In this post we will briefly answer a question that was asked by one of our clients. Here is today’s question:
“I thought I had made progress, and had really moved on from my partner’s betrayal. In fact, I woke up this morning feeling great; but then something triggered me, and I was back in that horrible stuck place again.
Why does this keep on happening to me? I wish I could be free, and move on with my life.”
It’s so distressing when something like that happens. It can feel as if the past is hijacking the present … And, we fear it will hijack our future, too.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.
When we find ourselves experiencing extreme emotions, it usually points to unhealed pain from our past.
1. Let’s start with the most obvious thing here (related to unhealed pain from our past).
Experiencing betrayal is a devastating experience. Its effects are far-reaching and profound.
However, after the initial shock wears off, we usually try to process the most obvious losses – loss of trust; loss of safety and security; loss of the life we thought we had; loss of self-worth and self-esteem, and so on.
Working through those losses takes a lot of time and effort. It is extremely painful, and a roller coaster ride. There are unexpected triggers everywhere you turn.
(From your comment it sounds as if you might have already done a lot of this healing work.)
2. Thus, what I think you might be referring to above goes beyond dealing with the devastation of betrayal. What I think could be happening is that triggers are tapping into other unhealed traumas and repressed memories. Let me explain …
What usually occurs, as we go through life, is we start to put together a narrative about how others see us; how they’re likely to treat us; and what we can expect for ourselves, and our life.
One thing to bear in mind is that painful, negative events have a particularly potent effect on our beliefs. Also, the negative beliefs tend to accumulate more, and are more strongly reinforced when something painful happens.
These beliefs greatly influence the person’s life script. The story I tell myself about myself. Often, we can’t even remember how we formed these basic views. In fact, we may not even know that we have these core beliefs.
What is the significance of this?
When we find that we are triggered, the intense over-reaction often doesn’t just relate to what is happening right now. Instead, it’s likely activated by a painful core belief that is part of the narrative we’ve formed about ourselves. Usually, this be something like the following:
“No-one really cares about me. Others don’t think that I matter.”
“What I want, or how I feel, is irrelevant to others.”
“No-one treats me well. I’m the kind of person who gets abused, mistreated, abandoned and rejected.”
“I will never be wanted, or be genuinely loved.”
You can see how very painful these core beliefs are.
They are damaging and toxic.
And they’re also not true.
But we can see how, and why, they’ve developed, over time.
To move forward, we need to look at all the negative events that have led to their formation, and have caused them to take root. Then, we want to challenge these beliefs so that our narrative is healthy, and we’re living out a story that is life-giving and healed.
This is the work of therapy.