It is important to remember that healing is a journey, a lifelong process. Wounds from the past can be triggered in unexpected ways.
For example, current doubts about your worth — or fears for your safety — could be intensified and amplified because of something that happened many years ago. Feelings that were left unexpressed or unacknowledged.
Perhaps this example will help you manage strong emotional reactions:
Mary, 26, has been in therapy for a year, where she learned about triggers. Walking home from work in the early evening, she sees someone walking a large dog.
When Mary was 8, a dog walker accidentally let go of his leash. The large dog bounded toward young Mary, jumping up at her, knocking her down and then barking at her. The man called off the dog and reassured Mary that the pooch was a big old friendly thing.
Mary, however, suffered trauma that she failed to share with her mother or stepfather when she went home. She kept the experience to herself.
This evening, as the adult Mary sensed the fear coming over her, she recognized the trigger. She told herself that while her apprehension was understandable, it also had been intensified by the old memory.
As the neighbor approached Mary, she decided to step to the side, away from the dog, signaling the owner that she was nervous. The owner picked up on the signal and smiled, reassuring Mary that Buster was friendly and all was well.
Mary then had a choice: to go over and pet Buster or keep her distance. Aware of the effect of her emotional trigger, Mary decided to pet Buster.
Tomorrow is another day and Mary could manage her emotions by making another choice in the same situation.
Know your triggers. It’s important to have an awareness that the strong emotions you’re feeling in the present may be a product of the the past.
(About healing as a lifelong journey: This is not to discourage those who prefer to view therapy as a process with a beginning and end, with healing as the result.)