“Fate is the hand of cards we’ve been dealt.  Choice is how we play the hand.” — Marshall Goldsmith

A few people have asked “Why now?” when they hear that I’m finally – after 39 years of being in utter denial – exploring my adoption.

The thought of lifting the lid on the many unknowns in my life – about myself, about my birth mother, about the deeply buried and hidden emotions I’ve never let myself feel – is NOT a big draw to want to begin down this path of exploration. And yet, here I am, actively participating in this painful process. So what made me begin?

Usually for us to choose change, we need a trigger…

Don Miguel Ruiz has an interesting perspective on triggers in his book, The Four Agreements. He sees them as ‘open wounds’ so your emotional body is covered in festering open sores. Whenever you’re triggered, it’s because someone or something is poking one of your sores.

These sores are always there causing a constant pain that unconsciously affects your life but when someone pokes a sore, you experience it as a fresh, new pain which feels intense and very real. What’s actually happening is the agitation and pain of a past experience (sore).

“The people who trigger us to feel negative emotions are messengers. They are messengers for the unhealed parts of our being” – Teal Swan

Two of my main triggers – the events and circumstances that have lead me to open a very tightly locked door – have been the following:

  1. Mali, my daughter, having a massive, uncontrollable meltdown at a soft play centre, during which she scratched my arms to pieces, bit, hit and kicked me repeatedly as I tried to calm her down or at least get her the hell out of there and to the relative privacy and cocoon-ness of my car. I believe this was in response to the big emotions and feelings around my and Jonathan’s separation, and also a deeper issue that comes from a block somewhere in me that causes me to emotionally hold her at bay, likely related to my own adoption experience.
  2. Being in a new relationship and having some of my behaviours reflected back to me has been an enlightening, deeply uncomfortable and yet hugely positive process. As I wrote about previously, this exploration of who I am has highlighted what I’m sometimes driven by and it’s no longer good (accurate/true) enough to say ‘But this is just who/how I am’.

What triggers you?

Marshall Goldsmith shares the following list of the most common emotional triggers – meaning you react when you feel as though you aren’t getting or will not get one of these things that are very important to you:

  • Acceptance
  • Respect ♥
  • Be Liked
  • Be Understood ♥
  • Be Needed
  • Be Valued ♥
  • Be in Control ♥
  • Be Right ♥
  • Be Treated Fairly ♥
  • Attention ♥
  • Comfort
  • Freedom ♥
  • Peacefulness
  • Balance
  • Consistency ♥
  • Order
  • Variety
  • Love ♥
  • Safety
  • Predictability ♥
  • Included
  • Fun
  • New Challenges
  • Autonomy ♥

Some of these needs will be of great importance to you, others you can probably take or leave. The hearts are the ones that matter most to me – and where, if met with something that challenges/threatens these needs – I’m likely to flip into one of the common emotional states for those who’ve experienced adoption (rejection, abandonment, separation, and belonging/not belonging).

Both of my triggers – the one-off event of Mali’s meltdown and the ongoing reflection of some of my responses/behaviours in my relationship – have been uncomfortable, painful and challenging enough to kick me into awareness, action and, ultimately, change. I no longer want these sores to be agitated, poked and causing me pain – and I’m ready to do something about them.

We rarely choose change readily and easily, but when your sores (triggers) become insistent and painful enough, usually change is the only balm to soothe them.

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