Dealing With Triggers

I grew up around a lot of yelling. I was hit, called names and threatened throughout my childhood. So when a DF’s (dear friend) anger level went from 0 to 100 faster than the newest Tesla Roadster, I was not only shocked but also taken back to that uncomfortable place in my childhood. While I believe yelling solves nothing and doesn’t have a place in friendships, I’m probably more sensitive to it.   

Things got real as we started talking about holiday planning. That’s right. The… holidays. I hear it can be a tense time of year but I’ve never been in a fight about the jolly holidays. DF was upset that I had the nerve to host both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let’s forget that this was a misunderstanding (we only had the nerve to host Christmas, damn us). I never imagined two of my favorite annual pastimes would be paired with that kind of negativity. “Where the hell do you get off hosting both holidays?!” she yelled. While I stayed calm, I felt my blood start to boil. I don’t communicate with friends by yelling and I have historically surrounded myself by friends who show me the same respect.

DF ultimately explained that she wanted to host Christmas. She didn’t like that our family holidays involve family from my side – a bunch of people who aren’t related directly to her.

My parents have always been about the more the merrier and our house was full of friends and extended family. I loved it and it’s a positive aspect from my childhood I’m excited to repeat. It’s not for everyone and I totally support my DF hosting something with exclusively people who share her last name. What was unsettling was her approach. 

A few discussions in, we were able to get to what really bothered her: she felt overlooked when she thought we planned the two holidays without talking to her about it first. Ah… progress

I seek life lessons from these kinds of experiences. Get to a deeper level of understanding or discover something that inspires me. I struggled with this one. I felt out of sorts that a friend yelled at me. I had enough of that growing up and I’ve never been yelled at by a friend. When I looked past that, I realized part of the issue was that I struggled to accept her “flaws.” I was making her “bad” for yelling at me. I felt myself pull away and disconnect from her, as yelling has historically been a sign of danger.

The thing is, I love this DF. She’s fun, we laugh together and she’s super driven. We confide in each other about private things. We hold hands and skip around town (literally), play instruments and create goals together. Quality friendships are made through getting through the raw stuff. You evolve together. You’re not always perfect and you’re real with each other. You’re willing to be vulnerable and you’re accepting of “flaws." And when the positives outweigh the negatives 10:1, give space and work on the mend. I’ve mended my relationship with my dad and we’re closer than ever. I’m amazed by how he’s grown and how well we communicate now. It was through giving myself space that I realized being yelled at is a trigger for me.

My cat Silkey must have scratched me 200 times in the first 30 days after we adopted her. Things were a bloody mess in the beginning. We worked together to understand each other’s boundaries and we eventually created a beautiful flow, where I wasn’t doing things that would result in a scratching, and she was slower to react if I did touch a tender spot. (Yes, crazy cat-lady references always work for me.)

DF and I have thankfully worked things out. I was happy to see how open she was to talk about yelling and to hear why it is a trigger for me. Explaining as a trigger and not “you’re bad for yelling” was so extremely helpful to regain that amazing closeness we share. She apologized for yelling and acquiesced when I ask that she not communicate that way with me again. Giving myself space to process this all, being totally vulnerable, making a request and being forgiving has led to some of my most intimate relationships. This one is no exception.

I’d love to hear any success stories or relationship/friendship struggles you’ve had. Please share them in the comments section below and I’m here to provide feedback & guidance – so let's get these relationships on the mend!