Learning how to identify your emotional triggers is a first step in BPD recovery

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Until you are able to identify your emotional triggers you will almost certainly continue being victimized by them and the feelings they engender in you. If you want to effect real and lasting change in you life, you must first figure out the things that drive you mad with rage, feelings of abandonment and sadness. Until you do that, you will be powerless to address the underlying feelings and the way you react to them.

Have you ever thought about the way certain people go through the same destructive patterns time and time again? Some people say that the true essence of madness is to continue with the same kind of behavioural response to negative stimuli. But if you don’t know what the triggers are, how can you address them? All you know is that things happen and you flip out!

Most people freely acknowledge that they have bad reactions to certain kinds of things like fear and stress. These kinds of reactions occur when we are confronted by subconscious emotions. That’s why it is so important to take the emotional response apart and really examine it so you can understand it.

My big fear is the fear of abandonment. When I used to feel like I was being abandoned it literally made me crazy. This fear was rooted in my past because I was abandoned by my birth mother when I was approximately six months old. My psychiatrist once told me that my emotional development had arrested at  very young age which he said was because of that initial trauma. It wasn’t until I began to really looked at what had happened and tried to understand why I reacted the way I did that I was finally able to begin working toward gaining some control over what was, in all honesty, an irrational fear not usually based in reality.

Even though I was actively working toward this goal, it took me years before I truly began to understand it. And until i understood it, I was powerless to change my reaction(s). Because the trauma occurred so early in my life the resulting problems were huge and pathological. It took me years to finally unravel that ball of yarn.

Some people deal with their triggers by using substances as a way to escape them and drown out the pain. Luckily for me, the only substance I ever became addicted to was nicotine. Still, despite all the years of therapy, it took me almost 30 years before I was finally able to kick that habit. The process took multiple attempts, about 10. For many people addiction is a learned response to the various emotional and/or environmental triggers that they encounter. The addiction becomes the only way the person can cope with the trauma because they keep pushing it away. I believe that it is possible to unlearn behavioural patterns like this. Not easy, but definitely possible.

The problem becomes when we internalize the trauma to such an extent that it starts to take over our lives. Breaking this cycle can be enormously difficult but that piece begins with being able to identify the triggers. Once you have done that you can then figure out new coping mechanisms instead of always resorting to the old, standard, knee-jerk reactions because nine times out of ten, those old behavioural patterns do not resolve anything. In fact, they usually simply compound the problem, especially when you have BPD.

What am I talking about?

If your typical reaction to feelings of abandonment is to get angry, you are doing the opposite of drawing the other person who you perceive to be abandoning you closer.  When we feel vulnerable, most of us just really want comfort and reassurance. But when you layer anger over those feelings, it simply pushes the other person away so your chances of getting your desired outcome decrease dramatically. That was always my biggest problem. When I felt abandoned, I would lash out and use my “best defense is a good offense” technique. When I finally recognized and realized that this was a terrible coping mechanism, I was able to start to really look at it. That was  a huge watershed event for me. The proverbial light bulb. Learning how to change the behaviour was even more challenging.

How do these triggers manifest themselves?

For a person who feels they are not heard in their relationship, they may resort to angry yelling, or raising their voice so the other person has little choice but to listen. However, even though the other person may be listening, they are rarely truly hearing the message.

People who experienced neglect or parents who were emotionally unavailable to them may experience enormous feelings of insecurity whenever a significant person in their life is unavailable to them for whatever reason.

 

Below are some examples of a few other emotional trigger reactions:

A person who felt ignored and dismissed growing up might start yelling whenever they feel they aren’t being heard. Conversely, a person who grew up feeling like they were always being overly controlled by their parents may have a lot of trouble with people who they perceive to be in authority over them.

And so it goes. When you can finally see the way your past exerts control over your present, things get a whole lot easier. You can give yourself the opportunity to take a giant step back and try to see the situation through different eyes, a different lens. And that is what gives you freedom and allows you to be in control of yourself and your destiny.