Here’s an unhappy incident. Just recently, I was in a Dominican Restaurant and I ordered some chicken soup for my son who was sick at home. Their soup is wonderful with huge pieces of chicken, large chunks of potatoes, sliced carrots, onions, and a spicy, flavorful broth. Just the thing you need when you are not feeling well.
I had walked out after paying and realized that I had forgotten to ask for the fresh, homemade garlic and immediately turned back. The woman who had served me was busy, so a man behind the counter asked to help me and I told him what I wanted. He told me, “Oh, we don’t give you garlic with the soup. No, she would not give you garlic.”
When he said this, an irritation with a noticeable twinge hit me from within as he just stood there looking at me. I heard the edge in my voice as I asked, “Well can I buy it?” He responded very nicely, “Oh okay, it’s just that I never heard of putting garlic in soup. I never heard of that, never thought of that.” And he gave me a puzzled look as he went to get the garlic.
Since he explained his previous statement, that immediately brought down my irritation and I felt relief as I switched my mentality over to the much more pleasant Conflict Closer. I share with him the medicinal powers of garlic, especially in combination with their wonderful soup. We smiled at each other, he said, “Oh I hadn’t heard of that.“ Then, as he hands me the garlic he says, “That will be fifty cents.” I say, “Okay,” now slightly irritated again. I handed him the fifty cents with perfect understanding of why he had the right to charge me for it and I left.
However, I felt inquisitive and annoyed with myself—intent on investigating the reasons for my irritation.
Clearly, whether I wanted to be or not, I had been triggered by such a small thing. Ugh. I kept thinking that he did not seem to detect my irritation, which I was grateful for, since there was no good cause for it in my mind—even though my body had different ideas. My walk home was one filled with many questions for myself.
Why was I triggered?
What in my past set off physical reactions within me that I did not see coming?
It took some thinking, but I was able to identify two important things:
1. This was not the first time that I asked for garlic and received it when I ordered soup, so I knew that he was wrong.
There was never any room for pushback in my home growing up because my mom, in her mind, was always right. The time and exposure I had to her implanted the same physical reaction, which she often turned in to a verbal reaction, that was unleashed upon anyone who pushed back on her when she knew she was right. While I have done the work (over 15 years of work to be exact) to prevent that kind of verbal assault coming out of my mouth, clearly my body still carries the emotional trigger. How annoying is that?!
2. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this trigger low-key triggered number 1.
This one is often pretty unobtrusive, but still often noticeable to me through the feeling of discomfort. The level of this discomfort was very low during this incident, but I am certain of the role it played in the second trigger. So here it is: I often go to restaurants where the customers are predominantly Spanish speaking people.
If I am truthful, there is a level of self-consciousness that I speak very little Spanish, and I often do not use the little I know to place an order. I feel guilty, inadequate, and somewhat out of place—yet still comfortable if the people are nice, which they often are. So, this trigger was already activated even though it was at a very low level.
There was no problem ordering or paying for my order, but when I came back to a new person and was refused the garlic, this trigger set in motion the second trigger. Do you get it?
This is what you get when you engage in serious inquiry. You get to uncover your triggers, and the triggers that they sit upon. It may not be fun, but it is truly fascinating.
The work is ongoing for me and I am not alone in the work to be done.
What work do you have to do to uncover your triggers?
We will never really change what is going on in our lives, or in the world, until we engage in this kind of work… one trigger at a time.