Acknowledging that other people’s tendencies, actions, and words trigger your traumas, is not necessarily the same as blaming them.
Blame is futile and counterproductive. In the presence of blame, there cannot be clarity. Blame twists up the narrative until it has strayed far from the core of the matter.
If something you say or do happens to dig into an old wound, I do not blame you for that. You were just living your life. You probably didn’t know you were in the minefield of my own buried traumas.
Or maybe you did know to an extent, but you still don’t know what it’s like to be me. You don’t see myself, my past, and the world through my eyes.
Under ordinary circumstances, I don’t see you, your past, and the world through your eyes either.
But I try.
At a recent talk, the speaker proposed that empathy could be categorized as a sense, along with touch, smell, and so on.
Empathy is a kind of sense.
My sense of smell is not all that developed. A lot of the time people pick up on scents that I don’t seem to notice, even if I sniff for them.
I could probably develop my sense of smell by practicing mindfulness and through sustained focus.
Empathy is similar. It doesn’t come naturally for some people, but it can be developed. Empathy can be developed through curiosity about people, imagination, visualization, making connections, and asking questions.
Empathy helps me see how pointless blame is.
Everyone is the same, in a way. Just living their lives. Sincerely doing their best within their own limitations.
When people do what are often perceived to be horrible things, there is a network of reasons for those behaviors. It’s not because they are a “bad” person.
No matter how clean you think you are, rest assured you’ve done a few things that others perceived to be horrible.
Maybe you even perceived your own actions to be horrible.
Perhaps you even felt like a “bad” person.
Or maybe you saw yourself justified, which is useful for future reference, because that empowers you to experientially realize how others could feel fully justified in their own doings which may have impacted you negatively.
Again, acknowledging these dynamics is not inherently the same as blaming.
It’s an opportunity to share your boundaries with others. To give them a chance to respect your boundaries.
Maybe they will give it a shot. Or maybe they’ll call you a snowflake. You never know these days.
Treating people like villains for inadvertently stepping on your nerves is most likely non-optimal.
I do it, sometimes. Some people in particular, seem like experts at getting under my skin without trying. Their tendencies are connected with some of my deepest childhood traumas that I’m still working on healing.
Anger and pain rise to the surface and replace equanimity in the driver’s seat. My inner child kicks and screams to defend themselves. This can be embarrassing, surprising, and telling. What it tells me most clearly is that I am a work in progress.
And so is everyone else….
Sometimes my inner child goes into attack mode, and triggers other people’s traumas. Both parties playing victim. Both parties seeing the other as the antagonist. This is a recipe for insanity.
Here’s a recipe for inner peace and cohesion with others:
-Acknowledge what’s being triggered. You don’t have to acknowledge it to the person who is triggering you necessarily. Just get real with yourself. Journal it. Paint it. Sing it. Get close to what hurts and give it your love.
-If you’re being triggered by someone who is close to you and loves you, it may be ideal to express your boundaries to them and ask for their respect and gentleness in the affected area.
This is not being overly sensitive or disgracefully weak. You are human. Sometimes being human hurts.
For you to heal, it is essential to protect the soft spots while they regenerate and fortify. If the people in your life can’t respect that…
-Walk away if you need to. Be around people who want you to thrive, and who pay attention to and respect your boundaries.
Sometimes the people who trigger us the most are those closest to us. They are often the ones we can’t imagine living without. It’s not about abandoning people you love. It’s about strategically withdrawing to make yourself stronger.
And you can still be a part of peoples’ lives without being enmeshed.
-Ultimately, keep in mind. Everyone is doing their best. If you don’t see that, you’re not looking close enough. Sometimes, the best I’ve got is nothing. And again, the same goes for everyone else.
People who have nothing left to give for now…
They may be hard to deal with.
They may seem useless.
They may seem like they are bringing it all on themselves.
They may seem impossible.
And they may trigger you to the core.
But if you take a look in the mirror, you might realize that you’re not so different.
That doesn’t make you a trash person.
The point is actually, no people are trash.
We’re all just writhing around, doing the best we can with what we’re given.
Positive changes generally come from love, acceptance, and understanding.
So let’s love. Accept. Understand. Take away the blame and turn it into self-analysis and empathy for others.
Or, whatever floats your boat.
Also published on Medium.