As you become more aware of your emotions and you allow yourself to feel them, you might find that some of them are rooted in your present and others might be triggered by memories in your past. When you allow yourself to take a step back and you look at your emotions, without judgement, take a moment and ask yourself, “Is there a connection to this present situation? Is my emotional response right now in direct correlation to what is actually happening now or is it from somewhere deeper?”
Sometimes we are bringing baggage and emotions from past traumas into our present relationships and don’t even know it. Triggers from previous losses and hurts happen without our conscious awareness and suddenly we are having conflict within ourselves or with the people in our lives and it has nothing to do with our present reality.
It can look kind of like this:
Every Christmas as a kid you got all excited about the coming holiday. The closer the day loomed the more drinking your parents did and the more detached they became. By the time Christmas morning came you woke up to passed out parents and presents that never showed up under the tree. Now around Christmas time you start to feel anxious when the Christmas carols start playing. You feel a sense of sadness that you just can’t shake. You have a completely different marriage and life than what you experienced in your childhood but the emotions that you are feeling result in you being short with your kids, overly demanding of your spouse, and the need to do everything perfect.
You were abused by a family member that wore strong aftershave. The scent of aftershave now triggers the exact same feelings of panic and fear that you felt as a child. Immediately following the trigger you feel the need to use a substance, disconnect from your family and get lost in TV, or binge on your favorite comfort food. The abuser has long been out of your life and there is no present threat of danger but emotionally you are triggered and seek out anything to make that feeling go away.
Sometimes these triggers are big and obvious. Sometimes they can be smaller and harder to identify. Recently, I had a moment of sadness that came out of “nowhere”. When it came up I started talking to Jesus about it, exploring it a bit, and allowing myself to feel it instead of shaking it off or stuffing it.
Here is a bit of my process:
Growing up, my parents, as all parents do, had their struggles. Subsequently, there were seasons of intense loneliness that I felt. The lack of connection was painful for me. Now in my marriage, when my husband is struggling, or having a down day, or walking through some of his own stuff, I have been working on healthily detaching. However, over the past few years, at times, I have responded in panic, anger, by withdrawing from him to protect myself or been demanding in my expectations of him at times out of fear of repeating the same cycle and having a disconnected family and marriage.
As I started talking to the Lord about my recent sadness, He showed me a picture of myself. I was in my old bedroom in high school. I was sitting there alone. The emotions and disconnectedness of that moment was as real in my heart in the present as it had been in the past. I poured it out to the Lord. I let myself feel it and was raw and real about the pain of it. I trusted Him with that “dark” part of me. Afterwards, I had a moment of forgiving my parents for not being present for me at that time and meeting my emotional needs in the way that I wanted and needed. I let go of any judgement that I had waged against them as well.
I then asked the Lord where He was during this time. I saw Him sitting on the foot of my bed cross legged, offering HIs friendship and counsel to my confused heart. I saw Him on the floor of my bedroom pointing out things in my Bible and teaching me His truth at a young age. I saw Him with me, ever faithful, using that time in my life to knit my heart to His. I wasn’t alone. What I saw as a season of disconnection, was actually a season of connection with Him and a time that He was using to build a foundation of truth in my heart that would last me a lifetime.
This wasn’t the first time I had been through this sort of process. The Lord has been taking me into my memories and healing parts and pieces of my story ever since I was in my mid 20’s and realized that I had only been giving Him the “pretty” parts of me. I have had some super big, ugly cry, nose dripping sessions at His feet over the years and I have learned to trust Him to handle it. On the other side of these moments, I always find a new degree of freedom that I haven’t had before or uncovered a new perspective that has changed me. He continues to reframe my perspectives and gives me lenses to see my past through His truth rather than my own distorted glasses.
With these new lenses I can also see my current reality very differently too. If He was with me then, He is most definitely with me now. If He was teaching me His truth in those moments, He is drawing me even more so now. When those fears of loneliness and disconnection surface from my past, I have a foundation upon which to stand in my present circumstances.
While I don’t get to pick and choose when these moments of healing come I do get to choose to run to Him when I feel an emotion that isn’t joy and peace, and start talking to Him about it. And He always shows up to lead me through it. Sometimes, it definitely is a present moment thing that I need to process, but other times it goes deeper, and when it does the emotions I feel become gifts, little hidden treasures that lead me to another degree of freedom in Him.