A little while ago, I was having a chat with a friend when she said something that instantly triggered me into ‘fight’ mode. Before I even knew what was going on, I found myself arguing, feeling upset, and generally having that yucky inner feeling that happens when you’ve been tripped-back into a flashback.
I apologized while I was actually having the reaction, and I acknowledged something deep was going on, on my side of the fence, that I needed to go away and look at.
(We often can’t help getting triggered into flashbacks. If we’re around people who are triggering us a lot, that usually means those people aren’t so good for us, and we shouldn’t spend a lot of time with them. But occasionally, even nice people who we have good relationships with can set off a FIGHT / FLIGHT / FREEZE / FAWN response.)
So, I came off that call, and I started wondering to myself:
What on earth just happened there? Why’d I get so upset?
My friend had told me some information that she’d heard from someone else – a speaker – that she really related to, but which sounded plain wrong to me. I went to check up the facts, first of all, and nothing I turned up suggested the speaker’s facts were correct.
That’s not so unusual, especially in our world of ‘fake news’. So, why did I take it so hard?
After doing some more digging, I realized that the subject we’d been talking about is something I’ve discussed quite a bit with my friend, and that I’ve had ‘opinions’ on – opinions that clearly she doesn’t so like, or really agree with.
So, when she quoted this speaker to me, who appeared to be saying things that contradict some of what I’ve given over, I took it as a personal attack. Not consciously, but subconsciously. I got ‘triggered’ into that childhood attitude of being the kid that no-one listened to, the kid that people mocked and bullied, the kid that had strange ideas that were just too ‘out there’.
Ok, this was useful. So now, what do I do with the piece of information? I had a chat to God about it, and I got this back:
Rivka, you feel like a loser when you get the impression that people are ignoring what you say, or trying to make you ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.
Of course, this happens a lot, because so much of what I write is not standard, and often doesn’t conform to the ‘normal’ view of things. Being criticized for holding different views is par for the course if you’re going to write about anything – anything at all – that’s really meaningful to people.
So why the over-reaction with my friend?
It’s because you thought you were in a ‘safe space’, that’s why it hit you so hard.
Again, there was nothing particularly wrong with my friend’s reaction – she wasn’t overtly having a go at me, or saying anything horrible. She was just recounting how this information had given her a different view of things, and that view just apparently clashed with mine.
I did some more digging, and discovered that the ‘loser’ thing and the ‘know it all’ thing are two sides of the same coin. When I start to feel like a loser, I often take refuge in putting together research or posts from that stance of being an arrogant ‘know it all’, instead, to try to counter it.
So then I asked God:
What can I do, to continue putting useful information out there that will help others, but without getting too over-invested in it, personally, and writing from a place of arrogance?
The response I got back is to try to write more from a place of happy humility.
Because it really is a privilege to be able to write about important subjects, and to be able to pull so much research together and digest it, and then package it together in a way that other people can get hold of it easily, too.
Because being able to do the research doesn’t make me infallible, or right about everything, or obligate other people to agree with my conclusions. And when they disagree, that also doesn’t make me a ‘loser’.
If I can internalize this, I’ll have the energy to keep writing, without having to worry about turning into an arrogant ‘know it all’ who tries to brow-beat everyone into agreeing with me, just so that I don’t have to deal with feeling ‘bad’ and rejected. And, I also won’t feel like a ‘loser’ who just wants to give up when I hit a small obstacle.
We’re back to that energized stability idea, again.
It’s hard work, all this working on our internal dimension stuff, isn’t it?
But the alternative is to go through life hurting other people’s feelings, alienating friends and family members and destroying the world instead of trying to build it up.
So, the work continues.