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Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

The word, “triggered” has become a popular part of today’s vernacular, and is generally applied to anything that might cause one to become upset. But for the purposes of this discourse, I will use it in a very specific context, which is when in the midst of an experience that is happening in real time (i.e. right now) we make an emotional/intellectual/spiritual connection to an experience that has happened in the past. In such moments, the magnitude of our response can quickly escalate well beyond what seems reasonable for the current circumstance.

 

One of the clearest examples I can give of being “triggered” is something I witnessed while I was in the Navy. During those years, guys routinely messed with each other and rough-housed. One day, a big guy (John) snuck up on a smaller guy (Jim), and grabbed him from behind. Jim let out a blood curdling scream, and rammed John into a piece of machinery, causing him to let go. When John released him, Jim turned and furiously began to pummel John with his fists. Eventually, it took five guys to restrain Jim and keep him from killing John.

 

At the time, Jim’s reaction didn’t make any sense to us. But we later learned that his step-father had molested him for years, and that what he was experiencing at that moment wasn’t his friend playing a practical joke on him, he was reliving the terror of a little boy being raped by his step-father.

 

Though it is an extreme example, it drives home the seriousness of this phenomena. Our responses often seem inappropriate because we’re emotionally/spiritually connected to some other moment.

 

For those who consider themselves to be spiritual, and believe that there are actual forces of darkness at work against our souls, you can be sure that making these connections is a valuable tool of the enemy. By linking the two moments, the illusion that Jim was about to be ravaged eclipsed the reality that he wasn’t in any real danger. The enemy of our soul loves it when he can get us to react to an unreality, and if we choose to hold on to those emotions, it opens the door for that painful moment to turn into an altered perception of reality going forward.

 

An example of this would be a woman whose first husband was unfaithful to her. Years later, after marrying a more honest and loyal man, she still experiences feelings of hurt and anxiety whenever she sees him talking to another woman. On an intellectual level she can say that her second husband is nothing like the first. But emotionally, she continues to reconnect her past hurts with her present fears. The voice of the enemy tells her that all men will eventually cheat, and on some level, she believes it. Every time she hears of a man being unfaithful, the enemy reinforces the stronghold, “See, that’s just how men are”. Without healing, she might actually be the one to drive her second marriage to destruction.

 

The enemy’s ultimate prize is our identity, and as we accept that the hurts of the past are who we are as opposed to what happened to us, he gains a valuable stronghold that he can revisit again and again. When this happens, it doesn’t take a traumatic event to trigger strong emotions. It simply takes a mirror.

Our Creator stands at the ready to show us who we really are, but that type of healing requires a willingness to surrender our old identities.

 

Once in this “triggered” state, several common patterns emerge. Accompanying the magnified sense of current and past events is the tendency to vigorously defend the legitimacy of this heightened emotional state, to lash out at anyone who attempts to provide a more balanced perspective, to speak in definitives (e.g. they always do this, they never do that, nothing works, no one ever has…), and to project the characteristics/actions of an individual (or a few individuals) onto the entire group (e.g. men do this, women think that, that generation believes…).

 

Remaining in this condition for any appreciable amount of time can be like putting on a pair of sunglasses, as it begins to color every other thing we look at. If we feel disrespected, we begin to perceive disrespect in everything that goes on around us, even from people who don’t know us, and in situations that don’t involve us. All it takes is a spark in the right spot, and soon the whole forest can be ablaze.

 

We live in a culture that is filled with stimuli which are meant to provoke a reaction. Every day we are bombarded with images and words that are intended to incite some type of a response. If we don’t recognize the danger, and guard our hearts, we too will be tossed about on the waves of emotional / spiritual turmoil.

 

The enemy loves to exploit these moments, as heavy and lasting damage to relationships is often the outcome. Like Jim in the previous story, we can feel as though our very existence is threatened, and therefore act / speak in a way that is completely out of our normal character. Unfortunately, when the moment is over, and the emotions subside, the damage often remains. In the end, both Jim and John felt like they’d been attacked, and their friendship never recovered.

 

Being a gifted and genuine believer does not exempt a person from falling into this trap. Elijah had been ministering in the miraculous power of God for some time before Jezebel’s threat sent him running for the hills (1 Kings 19). Fresh off a spectacular showdown with the prophets of Baal, and even after the Lord literally shook the earth with His power, Elijah was convinced that he was the “only one” left, and wanted to die. The veil of his fear blinded him to the reality of seven thousand other believers who had not bowed to the god of the age.

 

The scriptures warn us not to focus on what is seen, because it is perishing (i.e. temporary). It exhorts us to take every thought captive, making it subject to Christ, and to fix our hearts on things above (i.e. eternal). It is vital that we discern the spirit which lurks behind the things that trigger our emotions and provoke us to wrath. We must learn to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. If not, we risk becoming enslaved by a hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

 

The enemy of our souls has a story he’d like to share today.  It’s a tale of frustration, failure, and pain.  It’s a narrative filled with “if only’s” (e.g. if only this would happen, if only that hadn’t happened) which will always leave us one step away from wherever we want to be.  The Creator of our souls also has a story He’d like to share today.  It’s a plan of provision, strength and hope.  It’s a narrative filled with “even if’s” (e.g. even if that happened, even if this never happens), which will free us from the constraints of our circumstance.  Ultimately, the reality of our day will boil down to whose report we believe.

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