As I ushered in the new year, it was a peaceful, happy, and comfortable New Year’s Eve. The inner turmoil I faced a week or so ago suddenly felt distant. I had encountered a trigger moment back then that seemed to unhinge me, it was a minor communication gap but it set off a chain of inner thought patterns and emotional reaction loops learnt over the years. I found myself battling extreme rage, rage I had not felt in years, just pure anger and no way of expressing it or letting it out. My mind knew it was misplaced or rather the incident did not call for such a magnitude of rage, yet I could not control it. For three straight days, I was enraged, I cried a lot because I could not express the rage in any way, I was agitated and swinging between normal to enraged within seconds. I tried to meditate, I tried to pray, I tried everything to distract myself, but the rage would not go. It was as if something needed out, something that had been ignored long enough and suppressed deep within the caves of the subconscious. Something that had been gently knocking but now threatened to break down the door. This is what is called a trigger moment or in terms of Tarot – a Tower moment. Something that catches you off guard and overpowers you and usually relates to emotions and feelings.
We all have faced injustices and disappointments, especially as children, many of us have faced emotional, verbal, and even physical abuse. If not as children sometime later in life, we have been rejected, disregarded, or insulted. Our logical brain processes it on a surface level, we teach ourselves to forgive and try to find the learning from the situation, and over time we are confident that we have “dealt” with it well, that we have processed it, and we become proud of our so-called maturity. I say so because the subconscious does not forgive and forget so soon. The lens through which it sees the incident is very different and temporarily our brain buries it, hushes it, distracts it, and in extreme cases wipes out memories and details of the trauma to help us move on and survive. The word trauma may sound very heavy and reserved only for the worst-case scenario but that is not true. As the lenses the subconscious observes are different, trauma can be caused by even seemingly harmless rejection and ridicule. And the subconscious takes it seriously and keeps it very much alive within. This results in patterns of responses to external events and repetitive patterns in life that do not serve us.
Over time as we face rejection or self-doubt or the myriad other negative feedback due to these patterns repeating, the build-up happens to a tower moment. Like the flip of a switch on the nuclear missile, a trigger sets us off on an uncontrollable emotional roller coaster. Since the memory of the incident is so successfully covered by the waking mind, we are left perplexed as to what is the root cause of this reaction, this anxiety, this anger, this tsunami of sadness, and the answer can be very elusive. Many times it appears as a physical symptom, neck pain, back pain, headaches, acidity, upset stomach, anxiety, nervousness, etc. The more you try to find a logical answer the worse it gets because it has nothing to do with the superficial brain.
When you find the answer and talk about the incident or the perception of the incident and when you finally put a finger on the root cause, there is a huge catharsis, a sudden release like a dam has burst and after the initial force of water, the river can flow serenely. When I was able to put a pin on it, talk about it and really face it, it was magical. The trigger in itself now seemed so small, as it was just that, only a trigger, nothing more. The trigger that led to the extreme internal agony that then led to the catharsis. As I was discussing this with a close friend who also happened to experience something similar, the term that came to mind was Mico-surgery of my inner self.
Surgery is just that, a necessary evil to deep dive and find the root cause. Surgery in itself is extremely invasive, painful, and comes with its own set of complications and risks of infection. The body not only has to heal from the ailment but has to heal from the surgery itself. The surgeon cuts open the body, removes tissues, and blood is lost, if it is an exploratory surgery, the surgeon is in there looking for the root cause. Once the cause is found and removed, the surgeon stitches up the skin and the tissues and the body heals up again, free from the root cause. The entire process is unpleasant, ugly, painful and scar tissues are formed as the body heals. Now imagine this happening again and again but to your psyche / the inner self.
Human evolution demands it, not from everyone but especially those who aspire to evolve.
“Earth is the chosen place of mightiest souls; Earth is the heroic spirit’s battlefield…”Sri Aurobindo, Savitri
The peace post catharsis has to be earned and one has to walk through the micro-surgeries of trigger, exploration, and stitch up. Sometimes it takes months and even years to find the deeper inner cause, and then again it is not just a once-in-a-lifetime type of challenge. It occurs in waves, it forces us to keep going back to search for more, like someone visiting a crime scene of a cold case, going over the evidence line by line, again and again until one solid clue finally solves the case.
Let us look at an example, Rob grew up in a strict household, his parents resorted to harsh punishments in disciplining him and inadvertently damaged his sense of self-worth. He grew up learning to survive by creating coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms. He became successful in his career and was now almost 40. He was married and had a child, externally he was settled and comfortable. One day he hired a cab to go to the office and ended up in a huge argument with the cab driver. Something trivial turned into an ego battle and the cab driver dropped him off midway to the office. Rob was furious, he hopped onto the bus and reached the office but he was not in a good mood. His anger at being disrespected was overpowering him. When we reached home that night and shared this with his wife, she lent an empathetic ear but did not think much about it. Rob on the other hand just could seem to let it go, he felt a sense of injustice, he felt a sense of helplessness as he could do nothing and had to leave the cab. He felt a sense of not being in control, even though it was the cab driver’s fault, he could do nothing and in that sense, he felt the cab driver had won. Over the next few days it consumed him, he found himself thinking of ways to track this guy, maybe hire some hitmen to beat him up, maybe complain to the cab company which he did when he rated him on the app and also called up the service provider, though he knew nothing much will be done about it. After a few days, he starts thinking “Why am I so upset over this incident?”, “ Why can’t I let it go?” “Why has this disturbed me so much?”. He tried discussing it with friends but no one seemed to understand, they suggested diverting his mind by watching a good movie or eating a good meal, none of it helps. He then reached out to a friend who is a therapist and also his spiritual guide, to find out the reason and what can be done. Through his efforts to find the real why, he finally reached the aha moment. It turned out to be something so distant that on first thought would seem unrelated. The questions asked by his therapist lead him to an incident in his childhood when the 8-year-old Rob was being yelled at and punished, he did not remember the actual reason, but the rest of it is clear. He is scared, shivering, feelings of unfairness, of humiliation, of not being able to control the situation, not being able to save himself, not being able to stand up for himself, a helpless child, confused at the reason he is being treated this way. Rob is shocked that the incident with the cab driver triggered the same emotional reactions of that 8-year-old Rob who no one rescued. The rage was not because of the cab driver, it was a rage that had been suppressed for over 30 years, somewhere deep within the subconscious, and had erupted on that Monday morning on the way to work. When he became aware of this, his therapist told him to imagine the 40-year-old Rob helping the 8-year-old Rob. What would he do differently? Rob shared that he would stop the parents from punishing him, he would hold the boy close and reassure him, he would take the boy out for a fun day and buy him some popcorn and chocolates and he would be that 8-year-olds best friend and guardian angel. When Rob imagined this, he could not help but cry his heart out, he was no longer the helpless little child he was not capable of protecting that 8-year-old Rob still within him somewhere and just like that, the anger and rage towards the cab driver vanished. In a few days, Rob felt lighter, he felt relieved sort of, he knew that the cab driver was just a trigger and warranted no more of his attention. He also became aware of his emotional responses to such triggers and incidents and vowed to work with this therapist to identify and disassociate these from any future events. It will not be a quick fix, but it is the beginning of unwrapping a badly wrapped gift, eventually leading to some sort of liberation.
It need not always be childhood trauma, it can be anything and it can be from any time frame. The theory of Karma taught by Lord Krishna I feel is related to this. We create our karma by how we act, think, react, respond, feel, etc. to any situation. Rob attaching all those old patterns of emotional being to the cab driver is an example of him creating bad karma for himself. It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong, the cab driver might have been a true jerk, but the days and days of anger that Rob felt and the hours he spent thinking of ways to bring this cab driver to justice were all bad karma he was creating for himself. Rob did not have any control over this emotional reaction as unresolved perceptions still held the strings to his actions. The true human challenge is to undergo these micro-surgeries of the inner self and eventually reach a stage where our responses to any situation are truly under our control, and a place where we actually create our own karma with purpose and complete alignment. It seems like an impossible task, and sometimes I feel this lifetime may not be enough, but that is why we came on earth in a human body.
The takeaway would be to not get scared of these triggers, to not run away or bury our heads in the sand like an ostrich. Imagine yourself with complete body armor, wielding a sword and battle scars, ready to face these triggers head-on. Ready to tirelessly go back to the crime scene again and again until you find that vital clue. Ready to peel the layers of your inner self, and earn the badges of honor one trigger at a time. The aim is not to make life easy, because that almost always backfires, the aim is to walk through life with as much ease as possible, by bringing awareness of the self in the forefront of it all. One emotionally empowered person can help and guide a hundred more, and your relationship status does not matter here, you may be hopelessly single, miserably engaged, or blissfully married, you can emotionally empower yourself at any stage.
Make a promise to yourself this new year, to welcome the triggers, ride the tide of emotions that follow, do not lose hope, reach out to the right people who can guide and do that micro-surgery to reach the root cause so that you can experience the catharsis and emerge with one more badge on your armor.
Happy New Year my fellow Warriors!