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Taming Emotional Landmines

taming emotions

Once I left an emotionally abusive household, I began to realize the impact that my environment had on my sharp reactions to emotional triggers. Often people will stay in a toxic environment where they experience invalidation of feelings and distortion of the truth. Oppressive environments cause people to reflect character traits that are not true to themselves. The behavior is a symptom of toxic environments.

Rage and self-defense induce self-inflicted pain, on top of the external wounds. Guilt, shame, and regret might begin to accumulate inside one’s soul from out of control reactions. The focus quickly shifts from ‘how one was mistreated’ to ‘how one reacted’ and blame becomes misplaced.

Such out of control reactions might even make it feel impossible to handle the pain. The sympathetic nervous system, or the ‘fight or flight’ reflex, can trigger an array of irrational thoughts. “I need to permanently get out of here,” is one I have felt in such times.

I have felt suicidal at times, when the subtlety of the abuse and the lack of feeling validated, was more than I thought I could tolerate. I survived the worst of the worst, by the Grace of God, later to learn that everything passes. No need to ever make the final call. Through my faith in God, attendance to Al-Anon and self-care focused therapy; I now have the tools to respond to painful wounds, usually.

I can still feel the raw burn of the triggers that try to take control of my mind,

I can still feel the raw burn of the triggers that try to take control of my mind, my body, and my life, but I have the understanding that all things pass away and a fresh start is in my future.

Lamentations 3:22–23 NIV
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”

The last time I experienced pain, so unbearably deep, was when I had a combative text with a stepchild. I have mentioned before, blending families is extremely difficult and can be immensely painful for everyone.

I said something, which I didn’t know would activate hurt in my stepchild. That child, in turn, retorted in a way that tripped one of my most profound sensitivities. All this was occurring in a group text, mind you. My reaction to my pain was to retort “You’re an ungrateful @#$%^.”

Pain, tension, misunderstanding and all the changes we were facing had been building up in me for a long time; most likely for that other person too. Rather than confronting the situation before it got out of hand, we both reacted in a way that ultimately inflicted suffering on each other, and in turn precious Bryan, whom we all love so much.

This situation is a classic scenario of how chaos results from emotional triggers and reactions of self-defense. I believe in the context of the case; my feelings were justified. I imagine that child felt justified in their response, also.

We both reacted in self-defense and anger.

Were the scenario handled differently, we could have had a moment to get to know each other better, communicate our needs and ideas in a healthy environment and pave a smoother path towards the life we will be sharing as a result of my marriage to Bryan. A healthy confrontation would have eliminated this blow-up. It would have been less traumatic and hurtful to a lot of people, but especially my husband, who told me this situation made him hurt with the same degree of pain he felt when he lost his mother.

The regret and shame that I felt from inadvertently hurting a man, who has never injured me, sent me diving deep into the well of sorrow. How would he ever be able to forgive me for doing something that hurt him so deeply? My initial, unthought-out reaction was to flee. The voice of the devil began filling my mind. “He’s better off without you, look how badly you hurt him.”

Oh, but God!

There was a corporate prayer meeting at my church that night. Many of my sisters and brothers had all transparently shared their hurts over the previous months. Me authentically showing up as the HOT MESS that I felt like, was perfectly acceptable in my church who recognizes we are all flawed. I swear, it was the laying on of hands, the interceding before the Throne of God, that bound my heart back up, to go back out and face what I had allowed to happen, that hurt others.

Why would I share this with you? Because I know I am not alone. I know that other people feel that kind of pain and can relate to the desperate/irrational urge to flee. I know others know what it is like to prefer to disintegrate as opposed to face confrontation.

I let the Word of God speak to me. It reminded me that God has a purpose in all things.

Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

I thought about the lessons I have learned in yoga about breathing through the pain and discomfort rather than just giving up. I remembered the warrior who firmly stands on the mat.

The lesson here is that we all act in ways that we are ashamed of from time to time. We need to forgive ourselves as well as give grace to others. We need to recognize if there is something hurting in the environment that we dwell in, we should address it before it consumes us and causes us to act irrationally.

Confrontation is scary, but the healing that results and the lack of emotional landmines are certainly worth an uncomfortable conversation.

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