In my last post, I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make feel inferior without your consent.” While I fully believe this, parts of this statement become difficult when it comes to triggers. I’ve always taken Eleanor’s statement to be about someone telling me I’m ugly or dumb or am a terrible writer. These kinds of statements are fairly easy to combat because my thought process has always been if someone is labeling me as some sort of failure, it’s because they feel inferior to me. Whether true or not, that thought has always seemed the most logical. Successful people, healthy people, confident people, they don’t need to put others down. People that see themselves as failures put others down to build themselves up.
But there is a lot more to all of this. When others’ words leave simple insults and enter into a place of harassment, deception, manipulation, and so on, the actions of the person aren’t merely to put someone down. Their words are meant to cause terror. This form of gaslighting cuts deeply. And this is where I run into trouble.
When someone uses tactics like gaslighting against me, it’s not as simple to disregard that attack. It’s not like someone calling me ugly or telling me I’m bad at X because of Y. I’ve worked for years in therapy to understand why some people take to this level of abuse and I’ve stopped trying to figure that out. The simplest answer is that the reason is irrelevant. The behavior is there and needs to be dealt with.
How to deal with this form of abuse has long troubled me. This is behavior I’ve had to deal with for many years. It’s caused a lot of PTSD and I’m easily triggered by these sorts of people. But this is changing.
I’ve recently come to a new understanding. It came through a post I saw on Facebook. It was by a yogi and guru named Sadhguru. I knew nothing about him when the short video started playing, but his words rang so true and impacted me in a deeply positive manner.
“Someone can decide whether you are happy or unhappy. Is this not slavery? Someone can decide whether you are a pleasant human being or an unpleasant human being. Is this not slavery? What happens within you, somebody else determines. This is the worst form of slavery, is it not?” – Sadhguru
When I’m triggered, I’m allowing someone else to determine what’s happening inside me.
Sadhguru goes on to talk about everything we see and experience is a reflection of us. We experience everything internally, not externally. So internally is where the shift needs to happen for me.
Sadhguru’s words hit me hard. In a good way though. I understood what he was saying. Triggers themselves often feel like nonconsensual bondage. I get so tired of it. I want to be in a good place but once triggered, the depression hits too. It’s difficult to come out of.
Last week, in therapy, I learned that there are four types of motivation people experience. I am intrinsic. Motivated internally. But I am also the questioning intrinsic. Meaning that if I can’t see the merit in what’s being said or what needs to be done, I won’t be motivated to take action. The thing I’m acting on has to make logical sense and has to come from a place of integrity or I won’t do it.
What this has meant for me is that until recently, I’ve not been able to be motivated when it comes to not allowing these trauma causing types to affect me. And that’s because I couldn’t see their abuse as a form of slavery.
But it is. And I’ve been in nonconsensual bondage by these types for a very long time.
The truth is, these abusive types have no power. I’ve been giving power to them by allowing them to affect me. And this is tough considering the behavior specifically is what triggers me.
I now see why I have to shift this all internally. I refuse to live in bondage to these types of people. Their only power has been that once I’m traumatized and shutting down, I’m complacent and more easily controlled. But this ends now. No one has my permission to affect me in such a manner.
Now that I have this internal motivation, I can shift how long I live in the place of triggering and trauma. Sadhguru helped me connect all of this. His words helped me to see that I’ve been living in this place of nonconsensual bondage—slavery—to these very abusive types of people. And I won’t allow it any longer.
This becomes harder when I’m triggered because the behavior in question does trigger me. But how long I stay in that state that is up to me. The less time I live in the place of being traumatized, the less this behavior will affect me. The less it affects me overall, the easier it will be to stop being triggered by it in the first place.
Of all the triggers I’ve had, the sexual abuse has been the easiest to face. Not easy in the sense that it didn’t hurt like hell internally and it wasn’t easy in the sense of feeling all that I needed to feel and face, but it was easy in that I knew what kinds of exposure therapy I needed. I knew, or at least had ideas, on what I could do to slowly work through that stuff.
Dealing with gaslighting goes back far for me and isn’t so easy to combat when it comes to exposure therapy. More exposure doesn’t help me work through anything. It only traumatizes me more. So how I have to go about dealing with this is different, which leads me to this next part.
Sadhguru also stated, “’I like this; I don’t like this.’ This one division is the basis of bondage.” So the moment we put judgment on something is the moment we’ve become enslaved to it.
I can scream until I’m blue in the face that I like this behavior and don’t like that behavior, but that’s me putting judgment on it. Others’ behavior is simply their behavior. If I can pull myself back enough to see it as just behavior rather than bad/abusive/manipulative and so forth, then I can keep myself from diving down the rabbit hole of triggering and trauma. It’s just behavior…
I don’t have to like or dislike someone’s behavior. That’s on them. That’s their existence. Their experience. That’s where they choose to live.
By allowing those types to affect my internal peace, I’ve granted them permission to take up space inside me. I’ve brought their existence into mine. And this isn’t okay. That’s not where I want to live.
Later in the video, Sadhguru talks about who should determine how we experience life. He asks that we be who determines what we experience. He brings up that we can’t control the events around us but we can determine how we experience them. Because our experience of a thing is internal.
So this is where I’m placing my focus.
I’ve got the bit I was needing to work through my current state of triggering and depression. I may not be able to stop an automatic response yet, but I have no doubt that once I really start staying mindful about how I experience life, I will eventually get to a point where others’ behavior won’t trigger me.
What belongs to me are my actions, behaviors, and how I choose to experience life.
This understanding brings me joy. 🙂