A smell, a song, a flock of birds above … everything assaults our sense memories, and that can be good or bad.
The deja vu feeling that comes with a new friend, the chill that runs up your spine in the darkness of a movie theater, the taste sensations that shimmy across your tongue when you bite into a juicy sweet treat—all these and more trigger something primordial that we can’t explain to anyone else, so why try?
Everything triggers something. And sometimes something triggers nothing, but triggers wait for us. They do push-ups while we coast blissfully through our days, not expecting any abnormalities, simply being and doing, when BAM! A trigger descends down the mental neurons that take us from what we were doing or thinking, to what we now wonder about.
Overthinking can cause sadness. We know this, but we wonder why did this happen or that happen? What changed in an instant? What were we thinking when we started thinking about something else? How did we get from here to there? In our minds everything makes sense at the same time that nothing makes sense.
We’ve conquered our battles. So we think ….
Then, it happens. Afterward we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why it happened. We retrace the memory, we fight the urges, and sometimes, yes, sometimes it’s even a good trigger. (Especially the food!)
Being an uncomfortable human being is the norm. Just trying to fit in and be accepted is the age-old riddle. If we allow our triggers to consume us and take us away from the moment at hand, that can lead us to a devastating shame spiral where we resort to behaviors from which we’ve tried so desperately to distance ourselves.
The problem is self-focus. When focused inward, analyzing and over-analyzing, we lose perspective. It’s a similar trait to “being shy.” Shy people are simply too focused on what other people will think about them, without realizing that others are also self-focused, and probably not thinking about anyone else as much as others think they may be. It’s another kind of spiral. One that feeds on itself.
There are more answers than one. But a good choice is to focus outward. Focus on what’s next. Focus on the other person or people in the room. Focus forward. It is better to be interested than interesting.
Before you know it, you’re not obsessing anymore. The trigger rests. (Still waiting in the wings, you know … but rests, nonetheless—for now.) Serving outward in the form of attention ahead and for others gets you out of your own head. It helps. It means the difference between a trigger that leads us down a dark path, or a trigger that trails away for another day.
Life lessons are not easy. Sometimes the tests come first and that’s not fair. But fair is not part of the equation in life. Life is like a big buffet. Some of the choices are not for you. Some of the choices that are for you may get passed over in your pursuit of perfect. Next time around, you’ll know better.
Serve yourself first, then you can serve others better. Just like the air mask in a troubled airplane. The instructions are not easy to follow or understand. Save yourself, so you can serve others.
And do relish the right triggers; the ones that take you for a walk, send you to your photo album to remember lovely occasions, spark a memory of a long-lost love, allow the sun to blaze through long days. The scent of a flower, the breath from a new puppy, the banana split (with double cherries on top), the smile of a stranger.
Everything triggers something.