How to Overcome Triggers and End the Cycle of Unhealthy Behavior

Relationships

unnamedLife can feel like the movie Groundhog Day if we allow it to.  We can feel like we are helpless in this endless cycle of repeated patterns with no way out. Just like Al Pacino’s line in The Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

The beautiful truth is there is always a way out.  

We can find our way out of unhealthy patterns, behaviors, relationships and heal in ways many doctors may never have thought possible. Yet still we can face triggers; triggers that will pull you back into a behavior, pattern, or trait even if you feel you have healed from it.  In noticing our triggers and being grateful for the lesson (yes, we’re back to gratitude again!) we can truly heal and love ourselves no matter what.

I had a cycle in relationships that was truly unhealthy.  If I was unhappy or felt treated unfairly – I would withdraw.  If I felt the person was doing something I was unaligned with – I would withdraw.  If there was a situation that I felt needed discussing but might cause discomfort and blame – I withdrew. Even if there was a situation in my life I needed advice on but felt my partner would get uncomfortable because they would be unable to help me in a way that satisfied me – I would withdraw not wanting to make them feel “less than.”  I felt and was taught by my life experiences that it was unsafe to approach people on these issues and was shown time and time again that was the truth.

There were some past boyfriends that would truly go off the hook if ever questioned about anything in their behavior and they refused to own personal responsibility even if I came from a loving approach.  In fact, some were so talented that even if I began a conversation feeling I had been truly mistreated, I would leave the conversation feeling guilty and like I had done something wrong.  Others would feel so insulted if they felt they had not “solved my challenge.” What this taught me was, “suck it up, suck it in, and suffer in silence.”

Well if you know my writing then you know I have come a long way since then.  If you know anything about health and how emotions affect our wellbeing, you can tell the above paragraph was very unhealthy behavior.

My patterns & triggers resulted in me having health problems; and it resulted in me retreating when I felt something was awry no matter how much inner pain and angst it was causing me.  My unhealthy behavior patterns caused me to hold these blocked emotions in and to not trust sharing my feelings with members of the opposite sex.  Then I met Vinny… my love.

I honestly don’t remember what the first occasion was, but I remember the first time I felt angst or deep worry after beginning the relationship with Vinny – and I retreated.  It was a pattern I thought I had healed.  After all, I had healed my physical body years ago, but here it was showing itself again. Yet I knew Vinny was different and it was not fair to lump him in with the relationships I had been attracting before. I was awake and I had done my healing.  I felt badly to be shutting Vinny out and I could feel his dismay and confusion as this me was not the open, loving being he had fallen in love with.  I knew I had to work on this. I knew I had to own my stuff, my patterns, my triggers and be kind to myself in this repeat healing process.

I knew that by speaking my truth to Vinny, telling him about my past and telling him it was something I was working on, it would be okay.  Come to find out, it was beyond okay.  He offered me unconditional love, no judgement and a desire to help, but not a need to fix everything.  He let me speak what needed to be said, but also allowed me space in some of the silence to know everything was okay.

So have I healed this pattern and never face this trigger again?  Oh boy would I love to say, “of course!!” but I know that a pattern this deep sometimes will trigger itself again.  What I do have now is priceless awareness and compassion for myself and Vinny in this situation.  I want to change it.  I know it’s unhealthy for me and my partner and don’t want to cause that kind of pain for either of us. I will love myself enough and trust him enough to speak my truth and know that all will unfold perfectly.

There can be many things that cause triggers, a person, an emotion, a familiar repeating situation that can result in you feeling a certain way or acting out an unhealthy behavior or pattern.  An example would be a situation that gets on your nerves and you find yourself stress eating, or going into a depression, or numbing out with alcohol or other substances.  I have had clients that have unresolved issues with their parents and even seeing them can result in the client going back to an unhealthy behavior.  There are countless triggers and countless results of what those triggers have you revert to.

Action:  I want you to get quiet and centered, close your eyes and tell yourself you love yourself as you put your hand on your heart and think of one behavior, one pattern, or one way of being that you would love to change in your life.  I want you to now reflect on what you have noticed that triggers that behavior.  Perhaps a co-worker or friend has a habit that drives you insane and you find yourself gritting your teeth and feeling stressed out. Maybe you have had a similar instance where you retreat instead of speaking your truth. Possibly, you reach for a drink on another way to numb out when stressed because that seemingly offers some immediate relief. Whatever it is… you have developed this pattern or behavior as a coping mechanism. This pattern deserves some compassion and gratitude as it gave you a way to make it through the moment.  Thank that pattern for being there and also the trigger for making you aware of when this happens. Thank both, but also acknowledge there is a healthier way to be and that you would like to make a healthier choice for yourself in the future.

With your eyes still closed, I want you to imagine that trigger presenting itself again and this time replace it with how you would like to respond.  Maybe you could get up and take a walk if you feel stress building or make yourself some tea or get a glass of water.  Perhaps you could blast your favorite song or call a friend that makes you laugh. If you need to have a conversation, picture yourself speaking your truth coming from love. Whatever it is, see the outcome as okay and allow yourself to feel the relief permeate through your body.  Thank yourself for loving yourself enough to want to be conscious of this pattern and trigger. Tell yourself you will love and be patient with yourself as you see this come up and try and change it as you are able.  Affirm that you will be caring and loving as you would be to a best friend trying to change something harmful in their own lives. Give yourself a big inner hug as you open your eyes.

If this is a long-standing and addictive pattern, you might need to reach out for some help along the way and you know I am here for you. There are also support groups and empowerment groups for almost every behavior and if you can’t find one locally, you can find one online. Even finding a friend to be lovingly accountable with for something you both want to change.  There is definitely power in numbers.

We can all decide we do not want to live in Groundhog Day, but there still might be triggers that come up, resulting in us behaving from our old self.  Love yourself enough to be patient as you find these behaviors and move forward to change them.  You can do this… and by doing so make yourself proud and direct your life to be so much more in flow and love.  That in itself is worth the little bit of work!  Many blessings for your journey to your better and higher self!

10 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Great article Jenny. You know I have been talking a lot about stopping and Observing before responding when triggers arise. I like the suggestions of singing a song, etc. I was thinking that or maybe even a quick five push-ups! I’m a fire sign and very fiery when ignited, maybe just stepping back isn’t enough. This made me think of stepping back and letting the fire burn for a minute instead of trying to relinquish it with non action. Maybe letting the match burn in a productive manner would be more effective. Something so simple, yet something we’re often not taught to do. Can’t wait to put it in practice!

    • jennymannion

      Hi Michelle, I am a fire sign too and hear you! <3 I love your suggestions as well. It has to be something we can picture ourselves doing that we feel is a good replacement for the triggering behavior. I don't think one thing will work for one situation or person. If you are all fired up a movement would be great - I know walks always clear my mind - especially in nature. I am 1/2 block away from a park that is usually my go to spot. I know you've got this... you have already done so much and are so present and aware. Sending you so much love and big hugs, xoxo

  2. Alexis

    It is so liberating to open up and acknowledge the past in order to move through it! As someone who has had her share of triggers, I know it was a incredible transformation for me once I externalized the things going on for me! Thank you for sharing this part of your journey!

    • jennymannion

      Hi Alexis, You’ve got it – that word liberating rings so true! It can be overwhelming in the beginning when we begin to see all these patterns and triggers but it is FREEDOM actually when we work through them. I am very grateful for your coming by to read and comment and am so grateful you have been successful working through triggers in your own life, Sending blessings, Jenny

  3. Reba Linker

    SO important that we do the work on ourselves and release and heal those triggers. I know! I am so happy for you that you have found this beautiful, loving man in your life, who you can grow with and feel safe with. That is so wonderful, and you deserve it!

    • jennymannion

      Thank you Reba! I am so happy I found him too! <3 Yes, it begins with us. It might not be pretty as we go through the work but it sure is worth the effort! Healing triggers can truly transform your life from the inside out. Sending you much love, xoxo

  4. Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest)

    Thanks so much, Jenny. Wise words, and so supportive, as I’m shedding my attachment to stress, fear, and worry around my health and finances. Thank you so much for the love and support your writing offers.

    • jennymannion

      Thank you so much Sue for your kind words. I am passionate about sharing tools to help others recognize that life can be easier and they are more powerful than they ever thought. I am so happy to hear you are shedding those attachments – can you imagine how much powerful life will be when they are in the past? Even spending a few seconds or a minute getting excited about that possibility brings it more into the realm of probability and sets such clear intentions out to the Universe and in your body that you are ready to release and move forward! Sending much love and gratitude, xo <3

  5. Beverley Golden

    I’m sure all of us have those unconscious triggers that somehow surface and propel us back to a place we thought we had left behind long ago. For me, the social/therapeutic art work and training I have done, is my way through. As we say, “Take it into the art”. Often ‘talking’ about something just perpetuates it, but art is ‘soul’ work and the art always speaks what the soul is feeling/experiencing. As individuals, it’s so key to find what works for us and then to be open and willing to do the work. It’s wonderful you’ve found someone so supportive and loving and willing to accept you and to understand who you are, Jenny!

    • jennymannion

      Hi Beverley, Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I love that your art helps you and finding something that ignites our passion connects us with our soul and the deep knowledge we are so much more than our limiting thoughts and behaviors. I feel very blessed to have found someone that loves me as I am – and is supportive no matter what. We can have deeper and more meaningful relationships when we do feel safe enough to be vulnerable and open our hearts wide!! Sending you much love Beverley and many blessings, <3

LOVE HEALSRE-AWAKEN YOU WITH LOVE365

Bite-size actions & daily love notes to support you in igniting your inner flame and keeping it lit! Enter your email below to begin your FREE 7-day trial that includes the Love Through The Chakra entire series.