Summer of Love Addiction, Part 12: Identifying and Managing Triggers

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Lacy Alajna Bentley

Sex and Relationship Healing is pleased to partner with Lacy Bentley, host of our Tuesday Women’s Sex/Love Addiction drop-in discussion group and our Thursday Women’s Porn Addiction drop-in discussion group, for our Summer of Love (Addiction). This wonderful series examining women, love addiction, fantasy, pornography, and healing is drawn from Lacy’s book, Addicted to Love.

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Let’s talk about triggers and how to manage them. You need to know what brings up emotion in you, then you need to know what does and does not work for managing those emotions.

When I talk about triggers, I am talking about emotions – any emotions, no matter if you see them as good or bad, that may leave you feeling discomfort. If you feel an emotion, then reach for your phone because it’s probably a good time to investigate what’s up in your head.

Now and then, just unwinding to a good TV show is helpful. It can also be a way to shut emotions off. Only you can know what is really helpful and what is your way of hiding or distracting yourself. An insightful question from a friend can help you stay in truth.

The temptation is to justify what numbs us. Numb can be such a relief! And hours later, we come out of the binge coma and nothing has changed, plus now the kids are hungry, or the deadline we were avoiding is closer.

I want to help you stop doing this to yourself, and the only way is through honest inventory about how you shut down, when, and for how long. After an honest look there, you’ll need to develop and implement an accountability plan. Maintaining that plan requires continued support, so make sure you get that in place if you don’t have it already.

Emotions are tricky. They almost seem to sneak up on us. If we are not careful, they can take over our lives, sabotaging the life of integrity we are trying to live. Learning to handle emotions in helpful ways makes our emotions less of a threat. I like to go for a run, then talk issues out with a friend. Journaling and self-reflection to understand my part and what I can do now to move toward the results I want are also useful.

Early in recovery, I came across a series of questions that I’ve since seen in one form or another multiple times. Here I share them with you in the language I have found most helpful.

  1. What just happened that did not go well?
  2. How do I wish things had gone better?
  3. What did go well that I can build on?
  4. What will I do differently next time?
  5. How can I better prepare for future situations that might be similar?

These questions can be a quick way to bring yourself into honest reflection. After all, we are the only ones who can make the changes needed for new dynamics in our relationships. These reflections help manage that responsibility.

Also, evaluating why we become upset about something moves us toward a more recovered life. For example, we only get stage fright because we care about the outcome of going on stage. Similarly, we only get upset about an event if we care about what is happening. Being upset means whatever you are doing, or about to do, or are thinking about matters to you. And that’s great. Now, what will you do about it?

When you feel triggered, don’t get overwhelmed, just learn to ask yourself the right questions. In the groups I host on SexandRelationshipHealing.com and elsewhere, we do this by asking each other deep and poignant questions. I strongly suggest locating significant others who can help you dig deeper in honesty. No one ever got fully into honesty on their own. We all need help sometimes, and that’s not a bad thing. It keeps us from getting stuck and stagnating. It is also critical to get out of your own thought patterns and beliefs by talking them through with someone else.

Whenever we are triggered, historical events and old feelings may creep in. It is important to investigate why these still hold power and what you can do to neutralize them. The present is the only place you can change anything. That won’t stop the past from being influential in the now… until you learn to manage it. As I’ve said, management can only come after honest investigation. So, dig in as those things come up! Hire a therapist for serious trauma or abuse. Spending too much time in the past will keep you stuck, as it did me for a long time. But reframing those experiences as potential learning experiences and places to draw courage and strength from will help you recover.