Buttons & Triggers - November 6, 2022
Pastor Mike (00:00):
That means that all of us, all of you right now have a bunch of buttons that are in danger of being pressed, and then instantly we become blind to our own primitive ways. And what happens when we become blind, We fall in the ditch. Is there any help for us?
Hannah Hunter (00:17):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundance with a gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter, the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. As we head into the holiday season, Pastor Mike brings us a message on triggers, what pushes our buttons and how we can better understand and care for ourselves and for others.
Pastor Mike (00:33):
So here we are in a mean first week of November, and we’re already talking about Thanksgiving service projects and ways to get involved in our community. And I’m sure you’re thinking about Thanksgiving itself. And so for some people that the thought of the holidays brings excitement and joy in others of us, it brings a little bit of anxiety because we start connecting with people that maybe we have a little bit of hard time connecting with, and we get a little bit out of our comfort zone. And so today I want to invite you to just kind of imagine with me just for a moment as you’re thinking ahead of what this thanksgiving’s gonna look like, but also maybe you wanna reflect on past holiday family gatherings or other ways that you’ve celebrated holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything in between. So here you are, you’re on your spiritual journey and God has been working in your life, and you can see that you are a new creation in Christ.
You can see that the old things have passed away. You’re letting go of those bad habits. You see everything different. It’s like your eyes are open and you’re like, You know what? This year is gonna be different. When I encounter some folks that are gonna get under my skin, I’m not gonna react anymore because I am free. That old me has passed away. And then reality sets in and someone says something to you, One of your buttons were pushed. And maybe it’s something they said, Maybe it’s an email that you received from them. But whatever happens when you get in the presence of that person, all of a sudden you have this intense emotion starts rising up. You feel upset you’re a bit off balanced, you get a little irrational, you’re not yourself. And what happens, usually what follows this is that you’re harmful to yourself and those around you.
So what I’m talking about is some triggering events. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? When you’ve been triggered by somebody, someone just knows exactly how to push your buttons to just tick you off. I’m speaking of this because you know what? I’m a practitioner of this stuff. Okay? I am learning and experience this, but also I know that there’s some things that God has not done with me, but I want us to help us to understand about triggers because there’s a lot of stuff on media and people talk about how to avoid the triggers and how to manage triggers. And some stuff is helpful, but other stuff is not. And so there’s some things that I want us to really be grounded in when we are thinking about this. Because again, God wants us to be well, right? God wants us to be at peace.
And so a few things that we have to understand about what happens at these triggers is that first of all, the moment they happen, we are catapulted it instantly into this highly emotional reactions and how we know that we’ve been triggered. You usually figure it out afterwards because your reaction is way out of proportion than the event itself. So you’re not ticked off about the macaroni or the email, you got reacted or activated by something that’s been going on. Because usually what happens is after that triggering moment, we calm down, we get back in touch with reality, and we regret our reaction. Are you guys tracking with me? Have you ever done that? We regret our action, our reaction, and that moment our capacity, when we look back at that event, our capacity to think and be reasonable people, to be the Christian that we know we’re called to, to speak clean without those cuss words and all that stuff, all those abilities to exercise restraint has been seriously impaired.
And so as Christians now, okay, let’s talk about the Christian witness. What usually happens for me, it’s usually when someone pushes my button by someone from my past life. So it might be my relative people that they know me, they know my history, old friends, basically, it’s usually the button being pushed by that person that represents the life that I’m trying to be separated from. And yeah, I get a little triggered, I react. In fact, I become just like them mean in a lot of ways. I come just like them. And then have you ever heard this thing, this response from them after you lose it? Okay, so when I lose, after I lose it, you know, hear this kind of question, especially if you’re trying to be outward about your faith, they’re like, Eh, I thought you were a Christian. Have you ever heard that before?
Have you ever had anyone ask you, Eh, I thought you were a Christian. So in my family, oh man, they don’t even do that. So at my family, they say, Eh, I thought you were a pastor. <laugh>. Like, what is that supposed to mean? I thought you were a pastor. And I’m like, Well, I am a pastor, but I’m not your pastor. I don’t see you ti into my church. I don’t see you attending. What gives you the right to poke into me? I thought you were a pastor. Have you ever been there? And so the reality is, is that the blindness that a lot of people that they have, and it comes back and I become blind too, because what happens is when we get triggered or that button gets pushed, it’s like we got poked in the eyes and all of our reasonable senses are gone.
So here’s some things that we gotta understand because a lot of times in church, we over spiritualize this stuff and I want us to have a healthy understanding of what’s happening inside of our souls and in our lives. And so a big part of our triggers, it’s a neurological response most of the time. I mean, here’s happening. We have this part of our brain that is very reasonable. It’s like the seat of our reasoning. And what happens is it usually monitors our reactions, it monitors a part of our brain, monitors how we think and how we react. But when we get that button gets pushed, we are emotionally hijacked, and then we lose control of our reactions. And it’s seized by this part of the brain. That’s this little part of the brain that’s like an almond shape part of the brain. And does anybody know what it’s called?
It’s called the amygdala, right? And if you’re familiar with the amygdala, I mean, what is this? This is part of our Olympic Olympic system, and it plays a primary role and processing our memories, it plays a primary role in our emotional reaction. And what it really does now, this is the part that some of us don’t like to be comfortable with this, but it ignites some of our primal survival instincts, whether you’re gonna fight or you’re gonna flight. And so part of this fight or flight behavior is it’s a part of our survival because how it’s supposed to work is that when there is danger, that sense, this amygdala sends these massive amounts of stress related hormones and peptides to our body. And so tell me, and this is what happens to you physiologically. So your heart rate starts accelerating. I mean, these are signs that you are in danger that you’re getting triggered.
So when you get that email or when they start talking about the taste of your casserole, or they start picking about, Oh, you’re still in the same job and how’s things going at work and what your kids are doing, all that. So your heart rate elevates, your blood pressure increases cuz you know what? You’re ready to get some energy, you’re ready to kick some be good, you’re gonna kick some butt. I mean, that’s what you’re gonna do. Your blood gets diverted to your arms and legs, you know what I mean? So you’re either gonna run like hell or you’re gonna give them hell. And so you have this extra energy and you start to perspire a little bit so that way you’re not gonna overheat, right? Cause you’re ready to kick some stuff. I mean, that’s on the fight side, just so you know. Okay, So I just wanna let you know where I’m at.
But why does this, All this happens is because it prepares you to fight or flee. It prepares you to react. And here’s the thing that that’s so tricky about this. We think that we’re really in control. But when this happens, when these hormones are released, when things happen, it happens in milliseconds. I mean it’s like, damn, you’re there. How does it look like in real life? It’s like when the boss or maybe a colleague, they trigger you. Your brain’s primary response is activated. And your primitive, your primary neurological systems cannot now hear me. They cannot distinguish between an emotional threat to our ego and a physical danger to our body. So when someone does this, it triggers our emotional wirings and our body reacts as if our life is in danger. And that’s why we overreact most of the time and understand that the full range of our fight or flight responses are totally engaged.
And so basically what you’re doing is when that lovely, okay, name some triggers. I just wanna hear some triggers just cuz I’m using mine too much and I don’t know anything about you, but name some things, places that where you get triggered that if you just, I mean keep it anonymous if you can. So if you’re sitting next to your spouse and you say, My spouse don’t do that, but name some trigger, just some things that you can trigger this. So what would it be like? So I was given Thanksgiving. Come on, help me out. Traffic triggers you? Yes, Calling name, calling. Someone calls you a name. Anything else kids I heard? And then what was the other one? Anything else? I left out people at work. So here’s what happens when you do that. The normal Christian body of cry, hands and feet of Jesus, they start doing a little different thing.
I mean, they do karate stuff instead of the normal we’ve imagined Jesus to do because we think that we’re fighting a dinosaur. We think that our life is in danger and we’re ready to take control. And so here’s the thing that we have to be thinking about at this time, okay? Thanksgiving is coming up. You can’t avoid traffic, you can’t avoid that person and work. And since this is very biological in many ways and everyone has triggers that a lot of them can’t be avoided, that means that all of us, all of you right now have a bunch of buttons that are in danger of being pressed. And then instantly we become blind to our own primitive ways. And what happens when we become blind, we fall in the ditch. Is there any help for us? Is there any hope in these kind of situations?
Or is it just, oh God, well gloves are off again. Thanksgiving. I mean, is that how it is? Or I’ve got my track shoes on, I’m ready to run away. Let’s jump into Luke chapter six, verses 39 to 42. He also told him this parable, this is Jesus, can the blind lead the blind will then now both fall into a pit. The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. Pay attention to this. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eyes and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Brother, let me take out that little speck out of your eye. When you yourselves fail to see the plank in your own eye, you hypocrite first, take out the plank out of your eye and then you’ll see clearly to remove the spec from your brother’s eye.
So today, the heart of this message is this, is that my desire is to help you, the listener, to begin to identify your planks in your eye. Those planks are our wounds inside of our souls. But also, once you identify those planks, those wounds that cause us to that underlining things that are connected to those triggers or those buttons that you can trust that Jesus came to heal you. And also that you can understand that healing takes time. And your healing might require extended support from maybe a therapist, maybe a counselor, a pastor, informed spiritual friends, people that are safe. It will require church, it will require a life group. So let’s dive back in. First of all, if you want to be, well, you gotta own your triggers, you gotta own your buttons. Those are your responsibility. So the person, this is the lesson that you gotta hold onto. We Christians stink at this. The person who is triggering you, that person who’s pushing your button and saying that thing, sending that email, driving just like a dope, all those things, that person is actually not the problem.
Many people misunderstand triggers. And so when they misunderstand these triggers, they think that it’s connected to a person or they think the button is the problem. And what happens is they misappropriate misappropriate many healthy practices like boundaries or being assertive. So here’s what I’m talking about. We think that the solution to our triggers is just to have these rock solid boundaries but actually what’s happening is they activate our fight or flight or fight response. And we do a couple things. We think to ourselves that we’re gonna be assertive, but other times we actually use these boundaries and things to shut down and avoid people. So then we think that we’re speaking the truth and love, but actually we’re being quite angry. And so usually what happens is that when we don’t take ownership of what’s going on inside of our souls and we don’t realize why am I getting so upset?
What is beneath the service? And let’s face it, man, for centuries, a lot of Christians we’re pretty darn shallow. I mean, we like to just jesusy everything and we don’t like to really go below the service. But here’s what happens. We put on a facade and we lie to ourselves. We don’t talk about what’s going on. And so then here’s what happens. Some of you, your fight gets activated and it’s represented in anger and other forms of aggression. So you become argumentative, you know, wanna win that argument. You speak in anger, you start raising your voice, you start yelling. Maybe you have these sharp comments. It’s like how to push and touch their buttons too. Sometimes people resort, resort, even Christians into bullying, other people making threats, intimidating other people. I mean they use their body language to do all this stuff. And this is just their anger coming out.
And yet we think that we are under control and that we’re ruled by the spirit of God. Others in their flight response, they become a little bit passive aggressive. Instead of dealing with what’s inside of them, what’s going on in our soul, we make excuses to avoid people. We have other commitments because we don’t want to be in that confrontational position. Other times we sabotage. We sabotage maybe by, for example, sometimes spouses instead of just dealing with what’s been triggered, sometimes spouses will sabotage each other by intentionally not doing the chore that the other spouse thought you were doing that you’re able to do. So they think that they can count on you what the dishes still don’t get done, even though they promise to it. Maybe in work sometimes we have this little passive aggressive behavior and we sabotage our bosses or our colleagues by not getting the job done on time.
We get it late or maybe we don’t give the information that is required for whatever that work is to be successful. Other times what we do, we get sarcastic and we think that’s being sarcastic is a way of managing our emotions. But really inside man, we’re like a tick time bomb, ready to go off. And then other times some of us just give people the silent treatment. We just pretend you don’t exist. Instead of wishing an atomic bomb just came on, you just don’t exist anymore. In my world, I don’t respond to your emails, I don’t respond to your telephone calls. If you come to a family event or a work function, you have to be there. I am not going to be there. And then another thing that happens, that’s a byproduct of all this stuff. And if we’re really honest, sometimes we feed some of our addictive and compulsive behaviors.
Some of us, I mean cuz we wanna feel better, we wanna get that high. So some people actually get high, they drink, they do dope, they shoot up, they do all these different things. Some of us get high by just overeating, self admission here. Sometimes another compulsive and addictive behavior is getting into media that we shouldn’t be getting involved with. And then sometimes what we say, we just start overspending. We talk about it all the time. I’m gonna do some shopping therapy. But is it really therapy? Is it really transforming your life or is it just digging you deeper into a whole? So when we focus on the person and the remarks as a source of danger, the real threat that we’re avoiding is what’s going on inside of us. And this is the part where I want you to please just pay attention to, is that our triggers evoke some powerful chains of emotions and memories.
So this is not connected to that single event, but there there’s been a chain of emotions and memories and usually they go back to our childhood. So our triggers can be birthed from common traumas of growing up, maybe a whole community experience, some kind of trauma. Maybe it’s linked to not being valued by a parent. Maybe it’s being the youngest child who felt like they were left out or being, maybe you were held back in school and you got teased in school and you can’t get past that. Maybe it’s this fear of being rejected by your friends and your peers. Or maybe you just had that effect of maybe you had an emotionally absent parent, your parent was just about work and providing for your basic needs, but they were emotionally absent for others. Sometimes these chains lead to dramatic wounds in our lives. Sometimes a death in a family member of a family member, sometimes a divorce, a traumatic accident, you know, were healthy, you were able to do all these things, but now you are disabled.
Sometimes it’s things like the trauma of alcoholism in our families or the response of emotional and physical abuse. Some of us have family members that loved us, but they still abused us. Maybe they thought they were caring and helping for us, but their words were just cutting to our heart and tearing our souls down. Maybe it’s the impact of oppression on members of a marginalized groups. Sometimes groups of people, ethnic groups or different groups in society are just marginalized and torn up. So dealing with this trigger stuff is some very serious business. And in fact today what we’re talking about is the wounds that are inside of us and addressing that core wounds so that healing process can begin. Next week what we’re gonna talk about is the second part of this trigger so that we can be well is just since triggers are still active in our lives, even when we’re in a healing process, is how to manage them.
So today we’re talking about the core or the root of it. Next week we were talk about the managing part. And here’s something that I need you to get ahold of. And it almost sounds sac religious for a pastor to say this, but this is that there’s not a quick fix to this. Yes, Jesus could come into your heart, he can save your soul, but there’s no magic prayer that’s gonna to rid you from all those emotional wounds that you’ve accumulated your entire life, even generational trauma. In fact, to think that there’s some kind of quick fix, I mean that’s like witchcraft. I mean, we don’t do witchcraft well in the church, okay? We’re not supposed to do. So here’s what I want you to know is that yes, God makes us free from the power of evil. I mean, when Jesus died on the cross for our sins and he resurrected, he breaks the power of evil over your life.
So those chains are broken, but sometimes we never get ’em out. We just let ’em distill this hanging around God. You gotta hear this. God promises to heal you and that means make you whole. Well that is the promise of God. God promises to make us a new creation. But you gotta hold onto this, is that this new creation process, it takes time, it takes courage, it takes honesty. I mean it takes community immunity. And when I say community, that means it means that we need actually help. We gotta humble ourselves and say, I need help. And you call out to help to God. You call out to help from trusted friends, safe people in the church. You call out to help with professionals. There’s no shame in getting the help that you need. Maybe it’s going to a support group, maybe it’s going to a life group.
So in order to better understand those emotional triggers, here’s a couple things I just want you to take away, hold onto today is that one, you gotta be aware of what is triggering you. And then number two is understand the deeper feelings. So sometimes they require you to go back into a moment. Maybe you were triggered this week and maybe it’s a small trigger but does tick you off. And you go back to that. Take some time to do some reflecting, check, talk to that internal dialogue stuff and ask yourself, what is a deeper feeling of underneath why I felt this way? Where did it come from? Why do certain things cause me to react so strongly? And so that sometimes that means that you have to ask yourself, why did my blood pressure start going up? Why did I start feeling tense? Why did my palms start getting sweaty?
Why did all these responses started happening? And then maybe ask another harder question that we don’t like to ask, but what from my past is being reactivated? In other words, what is coming up from the grave that should be buried in dead or done away with? What’s what is happening? So there’s some tools that God has given to us, ways to deal with this. And one write this down, Psalm 1 39. So Psalm 1 39, I mean, it’s a large Psalm and it really grounds us. It grounds us and reminds us that God knows us. God knows everything about us. I mean God, it declares how God was in us when we were being formed in the womb. I mean, God was a part of the whole process. And I would encourage you this week and the weeks ahead as you’re, you’re going into holidays to start regularly reading Psalm 1 39 because it brings you to a point where you’re vulnerable before God.
And there’s one part of this psalm that I want you to hold onto, and we’re gonna do this today to start us on that journey. And my prayer is that you’ll continue to do this and we’re gonna do some grounding practices. So one of the grounding practices of Christians is that we’re called to do some in soul work. Looking inside, there’s some confession work of saying, confessing our brokenness and our need for salvation to God and then believing that God will save and heal us. One verse are two verses that we’re gonna zero in on today that we’re gonna practice is Psalm 1 39, verses 23 to 34. I’m gonna read it to you and then I want, we’re gonna read it in unison, okay? But may this be your prayer today, and may you ask, continue to do this work. Okay? Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Now, I wanna encourage you to don’t be ashamed of what you discover when you start praying that maybe it’s a behavior,
Maybe it’s an attitude that you just been holding onto that you just got real comfortable wearing that attitude. Maybe there’s an offense, some unforgiveness going on and maybe it’s, it is an offense you can hold onto that you are absolutely just to hold onto. Maybe there’s some things that are unrealistic, that you’ve been exaggerating and hold onto that fence too long. Own it.
Name it. Take responsibility for your feelings and your actions. They are yours. So maybe you’re just hurting. Maybe you had a big loss in your life, you’re just hurting. You’re like, God, this is, I’m hurting God. I miss that person. Whatever it is that’s causing you to be offensive to other people, to yourself, to God. Ask God to forgive you and set you free. Believe in Jesus’. Work on the cross because you know what? We cannot save ourselves. Holy communion. Go ahead and get your communion elements out. If you’re listening to the podcast, you might want to hit pause and just get something of bread and juice. But holy communion is like a template for the spiritual life. I mean, we’re the body of Christ. And what we understand on communion is this, is that Jesus identifies, I mean he is intimately connected to our woundedness goodness. And so that bread that we have, and I just wanna invite you just to take that bread out right now, hold it, look at it. It reminds us that we are all broken. We’re all broken, okay? And Jesus connects with that. And Jesus died for the things that you and I just named.
Communion is meant to be done with others. And it’s a reminder that healing in our lives doesn’t happen in isolation. Healing happens in community. So have you been doing life alone again, as you’re holding that bread, ask God to show you the wounds beneath the surface.
Maybe you need to go to somebody very soon and just start that conversation. Maybe some of you need a spiritual director or talk to a counselor. I mean, God uses all of these things, but this bread is symbolic of being broken with Christ. And we humble ourselves to do whatever it takes to be well. So there’s no hiding in it. So what that means is that when you’re holding this bread, you’re saying to yourself, and God, God, I’m willing to be broken. I’m willing to make that call. I’m making that appointment. I’m willing to join that life group. I’m no longer gonna do life alone. So just hold that bread and just hold onto it tight. Now, at the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, there’s this promise of victory. And listen to this, it says, Then I heard a loud voice in heaven proclaiming now have come the salvation and the power of the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of the brothers and sisters has been thrown down.
Do you hear that? That means that no one accuses you anymore. No one has a right to accuse you anymore. Who this accused that other brethren’s been thrown down? Who accuses them day and night before our God? But they, that’s all of us who are Christians, right, have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not clinging to life even in the face of death. So when supper was over, Jesus took the cup. So go ahead and open your cups up and this is a reminder of the victory we have in Christ. He did it at the end of supper because it was a celebration. That and a reminder that we conquer, We overcome these things because of Jesus’s blood, our own personal story, our own personal witness. A reminder that Jesus has the final victory.
We humble ourselves also not loving our lives to the death. We humble ourselves and we don’t clinging to things that are not eternal. In other words, we hold things loosely. So God, as we hold these things and we reflect on the meaning of Jesus’, death on the cross and his resurrection, we ask that you pour out your Holy Spirit on us. And that as we receive this bread, we remember our brokenness. And remember that Christ is broken for us and then the cup of Jesus’s victory because of the shed blood, brothers and sisters, I invite you now to take the body of Christ that is given for you and the blood of Christ that has been shed for you, for our victory. Take and be thankful. I pray that this message has been helpful for you to get things in right perspective. And my desire is that for everyone who hears this, that you’ll stop blaming other people for your problems and have the courage because God’s not condemning you.
No one’s here to condemn you, to identify your wounds, to find what’s wounded, what’s going on in that soul, to trust that Jesus will heal you. And understand that healing takes time and you need community to be healed. You need other people. And my prayer is that God will show you those people that you need to connect with so that you can be made. Well, let us pray. So Jesus, we thank you for the life that we have in you. We thank you that you are not done with us. And as we prepare for these holiday seasons, Lord, let the anxieties go down as we continue to allow you to search our hearts and show us, test us of anything that is offensive. And we trust that you’re gonna lead us in the way of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Hannah Hunter (33:32):
Aw. Amen. Hey beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday worship service at 1115. For more information about our community and faith, check out our website at thegatheringplacefl.org. Thanks for listening.