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From triggers to possibilities

I recently returned from an enlightening trip to Quebec. I was there to participate in an eight day Landmark vacation course. Part of our time was spent in a coursework setting where we inquired into what triggers us in life. We also enjoyed lots of free time to walk around the city, meet in groups and socialize, go to great restaurants, eat sumptuous meals, drink delectable wines, and converse about what we were learning. During the coursework portion, I learned that a trigger is something that causes an automatic reaction and an almost certain and familiar response. For example, I do not like when someone attempts to put a muzzle on me when I am talking. I get very angry. When I was a young woman, I typically silenced myself while feeling incensed at the audacity of being shushed. Once I became a therapist, I learned to utilize therapeutic techniques which allowed me use my voice and feel like I had the upper hand. Neither approach is very satisfying in a social situation.

We investigated three possible ways of responding to the triggers: all is well, wonder, and service. We explored the practice of interrupting the internal conversation and disempowering behavior by trying one of the these alternative responses. I had the opportunity to practice in vivo when one of the participants expressed that what I was sharing while we were sitting in a social setting was causing her to feel embarrassed, that I was sharing “too much information” and told me to stop. I heard what she said, noticed the rage well up, and rather than shutting down, I stated that I was simply sharing something about my dating life since being widowed. I wondered what might be getting triggered in her by my comments and asked her as such. She stopped and stated “that’s a good question”. I interrupted my automatic response of shutting down, making her wrong, or becoming the therapist. Instead, I used the coursework material, went into wonder, and most importantly stopped the creation of an inner story about her being a domineering and narcissistic woman who obviously didn’t realize who I am. I let it go, recognized that “all is well”, and hoped that our interaction was of service to her as it was to me.

I have felt different since returning from Quebec. While away I learned new ways of responding to life which is allowing me to be with people differently. I am aware of a new way of being in life unfolding each day. I returned with an inner sense of calmness – a knowing about where I am heading. It is as though aspects of my past have unraveled and the path of where I am heading in my life is being revealed more clearly. I am in the last third of my life. I am wondering how much more time I want to spend reacting to circumstances rather than creating new opportunities for myself and others.

The late archetypal psychologist and preeminent scholar James Hillman spoke of soul, character, and destiny in his 1992 book, The Soul’s Code. Hillman proposed that one’s calling in life is inherent. The mission throughout the course of one’s life is to realize the imperatives of the call and to ultimately answer the call. I have known for many years that the call of my life is to stand up to injustice. I am particularly called to educate and empower women to stand up for themselves and one another and to transform the injustices they face. In my view of the world, when women have access to a fair and equitable playing field, then men also win. First women need to understand the injustices they face. Then they need to learn how to respond proactively, both individually and collectively, to the socio-political-cultural injustices that limit them. Ultimately, the injustices must be transformed and the greater good served. Stay tuned: lots of exciting irons are in the fire.

Shalom and blessings on your heads,