Trigger Happy

thornsI read recently that change is just a case of managing or avoiding triggers.  This might work if you have an addiction to Dairy Milk, (avoid supermarkets, TV and birthdays). It’s more of a problem if those triggers are outside your control. Things that are or have been done to you.  Seasons.  Sickness. LIFE.

Here’s some things that either I or people I know find triggering;



Expectations from others


Life changes


Childhood issues

Relationship breakdowns


Lack of sleep

Media images

Having a child

Not having a child

Weight gain

Weight loss

Bullying at school or work


So how do I cope? Organise life so that I avoid all these things? Tempting. But impossible. And I may just shrink my world to nothing in the attempt.

I’d cocoon myself in safety and comfort.  But the truth is, I can’t.

We live in a spiky world that bristles with triggers. It’s unyielding and it’s painful. Genesis 3:18 puts it like this: ‘the earth will produce thorns and thistles for you’. There’s just no way around it. Not by being ‘more in control’, not by ‘trying harder’, not by ‘focusing on the positive’, or ‘getting a better work-life balance’.  When we try to live a thorn-free life we only end up shrinking back from the world we are called to cultivate and to bless. And the piercings, when they come,  feel all the more outrageous because this is not meant to happen.

There are certainly occasions where avoiding triggers is absolutely the right thing to do. Temptations to sin spring to mind immediately. There are also ‘triggering’ situations regarding memories of past abuse. Together with friends/pastors/counsellors we should be wise about how to handle those areas.  That’s not what I’m talking about here. Here I’m talking about the temptation to micro-manage my life in order to avoid all conflict or pain. When that becomes my goal, I become a slave to fear.

In this context we should ask ourselves, What if setting off our triggers isn’t the worse thing?  What if the worst thing is trying not to – and living so small that we miss out on the relationship we were created for? What if there’s something bigger than the thorns? A Lord who calls us to Himself in the midst of trial and temptation? A life He beckons us towards that is bigger than pain management?

We are not called to a life of tranquility but something much richer, and more painful. Life in all its fullness. Life we can’t control.

10 thoughts on “Trigger Happy

  1. “What if setting off our triggers isn’t the worse thing? What if the worst thing is trying not to – and living so small that we miss out on the relationship we were created for?”

    In this set of questions, you’ve detailed my conundrum for the past few years. I think God is done with me living a small, conscribed life. I/we trusted Him early last year and He took us to SE Asia. =} It was a great family trip and He’s utilizing it for us to support those in front line outreach.

  2. Excellent. You write the truth. Many of these situations are triggers because they bring us back to a time of trauma in our past that we feel helpless against. They set us into a well worn path of sinful coping.
    It is often not possible or practical to avoid these triggers. But the triggers are not the real problem. For that matter neither is the past trauma. If we are damaged psychologically it is not forever. The root problem is we need Jesus. If we allow Him into our hurts, He will heal us. If we hold onto and allow our hurts to name us we continue in the flesh. After all, triggers are the sign of an addict, and addictions are in fact idolatry. Micro-managing, rage, porn, EDs, alcoholism, and in fact all sin is an attempt to to place one’s self upon God’s throne.

  3. I got triggered by an xmas present. A CD… The genre of which I used to listen to when I did stupid things. I found it really difficult to listen to the cd at first, but in embracing it and playing it on repeat I can now enjoy it for what it is. It is no longer raising memories or difficult choices or pain. It is music and I like it, whether I read and feel like the lyrics is my choice, but who can reject a bit of rock/metal/alternative!

  4. i am reminded of those who go round in a perpetual spin: if God so loved me, why would he allow these things to happen….and not intervene. Lets face it, surely? If Emma/we , does not come to that conclusion …about going beyond micro – pain management etc, overnight, then how much more slow and patient and gentle do we have to be with the ‘afflicted’. Lets face it, sin or no sin, getting a grip onto who Jesus is and what he has done, for all our ‘brown-stuff’ inside, is not that easy, so convoluted and blinded our we all and intransigent of a different perspective.

  5. Prt 11 …And then horror of horrors! What points to the infinite capacity of his love for us, than our infinite capacity to forgive ? Often we think we are released from….and free…free to be who we were meant to be and so on…but are still often bound up. This, i take it is a slighter softer reworking of some of the remarks Chris has made. Why are we still bound and not free, presumably because of acts of pain and concealment mean that there are areas of our lives we cannot even acknowledge to oursleves, let alone to anyone else.

  6. Having an ultra trigger-ish week over here.
    Avoiding Triggers = Very Small Life. I agree and have lived in the ever shrinking smallness for much too long. My goal, if I may presume to set goals, is not to ride through the day on trigger ( I am not Roy Rogers after all) but to face it head on and flip it the bird, metaphorically of course. This does not always work but sounds good in my journal.

    I am being flippant, but I am actually mired in heaviness. My sister is dying of cancer and her life mirrors mine in it’s darkest places. I am grieving her life and all the senseless waste makes me want to scream but there is no one to take it, so I weep instead. I know He is our blessed hope. I know to live is Christ and to die is gain, but still, there is scream in my throat.

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