Trigger Happy

It just occurred to me what might be going on. I find myself unusually resentful when certain people dominate conversations wanting to keep attention on themselves. They go on and on telling their own stories, presenting their own ideas and steering the conversation back to themselves no matter what subject is being discussed. Whenever someone else begins to share a story or idea they seem to listen long enough to regroup only to continue their own thoughts and agenda. Although few others get any chance to participate in the conversation and be really heard, these people don't seem to notice how disproportionate their dominance of the conversation has become.

What bothers me beyond the annoyance of observing this mindset, is my own puzzlement as to why I feel so intensely triggered myself. Am I jealous because I cannot dominate the conversation? Possibly, at least sometimes. Are there other factors completely out of sight in my heart that are creating this tension? Very possibly. But something else just came to my attention that seems to help make sense of this a little more.

It has to do with how people act and relate at different maturity levels. The reality is that a person who has not yet reached some level of maturity is incapable of grasping very well how to relate and function at higher levels of maturity than their own. All they can perceive is what they know at their current level or those lower than their own. But to relate and act in ways that require higher maturity requires capacity for a broader view from the inside. It cannot be faked; to live in a more mature way it must come spontaneously from the inside or it is not genuine and will not be effective.

However, a person of greater maturity can handle and relate to those of lesser maturity without becoming triggered or impatient themselves. They can perceive that another other person is limited by their immaturity to acting the way they are and will not become resentful. They will also likely have ways of conveying lessons and insights in non-threatening ways to those interested in advancing in maturity. But they do not feel threatened themselves by those of lesser maturity. They will simply seek to do whatever possible to diffuse and prevent tensions or upsets caused by others that arise from immature behaviors.

If my irritation is due to my own lack of maturity, then very likely I am in need of growing up more myself. Triggers are almost always a symptom of something lacking in my own character, irritation that someone around me is acting in immaturity that resonates too closely to my own problems. Of course there can be other factors as well, such as concern for the reputation of various parties or the potential that some may be hurt by other's immature actions. But rather than feeling resentful I need to both see my own limitations of maturity and also seek to grow up more and gain a better perspective of how to relate to others.

Viewing life and people through the perspective of maturity rather than being right or wrong, good or bad is a much healthier way to live. It is in fact itself a sign of growing maturity. Rather than living in a simplistic world of black or white, winners or losers, sinners or righteous, one can begin to live in sympathy, understanding and compassion. Having compassion for one who is immature is not to endorse their mistakes. But it does allow one to become free of compulsions to censure others for their mistakes and shortcomings.

Seeing faults in others that trigger me is one of the quickest and easiest ways to unmask my own blind spots and weaknesses. But beyond that it is also an invitation to move beyond my narrow views of life or my prejudices about others and to seek to grow into a higher level of maturity where things will make more sense and there is much less irritation and senseless tension. The heart can begin to open and thrive and bond with other hearts more closely as we grow together in community and we fellowship with others on parallel roads to greater maturity.

Physical age has very little to do with maturity except as a minimum prerequisite point at which one is normally able to move to a higher level. Most of the time we lag far behind these potential transition points for moving to another stage and we are constantly trying to play catch-up, at least if we care about such things.

So, why do these people irritate me so much and what does that say about both my and their maturity?

As I recall, it is a normal symptom of child maturity that one has a view of life that there can only be winners and losers. If I win then you have to lose and visa versa. Adult maturity is when a person becomes much more cognizant of the ability to be inclusive, to begin to actively consider the needs, desires and feelings of others at least as much as your own. At that point they shift their focus from meeting their own needs exclusively at the expense of those around them as a child does, to seeking ways of satisfying the needs and desires of everyone in their group. This is a transition that many of us still struggle to make and we often lose sight of that perspective because of our natural tendencies of selfishness and pride.

What does pride have to do with this? Pride is always our attempt to prop up our deficient sense of worth and value. Whenever we are functioning on a basis of shame and a low sense of worth we may seek ways and means of emphasizing our own importance through whatever methods appeal to us. These means vary widely based on what we have been trained to consider legitimate or that work well for us. But no matter how we do it, the focus of pride is on seeking to get others to value us, think more highly of us and appreciate us so we hopefully can feel better about ourselves. This is typically the subconscious process that drives a person to clamor for public attention even while sometimes trying to appear that they are not.

If I feel triggered by such immature behavior, it may be a sign that my own sense of worth is in bad shape, that my own belief is still very weak at the heart level about how God feels about me, that He actually likes me, cares about me and values me. As I sense other people's hidden agenda to prop up their own emptiness by dominating conversations and seeking attention from others, it tends to amplify a similar weakness and deficiency in my own heart and makes me uncomfortable.

But if I am willing to grow up a little more, I will be able to view this as a wake-up call rather than a threat or a reason to criticize someone else's immature behavior. If I relate to these tensions and awkward circumstances as opportunities to see my own shortcomings more clearly, then they can work to benefit me rather than irritate me, which is a much better way to relate to life generally.

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