This March 2021 full moon journal page was created to help you neutralize emotional triggers in a relationship.
This month’s full moon has some helpful energy for healing what’s broken in relationships. This, of course, means that leading up to the full moon you may have noticed tension building in a relationship close to you or memories of past hurts surfacing even if you hadn’t thought about them for years. It’s one of those “Show me what I need to see” kind of moons. Life will show you where the healing work needs to be done to get you where you want to be.
One of the ways life shows you where the healing work needs to be done in relationships is with emotional triggers An emotional trigger is anything — including memories, experiences, or events — that sparks an intense emotional reaction, regardless of your current mood. Emotional triggers cause an intense emotional reaction because they point to a wound or an unmet emotional need.
One of the first spiritual practices I deeply committed to in my thirties was using my emotional triggers to help me know myself better. And when I say I was deeply committed I mean deeeeeeply committed. I practiced it diligently every day several times a day. I was obsessed but in this really great way that helped me grow and become a better human. I tried my best not to react to emotional triggers and instead I got curious. Before figuring out how to handle the situation, I wondered what the emotional trigger was showing me about myself.
The philosophy I put into practice was to believe that the very things that were causing me the most discomfort – my heartaches, frustrations, disappointments, challenges and conflicts in relationships were all just pointing me to an unmet emotional need. If I became curious and gave myself time to explore my inner landscape and figure out what that unmet emotional need was then follow that up with doing whatever I had to do to meet that unmet emotional need, how would the situation or the relationship change?
“Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
One of the places where emotional triggers pop up most often is in relationships. To make matters more complicated, many of us end up with life partners, close friends, family or bosses and co-workers who have the personalities, habits and conditioning that create the perfect conditions for our emotional needs to continue to go on being unmet.
Ordinary events end up triggering intense reactions because the unmet emotional needs from the past are still big gaping emotional voids in our hearts. We are not just seeing the present moment. We are seeing many moments behind that where our emotional needs were continuously ignored. Partners can’t understand where the intensity is coming from and their confusion can quickly escalate into frustration until both partners’ nervous systems’ are dysregulated – and try carrying on any kind of conversation or experiencing any kind of connection when your nervous system is dysregulated. It’s so hard.
We all have specific unmet emotional needs that were caused by traumatic or difficult experiences from our past that have left us with an emotional void. Without realizing it, filling that emotional void becomes the drive behind things we do and it becomes an expectation in relationships. For some, it is to feel loved and so they look to others to fill them up with love. For others it is to feel important so when someone does something to make them feel insignificant, they will get emotionally triggered. They will want the other person to prove to them they are important instead. This usually doesn’t work.
Believing that something or someone else has to change in order for your unmet emotional needs to be met keeps you powerless. People are unpredictable and it is not only the other person’s responsibility to manage your unmet emotional needs. In a compassionate relationship, the other person can help you co-regulate and will be kind, sensitive and thoughtful about your emotional triggers but your triggers are also your responsibility to work through. When you do, your wounded inner child will learn that they can rely on you. You will always be there for them no matter what. Your presence is enough. They will come to trust that you will not abandon them.
Emotional triggers have one thing in common, you have given them more meaning then they actually have because they remind you or prove to you that you are lacking that which you desire most…your unmet emotional need. When someone triggers you in a relationship, you’re making their words, actions or behaviour mean something.
For example, one of my biggest triggers in relationship is when someone I love withdraws from me without explaining why. I make it mean one of two things, either I am not important to them and they never have time for me or, if it they continue to pull away without any explanation whatsoever and essentially ghost me, I make it mean they are going to die and I will lose them forever and I will not survive because I am unable to take care of myself. As you can tell, the second one is a much more intense trauma response but either way, someone I love choosing to withdraw from me without explaining why may not mean either of those things. It may just mean they are overwhelmed or depressed and do not have the inner resources to connect with me or perhaps they are emotionally immature and can only avoid confrontation.
When I’m feeling triggered by their behaviour, my first step is to get curious and wonder why I am getting triggered. What emotional wound is being poked at? What is the underlying unmet emotional need I’m dealing with? When I ask myself these questions, I realize the intensity of my reaction lessens and the harsh judgment I have for the other person diminishes. I’m then ready to do what I have to do to ensure my emotional need gets met.
The inner dialogue when I’m triggered might sound something like this…
“I notice I’m getting upset here. Interesting…I wonder what’s really going on? Hmmm…yes…I see…someone I love is withdrawing from me. Right! When someone I love withdraws from me I feel unimportant or unsafe. No wonder I’m upset. When I think I’m unimportant or unsafe, I get scared and want to protect myself. Oh yeah…that’s what is happening here. No big deal. Everyone has emotional triggers. Everyone has emotional voids to deal with…this just happens to be mine. Thank goodness I found out what my emotional needs are because now, instead of getting mad at this person or blaming or judging them, I know what I actually need and I can do whatever I need to do to make sure my needs are getting met. I may want the other person to stop withdrawing or to be honest and transparent with me when they feel the need to withdraw but I do not need those things to feel important or safe. I can do whatever I can in this moment to FEEL IMPORTANT OR SAFE. What are the ways that work best for me again? Oh yeah…I remember…I better take a moment now to do that then I’ll be in a much better place to handle whatever needs to be addressed in the relationship.”
On this full moon journal page we’re going to focus on an emotional trigger you’re contending with in a relationship. We will then get curious about which unmet emotional need that trigger is pointing to.
If you are not on my email list and haven’t received this month’s moon page, visit my homepage and sign up. You’ll receive a link where you can download the hand-drawn page I created for this particular moon. Print it, grab a tea and a cozy blanket, get comfortable then follow the instructions below.
If moon rituals are familiar to you, prepare your sacred space and invite Spirit to join you in whatever way works best for you.
If, however, you are new to moon rituals, I’ve included a quick guide to the steps I follow to prepare for my moon rituals in a past blog post. Take a look at it before moving forward.
Print out the March full moon journal page and gather your pencil crayons or paint. You will probably also want your writing journal so you can complete the following exercise. Only the final sentence of this exercise will be applied to your full moon journal page.
Think of a person or a relationship in your life that is currently bothering or has a tendency to bother you from time to time.
When you think of this person, how does your body respond? Don’t judge the sensations or feelings that arise. Just allow yourself to feel deeper into your experience of this person.
Think about the person again but this time really think about the behaviors, situations or words that really trigger you. Think about how you would like them to be different. What could they say or do to make you feel better.
Now try to complete the following statement in your mind:
I would be happier if this person ________________________________
Think of as many examples as you can. Sit with this statement for as long as you need to capture deep, raw, authentic answers. You know you’ve hit the right answers when they elicit an emotional response. If none of your fill-in-the-blank answers elicit an emotional response, you probably have to give it some time and dig a little deeper.
Choose the fill-in-the-blank statement that elicited the strongest emotional reaction. Try to choose the answer that you felt most strongly about but don’t get stuck or hung up on trying to find the perfect one. Just trust what comes to mind. Perhaps there was a fill-in-the-blank answer that surprised you and you’d like to work with that one.
Let’s just recall the answer here. Fill in the blank to the following statement again.
I would be happier if this person ____________________________________
Now it’s time to get those feeling words out.
Your job is to try and capture as accurately as you can how it feels to not have that person say, do or behave in the way you want them to. How does it make you feel when this person acts or responds in a way that triggers you? You might not be feeling the totality of your displeasure right in this moment but think back to those times when it bothered you most.
Use as many words as you can to describe how you feel when that person triggers you. Just allow your mind to explore and label the feelings that arise as best as you can. Do you feel dismissed, unloved, angry, hurt, empty, insecure, trapped, ashamed, unsafe, powerless, afraid, weak, judged or some other emotion?
Now let’s look at how you would feel if you got what you wanted from that person. Before you answer, take a moment to visualize that person doing exactly what you want them to do or acting in the perfect way or saying exactly what you need them to say. How would your life be different? How much different would you feel? Visualize the difference in as much detail as you can. Really try to capture what that would feel like for you.
Explore as many feeling words as you can that describe how you imagine you would feel if this person became exactly what you secretly wanted them to be. Would you feel peaceful, worthy, included, whole, happy, powerful, attractive, smart, equal, accepted, capable, respected, considered, loved, appreciated, taken care of, valued, safe or some other emotion?
Now let’s narrow down all those feelings and choose just one feeling that best describes how would feel if that person in your life showed up differently or the situation around them changed. Choose the emotion that you gravitate towards the most and seems to really capture best how you would feel if this person changed or the situation around them was different then complete the following statement in your mind:
If this person changed or the situation around this person changed, I would feel ____________________.
Let’s finish this philosophical journey by considering that you may want this person or the situations with this person to change but what you want underneath that is the feeling you believe them being different will give you.
By moving through these questions you see what you are actually attached to. The awareness is usually enough to shift your mood and your perspective about that person. Instead of remaining in displeasure, you see the source of your unhappiness. Shining the light on the source of your unhappiness is usually enough to evaporate it.
On your full moon journal page, in the white space around the full moon, complete the following sentence:
I think I want (insert the name of the person who triggers you here) to change but what I really want is to feel ___________________.
I hope you’ve found this exercise as helpful as a great yogic stretch and as centering as a deep meditation. Use it whenever you feel emotionally triggered by another person. The more you use it, the more releasing your attachments will become an automatic response.
If you end up completing this moon page, I’d love to see what you created. You can even post the finished piece on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #danasartrituals or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me how it went for you. It’s fun for me to know there are others out there enjoying the moon with me.