When I think back over the course of the past few years, it's easy for me to identify certain events, aha moments, or experiences which tapped into my acute stress response. My fight or flight. That trauma-source place where your primitive senses take over and you take up your armor or your sword.
It's that place in my brain that gets lit up in response to a trigger of threat, real or perceived. That neuropathway is well-trodden and heavily used, and because it's an automatic response, when that freight train gets chugging down that track, it's nearly impossible to stop.
I think initially, my response to feeling abandoned as a kiddo probably laid down the path. I responded to feeling abandoned by forming a belief that I wasn't worth fighting for. So now during arguments, or just hard feelings in relationships, I automatically fire up the freight train. Toot toot. Here we go again!
Once the train starts, I typically just have to let it run it's course. I do try to keep my logical brain fired up too, so that it can combat the illogical feelings of fear and rejection and unworthiness that my brain signals are firing to me. To be honest, it's easier to believe I'm a useless pile of shit than a magnificent creature worthy of wars and love. The voices inside my head that accompany those events are loud and believable. Assholes.
Fortunately, I've done some work in the arena of self awareness, and can recognize that my fear response is just that...a response. I don't have to see it through to take an action which would only reinforce that response. Instead, I try to take actions that combat that response. I remember I have relationships where I feel cherished and well loved. I remember that I am only having that response because of an old and tender wound that occurred when I was so small and very illogical. And now I'm older and wiser and can calm myself down and move through the scary feelings like an adult who knows whatever happens, I'll be okay. And it helps to have a very strong belief in my general badassery.
But it's still hard when you're in it.
Having the awareness is one thing; stopping yourself from revisiting the old familiar pal of pain and playing with the devils in your brain is another.
It is actually really useful for me to see this process in action in other people. It gives me perspective, especially if they don't realize their train is crashing through towns and obliterating countrysides. Interestingly, when I encounter people with those extreme responses, they don't seem to recognize what's going on. Or they know it's happening, and they've been doing it that way for so long, they don't recognize there might be another way. They're stuck in time of that original injury.
When I think about the times I felt triggered in the last few years, I recognize I had the awareness, I was awake, but I didn't do enough to direct my life, and let my anger and emotions guide me to incredibly unhealthy places. Places I'm desperately trying to get out of now. Patterns of negative self talk, numbing myself, a general mistrust of others, a thickened veil of pessimism, anxiety, impatience, selfishness, walls for days. That's what happens when you stay in a toxic place longer than you should and you start believing the voices too much.
Being in a healthier relationship is helping. I won't say it's completely healthy because I'm not working at full health yet, so that would be a false statement. I'll say I'm healing and growing and trying to stay in a place of objective observation. Noticing without judging. And being with someone who *feels* healthy is helping me be healthier, I know that. It feels safe, and my bulging set of emotional luggage is being properly unpacked through a regimen of self-nurturing, loving relationships, helpful books, positive reinforcements and just being more gentle with myself.
I recognize that I may never get rid of the little gremlins who were born in my darkest days as a youngster. But I can validate them by acknowledging they're there, tell them to be quiet, and order them to hand over the train keys. Sounds easy, right?