Signs of progress when my buttons get pushed

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

finger about to press a big red button
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

Do you ever have wounds that just won't seem to heal?

Oh, they might appear to have healed on the surface. They're no longer bleeding and radiating pain through every corner of your life with each breath you take. You don't think of them every moment anymore. You might even feel like you're back to whatever normal existed before the wound.

Then someone presses on the button that is that old wounded spot, and you find yourself triggered. You're suddenly not just reacting to the current moment, but you're flung right back into the depths of the bloody, messy, painful wound that once was and now is again.

(Frankly, when this happens to me, it never feels like anything as tame as having a button pressed. It feels more like a vicious kick to a barely healed over wound, but we'll go with the standard metaphor of having my buttons pushed anyway.)

I have one of those old wounds around a fear of rejection and abandonment (those two are so closely intertwined in this particular wound that I can't separate them).

Life being what life it is, it's inevitable that this button gets kicked pressed from time to time. Each time, I find myself suddenly facing not just the current situation, but also a flood of pain and fear from all of those old, related wounds surging up like high tide to swamp me.

It makes even the mildest of potential rejections feel like a tsunami of rejection and abandonment. I panic. I over-react. I make wild assumptions about what the other person must be thinking. I over-think myself into a mess of misery. My self-esteem plummets, and self-loathing bursts into full bloom.

All I can see is rejection and abandonment everywhere. I'm blind to all the ways in which other people might be embracing me in those moments.

And all the while, I beat myself up for not being more healed and not handling things better (which just makes the whole self-loathing thing even worse).

I've had the rather dubious "honor" of having this particular button of mine repeatedly kicked with a vengeance pressed several times over the last six weeks or so.

In the grand scheme of things, these particular kicks presses have been relatively minor compared with things I've experienced in the past, but they have just enough echoes of past events and have come along in a large enough group to feel much bigger than they actually are.

Naturally, these have dredged up all the old history and self-loathing that goes with it, but I realized on this trip through the tsunami that even though I may not yet have completely healed this particular wound, I've still made considerable progress.

Just noticing that progress is helping to ease my way through, so I wanted to share four signs of progress I'm seeing in myself in case it will help you see similar signs of progress the next time your buttons get kicked pushed.

  1. First, I noticed that the tsunami itself is a little smaller. Oh, don't me wrong! I still got flooded with the pain of old wounds and swamped with the usual fear and angst and self-loathing. Memories of old rejections and abandonments still came crashing in to sweep me off my feet. I still got triggered and thrown off-balance.

    And yet, this wave wasn't nearly as intense as it once would have been. It helps in some ways that these particular button kickings pressings were smaller than some, but even so, that initial spike of old pain was reduced in a way that tells me that I've done at least some healing work on this. The old wound is not as raw as it once used to stay.

    Partial healing is still progress.

  2. Second, I noticed that I've greatly expanded my ability to stay present and aware enough to recognize what is happening. Instead of just getting thrown into pure reactivity, I'm now able to see that this particular button has been kicked pushed. I have a greater ability to separate the current situation from the flood of historical pain that came with it.

    I'm seeing the patterns that get triggered in me in response to this with greater clarity. (I'm even seeing them rise up in me before I act on them!)I'm noticing much more clearly the way my own thoughts and stories play into this maelstrom and am better able to watch these play out with some distance instead of getting wrapped up in them.

    I'm also better able to make note (and make use) of things that happen that counteract my stories of utter rejection and abandonment. I'm staying aware (and appreciative) of examples of people who are offering kindness, support, encouragement, or a desire for closer contact that are the opposite of rejection and am able to take comfort in those things.

    Staying aware and recognizing what's happening is progress.

  3. Third, that ability to see my patterns getting triggered more clearly is making it possible for me to be much less reactive. My feelings may be somewhat out of control, but my actual responses have been much more thoughtful and stable than I would have even dreamed of in the past.

    I'm able to take time to think before responding. I'm able to evaluate better what might ultimately help or hurt the situation instead of reacting out of blind panic.

    I'm able to consider other possibilities (that have nothing to do with me) for why another person might be acting as they are without automatically defaulting to the most hurtful, personalized explanation imaginable.

    Being less reactive when triggered is progress.

  4. Lastly, I'm noticing that this flood is easing faster than it once would have. I've been better able to set it aside for periods of time to get work done or focus on other things.

    I still get waves crashing through now and again, but they ebb and flow like the tide slowly pulling back out to sea. I can already recognize signs of a return to "normal." (Or as close to "normal" as I ever get.)

    Faster easing of being triggered is also progress.

I'm under no illusions that this is the last time I'll deal with this old wound of mine, and I'm very aware that I still have much more work to do, but I'm also encouraged by these signs of progress. I may not yet be fully healed (and may never reach total healing), but I am doing at least some healing a little bit at a time.

What old wounds do you have that function as triggers like this for you?

How do you normally react when those buttons get kicked pushed?

What signs of progress can you find in the way you react to those triggers now compared to how you might have reacted in the past?

How does seeing those signs of progress affect the way you see yourself or these old wounds?

What things might you do to help encourage those signs of progress that you see?


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