In the past, inappropriate expectations convinced me I was NOT enough and life was colorless. Understanding the difference between “associations” and “triggers” has provided me with this healing Understanding: Expectations are NOT facts.
To the best of my understanding, if I am NOT Aware when a reminder of a past upsetting event is presented (even if the event was innocuous) my brain will unconsciously search for the meaning I assigned to the past event, then reassigns it to the present situation as a belief.
My brain continuously looks to make sense of everything internal and external. Unless I am Aware (conscious and mindful) that there are other options, perspectives, or Choices, the belief my brain chooses will open the door for anxiety, worry, fear, doubt, shame, guilt, and other negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that will influence my choice to react or respond. If I think I don’t have a response, I pursue the expectation that the worst will happen.
For some, this is what a trigger is; however, not so for me. A trigger is a loss of control because of an (unconscious) association. On the other hand, association is a connection or relationship between two events (items, etc.) that activates a perceived connection between the past and present. Making a conscious Choice to be Deliberate in Understanding the MEANING of the associations, I can be Deliberate in shifting what I believe to be real about my self-conception and thus not be triggered.
For example, a dog that has been abused severely will shy away from the kindness of someone, maybe reacting with a warning or a bite. They associate humans with pain. Humans react the same way. If we have been mistreated with frequency, we will react to kindness in a manner that reflects the associations we now connect to our beliefs.
It is MY experience with Triggers they are NOT based on expectations. They are based on an immediate whole-being adverse reaction to something (usually sensory) that caused deep emotional dysregulation at the time of the event. Triggers are not based on Choice; Associations are a Choice. However, that’s another topic I’ll write another time about. For today, I want to focus on how I Choose to use my past as something I now learn from. My past is the gift of learning.
Expectation is a bridge between associations and triggers. I CHOOSE what I am making present problems or situations mean based on expectations. It was me alone that taught me to expect and or anticipate worst outcomes. Anxiety, fear, and worry are all based on associations to false beliefs either I created or believed when somebody else told me it was true. My traumatic experiences were VERY real, but the meaning and feelings I assigned, that I Chose to believe about myself, were not facts; they were merely associations and not always accurate or useful.
Because associations are connected to “should” typically I would default to what “I should be…” doing, thinking, believing, feeling, and expecting. However, there is a phrase I learned to be a valuable self-proving mechanism to use when I feel anxiety, worry, doubt, etc., surfacing. “Based on what?” What am I basing fear, anxiety, worry, anger, doubt, feeling rejected, self-blame… anything; what is it based on, and do I have tangible proof it’s true? I am forcing myself to consider EVERYTHING, think things through thoroughly, or at least as many perspectives as possible when I ask myself this simple, but powerful question, “Based on what?” removing “should” from the process.
Focusing deliberately on asking myself what story am I (choosing) to attach to assists me with Unbinding from the habit of unconsciously reacting. I have the power to initiate change when I Choose to focus my energy on Awareness, Acknowledgement, and Understanding of my reality — the present moment, and I am the one to assign new meaning, not my wounded ego.
Damn. It’s true. I am the author of my story and the Captain of my ship. I am my truth. I am Valid. I am worthy. I am Enough. And, I am the only one who will lead me down my Chosen path of living Deliberately Unbound.