sit in the emotional wreckage of my life. Rejection upon rejection, a shattered heart, living under constant, and often deliberate, attacks. Yet, I knew that this was the place where God wanted to complete the good work that he’d started years before. He brought me to the place where He knew the deepest revelation could take place.
I’d arrived, already sick and tired of my emotions having so much power over me. You know those knee-jerk reactions. Or, that anxiety that builds up inside of you, causing restless nights, no rest for the soul.
You can fill in your own blanks as to how your own soul goes.
Whether under-eating, over-eating, retreating, drinking, drugging, or something more.
I did not want to live another moment controlled by anything but, PEACE.
At this point in my life, I walk in the peace that surpasses all understanding. (Phil 4:6-7) A long way from how I walked a few years before.
And, I realized that there is not enough money in the world, no place beautiful enough, no snow deep enough to ski that could buy the peace where my soul rests today: upon the Truth that truly does set you free.
But, this took walking through a valley of fire, experiencing familiar triggers, and looking at them in a different light.
In the Light of God.
Not with dread, or frustration, or self-condemnation, but with anticipation of God’s goodness through it all. With a heart that yearned for freedom from what once ruled me.
When your feathers get all riled up, it’s a chance to praise God!
Yes, I said, “Praise God.”
Our Creator allows these triggers, not for Satan to get our goat, but to wave red flags that point us to the wounds, which rule our lives. Robbing us of joy!
You can’t heal from what is sealed, not revealed.
Now, you can choose to not praise God, and continue to act as you and everyone else expects:
- Stuff it all down, put on a smile, and act like it doesn’t hurt.
- Punch someone in the face, and cause a real ruckus.
- Go smoke a cigarette, pop a pill.
- Cry, or holler, overeat, not eat, or…
- Whatever reaction that you can’t control as the wound is rubbed raw again
OR, you can choose to allow God to reveal so you can heal. You can choose to take charge over your emotional life, and reel it into a place of healing and wholeness.
You see, our reactions today are rarely about the person who triggers us at a current family event, or at work, or with friends, or in your marriage.
Unfruitful reactions are about simmering wounds that have remained a playground for familiar spirits to hang out, and wage war against peace. They wait for the fiery darts to come along, and hop on board. They are sent by Satan’s banshee to cause unrest in our soul, or discord in the family, or with friends, your spouse, or with co-workers. This keeps you bound up to reactions.
These open wounds are a gateway for the same scene to play out again, and again.
Wounds are the playgrounds inside of our hearts where demons wreak havoc in our souls, in our relationships, robbing us of peace. Of freedom. Of life. — Jennifer L Griffith
These open wounds create the lens for which we see and respond to the world.
A turning point for me occurred when I began to recognize the triggers under this light. I then allowed God into the deepest wounds of all. He took me back to the place of origin to bring the Healing Balm of Gilead into the rawest of the raw. To speak truth. And, as the truth settled in, the lies that had kept me raw, began to fade away.
This journey was the hardest to date. I lived with a couple of my family members for two and a half years, under some dire circumstances that only intensified.
But, I am thankful.
Thankful for the chance to see and experience a different me amid the perpetual same. I lived inside of a continuous “pressure cooker,” yet, I realized early on that this was right where I needed to be. This situation only expedited the revelation of what needed to be forced up, and healed.
I wanted no more delays.
At first, I experienced red flags daily until one day, the circumstances escalated, yet my own response had changed, deep inside. I did not have to pretend, stuff down, rebuke, avoid, or control anything because there was no place for these jabs, these spirits to commune.
Satan’s playground inside of my heart, my soul, was healed up and flattened out, and there was no place left to stick, to grab ahold of, or ignite.
They are gone.
I am HEALED.
My own two year “family gathering” landed me where I am today. At peace amid some of the hardest circumstances of all.
You’ve likely heard this, but it’s always good to note again:
You cannot control what others say or do, however, YOU can control what you entertain, nurture and allow to heal.
Are you ready to see the benefits of holiday triggers? Here’s a few things to note:
- Pray for God to use your family gatherings, all year long, to expose what needs to be healed inside of you.
- Family triggers are the most powerful because most of our wounds come from early childhood, family interactions.
- This is the opportune time to hone in on what you need freedom from.
- Realize that each person needs to walk through their own healing.
- When triggered, instead of reacting, praise God for the revelation.
Here’s my challenge to you.
- Each time you feel anxious, or sad, or mad, or whatever, just STOP.
- Even if you’ve responded in your historical fashion, still, just STOP!
- Don’t condemn yourself for reacting, but take note the feeling. Identify it.
- Now, think, “When is the first time I’ve felt this way?”
When you are alone, and in a peaceful place, invite Truth into those places where wounds have stayed perpetuated by lies. Let truth heal you to the core.
Family triggers, whether in a holiday setting or not, are a gift. They are insight into what needs to be healed.
My prayer is that you allow God to take you to the tool He desires to use to do just that. For some, it’s mud on the eyes. (John 9:6) For others it is to dip seven times in the Jordan. (2 Kings 6:14) Let God guide you, and, before you know it, amid your own escalating events, you will walk in the peace that surpasses all understanding, which guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7
Some resources that have either helped me, or have been suggested by friends who have walked out their own healing, include:
Immanuel Prayer (Highly recommended, but I have not personally walked through this at the time of this article)
The Healing Code by Alex Loyd (The most effective tool for me to date.)
Faith-based Professional Counseling