Heal Your Emotional Triggers – Heal Your Relationships


“Your deepest wounds, and we all have them, show up as unpleasant vibrations or feelings in your body when triggered by an external event or person. Someone says or does something and you feel your body tremble, your breathing become shallow and your chest tighten. This is a clue. A strong bodily reaction points directly to an old emotional wound that has been triggered. Stop. Listen. Feel. This is a holy moment where you have direct access to the encapsulated and stagnant energy that needs so desperately to be felt, softened and released.”

Imagine this. You are going along just fine, feeling peaceful and grounded, when suddenly someone in your life says or does that terrible thing that sends you into an emotional tailspin. You feel an immediate tightness in your throat, chest or belly. Your breath feels short, your heart rate goes up. Within minutes you have elevated cortisol and adrenaline in your blood. To use a modern term: you are triggered. Your sympathetic nervous system is activated; your body is in reaction and soon the rest of you will be, too. You lash out in self-protection, say things you wish you hadn’t, and you attempt to make your inside feel better by fixing the other person so that he or she understands that they must never do that terrible thing again.

Sound familiar?

If you are like me and most of my students, this is not an uncommon scenario. You may well wonder, perhaps even with some shame, how is it possible with my ability to stay peaceful and grounded in so many other areas of my life that I experience such visceral reactivity in these particular situations? If this has happened once too many times in your life and any attempts at numbing or distracting yourself from that deeply unpleasant triggered feeling haven’t worked that well, you may be at the point of realizing that changing the other person’s behavior or having your version of a numbing cocktail is at best a temporary fix.

These deep-memory grooves within, which are activated again and again, are not new to mankind. As early as 400 A.D, they were described in Yoga Sutras as samskaras. Unlike the more superficial thought patterns that we can learn to still through meditative practices, samskaras are more stubborn, deeper imprints on our psyche, or citta as it’s called in the Yoga Sutras.

Yoga Sutra 3.18 lays it out beautifully: “Samskara saksat karanat purvajati jnanam. Through sustained focus and meditation on our patterns, habits and conditioning, we gain knowledge and understanding of our past and how we can change the patterns that aren’t serving us to live more freely and fully.”

You may have the inkling that this very unpleasant internal feeling lives in the energy field of your very own body, and it is always in there, just waiting to be activated — again and again. You may also begin to suspect that you mysteriously draw to you exactly the sort of person or situation that will activate for you this energetic knot. Some ancient and wise part of you may even feel deeply that you are here to heal that very injury — that you are here to go deep within and study your inner script, to find that painful groove that has played out its script so many times in your outer life.

When you are reacting in a very physical way, the blocked energy within your body’s energy field has been activated by a situation that in some way reminds your psyche of a similar dynamic that caused you stress when you were likely too young to handle it or didn’t have the choice to remove yourself from the situation. Young children are like unfiltered sponges that absorb the energy patterns around them without the capacity to separate themselves out from a situation that they are raised in, for example.

Peaceful steady light
Yet, some part of you may already know that who you truly are is the peaceful, steady light within (in Sanskrit purusa) —the light that presently ensouls your physical body, the light that patiently observes the fluctuations of your mind and all the weather changes that make up your worldly life.

But we must respect and empathize with the fact that while in the human form, most of us tend to painfully forget our true nature as peaceful light and we come to identify ever more strongly with the thoughts and feelings that have programmed our heart-mind over time. Before we know it, they play out much like a movie being projected out into the world. We come to buy into the illusion that life is randomly coming toward us without any prompting or programming from within us.

In reality our thoughts, feelings, memories, wounds, habits or downright traumas are like an intricate script that is played out in how you perceive your life circumstances — and how you interpret the behavior and intentions of others. Coming to grips with the importance of managing our thoughts and feelings is crucial if we want to stop the futile blaming of external circumstances for our ever-changing mood. The practice of stilling the heart-mind, realigning with our inner light of awareness and thus remembering who we really are, is the true practice of yoga. Only when we quiet down the constant fluctuation of the mind, the mental chatter, can we begin to recognize where the deep wounds (samskaras) lie within, and only then can we recognize how these samskaras are constantly projected onto the people closest to us — not to hurt us but to show us where we have energetic blockages that need attention.

Only then can true healing begin.

Pure presence
Your divine nature is expressed as pure Presence, as simple radiant Being. It is only this magical force, the true you, that has the power to heal the deep wounds that lie within, causing pain and disruption in your relationships. While the triggered feeling may well feel completely overwhelming at times, it is no match for the powerful loving presence that you can shower it with when you are ready to stop any and all attempts to dull or numb the unpleasant feeling of anxiety, stress, sadness in your body.

The unpleasant feeling or vibration of a deep-seated fear, anxiety or sadness is the root cause of most addictions known to man. Because we have not been taught healthy, effective ways to deal with the intense feeling of stress and anxiety in the body, we do what the whole word does: we reach for alcohol, drugs, cell-phones, sugar, shopping, sex — anything really that distracts us from the unpleasant vibrations in the body. This often leads to dependency or downright addiction to a substance or activity. But this can only hope to be a temporary distraction from the wounded place within that was trying to call your attention, trying to be heard and ultimately healed.

The healthier, more sustainable way to address the painful encounters and triggers is a process of great patience and gentleness, through which you can begin to clear out and mindfully cultivate the content of your heart-mind, as well as heal the deep wounds that play out as painful encounters in the exterior world. You really can learn to pull the projections back inside where you will find the true source of your pain: the stagnant or blocked places in the energy field of the body. When you embrace these inner, often very uncomfortable, places with pure presence and empathy, they will gradually soften and cease to show up as unpleasant outer encounters that produce the triggered reactions and subsequent drama.

This is not a fast-fix process. While the more superficial ripples of the mind may be easy to quiet down, healing the deeper grooves will likely be an ongoing process. It’s a process of taking ever more responsibility for the reactivity that may appear to be caused by external forces but really is an activation of your samskaras. You must call upon your own willingness and capacity to feel deeply into the energy field of the body. That means truly feeling into the unpleasant vibrations and greeting these uncomfortable sensations of anxiety, fear, anger, sadness much the way you might greet, acknowledge and even embrace a small scared child with all your heart, all your love, all your presence.

Only the ongoing application of your own steady presence, acceptance and unconditional love can ever hope to heal these deep wounds that we all carry around in the depth of our psyche.

The Heal what Hurts Practice is a method for the gradual and gentle discovery of where your samskaras lie hidden in your energy body, what scripts they run and how they continuously play out in your life story. Only then can you begin the sacred work of healing these wounds that have tripped you up again and again — and the healer is your own unconditional loving Presence, like a healthy, loving parent who holds a hurting child in deep, healing love. This process can be embarked on by anyone willing to look inward for healing, instead of blaming outer conditions or people. It’s a process of taking your power back and embracing your wounded self the way your caretakers failed to do when you were too young to know that you were being failed.

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Maria Toso, Spiritual Coach & E-RYT 500, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1970. She moved to the United States in 1998. She has practiced and taught yoga and meditation since 1990. Maria is the founder of the Heal what Hurts Process, a yogic method for clearing samskaras. Maria is also on the faculty of Saint Paul College where she runs the 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. She also teaches Mindfulness Meditation in the Gateway to College program for at-risk youth in the St. Paul School District. Maria has taught trauma informed yoga in drug and alcohol treatment centers in the Twin Cities metro area for five years. Visit www.mariatoso.com, and learn more about Heal What Hurts at www.mariatoso.com/healwhathurts.


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