Triggers (Part 3)

This week we will talk about core patterns and how we can begin to heal these present day conflicts as well as begin the healing process for the old wounds (“pain”) that form the triggers.

As I said in last week’s newsletter, “Every couple that comes into my office is getting triggered by the other spouse.

Almost always, core fights are trigger vs. trigger, agitation vs. agitation and child vs. child.”

Another way of saying it is “pain vs. pain”.

Remember the scripture we looked at last week?

Psalm l39: 23-24
“Search me O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me (NASB marginal reading ‘way of pain’);
And lead me in the everlasting way.”

So rooting out the ways of pain is God’s idea?   Yes it is.

So what do we do with the ways of pain?  How do we heal the old wounds that we’ve forgotten even existed?

Over the next three weeks, we will look at the three key steps we must do to grow, heal and become more sanctified (holy).

Step 1: Recognize and own your part in the core pattern.

Remember, a core pattern is a cycle of current emotional reactions unknowingly fueled by old injuries from the past that repeats itself over and over.  The problem with many of the therapy methods in use today is that they only focus on present day behaviors and ignore the past.  Their logic is that if we change our behaviors, in time, our thoughts will also change.  While this is true to some degree, it is the emotional and relational hurts from the past that animate the present.

Yes, I know that we are capable of sinning in the present, regardless of what has happened in the past.  Triggers are injuries that often occur in our childhoods that create deep fear and anxiety within us.  These feelings have been around so long that they become old and familiar.  When a person is getting triggered, I often ask, “Is this an old familiar feeling?”   Most of the time, the answer is usually “Yes”.  When asked, “How far back can you remember feeling this feeling?” Their answer is that it most often goes way back into childhood.

In almost all cases, highly reactive adults have a history of deep hurt within their families of origin.  But, within adult core conflicts, this fact is almost always missed and we squarely place the focus upon the person who is currently stepping on that old “way of pain”.  The problem with this is that the person in the present is NOT responsible for the deep negative emotions within us.  They did not cause the wound; they’re merely inadvertently picking an old scab.

Put you with anyone, and it would happen again.

Over and over.

Avoiders evade and avoid negative feelings and emotions in themselves and others.  They “go away” during the heat of battle… just like Michael.  They are scared inside.  They are triggered if put on the spot and cornered.

Pleasers minimize and try to inappropriately apply grace to everything.  They are fearful and don’t want to make anyone unhappy.  They are scared inside and are triggered by separation from others.  They fearfully pursue.

Vacillators get angry and maximize any behavior that makes them feel small or insignificant by the other person.  They are scared too.  They are triggered by being ignored or slighted.  They become angry and rage, outwardly or inwardly.  They are scared of being left behind and ignored.

Controllers are scared of being hurt and victimized.  So, they control others to make them conform to attitudes and behaviors that make them least agitated.  They are triggered by independent thoughts and behaviors that don’t conform to their desires.

Victims are scared.  They just want to stay under the radar and not get hurt. As a result they never show up as adults in relationships.  They stay little for a lifetime.  They are triggered by abuse or any direct interactions that force them to represent as an adult. They retreat and hope the other person will just go away and leave them alone.

Which one are you.   Recognize and own your part.  Self awareness is the first key in the healing journey.

Thanks and blessings,


Milan & Kay

Next week: Step 2: Release the other person from the severity of your emotions.