It is human nature to flinch and flee from physical and emotional pain.
And the torment from abandonment, rejection, verbal abuse, and shame can linger long after physical trauma has healed.
But because those wounds are on the inside where no one can see them and because they are still so acutely sensitive, we pretend the emotional pain we suffered (or we caused) doesn’t exist. Or we “medicate” ourselves so we don’t have to feel it.
Why We Medicate
If you are in physical discomfort, you don’t go to a football game, head to the spa, or binge watch Walking Dead; you go to a doctor. You turn yourself in to a specialist who can expose the problem and guide you toward healing.
We understand the rationale behind this. But too often our emotions (or fear) win out. We think if we just avoid or ignore the trigger, the pain will go away.
We “medicate” ourselves with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, work, relationships, you name it. Anything to keep us from thinking about our pain.
But just like God implanted nerve receptors in our body to trigger a response when we are in danger, author Robin Weidner suggests He embedded triggers in our emotional nature “as signposts to lead us to unresolved pain.”
Confronting My Triggers
My husband, Russ, and I were separated for four years and reconciled in the Fall of 2015. He’s a completely different man than the one who abandoned me to pursue a selfish, sinful lifestyle. I’ve forgiven him and God is helping us to build the type of intimacy we never had before.
But he wasn’t the only one who betrayed me. Former friends and acquaintances that supported or aided in his infidelity have surfaced as new emotional triggers that I need to address. Even “good” memories of the time before my husband’s fall provoke pain. (I can’t stand the sight of Nutella simply because it was a staple every time we ate together as a group.)
While I don’t necessarily need to confront these people, I do need to address the triggers they invoke and face my pain, but I really don’t want to go there. I’m terrified of the rage that I’ll find inside myself.
But God didn’t send his Son to the cross so I could fear my pain. Jesus overcame fear and pain and death, so I could be free of them as well. Free to forgive, free to love, free to be like my Father.
Therefore, I must thrust my pain into the light. I must lay it before God as King Hezekiah did the blasphemous letter from the godless Sennacherib who boasted that the God of Heaven was unable to protect His people from the enemy’s powerful army. As completely as God swept away Hezekiah’s fears when he swept away Sennacherib, so God can sweep away the fear and pain that lays siege to my heart.
Satan would hold me a prisoner, shackled to my past and my pain, but Jesus came to set me free.
I pray that together we can confront our triggers. Only when we cease the medicating can we face and embrace our emotional pain and let God free us to love as He does.