We’ve all got things in our lives, past or present, that cause us pain. And we’ve also got triggers that bring that pain back up to the surface. This has been on my mind lately because I’ve been getting triggered by something that’s seemingly innocuous.
In my last job I became quite close to a male coworker, B. I trusted him, but was never sure exactly what kind of relationship we had, and both at work and outside of work it always felt like he alternated between pulling me in and then pushing me away. He became psychologically abusive and ended up causing a great deal of harm in my life. One quirk of speech he happened to have was frequent use of the word “cheers”. It was also a word he would often use to shut down conversation on topics that were a little too personal. I might say I wanted his input on something because his opinion mattered to me. “Cheers”, on to another topic.
Fast forward to the present. There is a male coworker, A, who I am quite close to. I trust him. I’m not entirely sure where our relationship is going, but it feels slow and steady rather than game-y. He is very kind, accepting, and open; a completely different person from B. Just in the last week or two A has used the word “cheers” several times in text messages and emails, including in response to an email I sent thanking him for always being willing to listen to me. Each time I got that response I felt a lightning bolt of pain, followed by the thought that he is going to harm me the same way that B did. I recognize right away that logically this is completely insane. It’s just an innocent word. Yet that doesn’t stop the pain.
If I told A that this was a trigger for me, I know he would be very receptive and try very hard not to let that word slip out. I’m reluctant to bring it up, though, and I guess there are a few reasons for that. One is that I feel kind of ridiculous asking him not to use such a neutral word; this is my problem, and I shouldn’t make it his problem too. Two, I don’t really want to talk about my experience with B. And three, this is a word that I’m going to encounter people using on a fairly regular basis, and I feel like I should be able to gain control over my own reactions.
I just don’t know how to desensitize that trigger. I suspect I probably will end up talking to A about it, and that will go fine, but trigger management is something that I’m going to need to put some thought into.
Have you found strategies that help you manage your own triggers?