Are You Still Triggered By Your Family?

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Family issues sometimes take us by surprise. We think we have dealt with “our issues” and moved on in life. Then suddenly there it is – we have a family interaction and once again we are annoyed, offended, frustrated, resentful or worse.

Almost everyone has at least one relative who is perennially challenging: a parent, sibling, adult child, or maybe an in-law or step-relative. Who is it for you? And why is the problem with this person so enduring?

I recently worked with a client who realized that her struggles with her ex-husband were actually a re-enactment of her struggles with her mother. She had been through therapy and several 12-step programs, but she was still very triggered by her mother. My initial advice to her is the same advice I would give to anyone who is struggling – don’t give up!

Recognize that the prior work you have done has brought you to this point. Good! None of it is lost. Now, the question is whether you are ready to move forward. The fact that you are still triggered does not mean the relationship cannot be healed. It means you are dealing with an issue that is complex and multi-layered. It means there is more work to do – when you are ready.

My client’s mother had been very harsh and critical towards her throughout her life, and this woman (my client) suffered greatly as a result. Doing forgiveness work, she realized she had internalized all of her mother’s negative messages. She was now able to separate from those messages and see that none of them were true. This was a huge turning point for her.

Forgiveness works because it addresses the root of the problem. It invites you to take a clear look at the core beliefs you have internalized about the other person and yourself. After doing forgiveness work, most people feel as thought a heavy weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They experience a great sense of freedom and lightness.

If you want to start exploring your own family triggers, here are some questions for inquiry and reflection: When you feel triggered . . .

1. What is your story about the other person?

2. What are your beliefs about the other person?

3. What are your beliefs about yourself?

Next time I hope to write more about how to survive the holidays and family gatherings.


About Eileen Barker

EILEEN BARKER has been writing and speaking on forgiveness, and guiding people who need to either forgive themselves or someone else, for many years. A practicing litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role, Eileen has focused her practice on mediation, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself.

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