What triggers you is what you should spend your time on
It’s a key to unlocking one of the greatest superpowers of humankind
The term “triggered” has come into popular use recently mostly as a way to describe people who get disproportionately angry about something small — a comment, a tweet, etc.— and then either respond with unfettered outrage, or in some cases, just block their virtual foes and sit in front of their computer, fuming.
This phenomenon of being triggered is enabled by the fact that the internet allows us to interact with people in different regions, of different cultures, and most importantly, with different worldviews than ours.
In the past, our views were mostly defined by our immediate geographic community, but now, with ubiquitous internet, we can both access content spanning all the possible opinions humanity might hold, which is a double-edged sword: one the one side, it allows us to promote our own personal development by engaging with content which we find intellectually stimulating, and thus start to develop views which are not readily given to us by our immediate environment, family members, schoolteachers, etc. But on the other side, we can easily encounter content which represents the exact opposite of what we believe or what we are inclined towards, and then cause conflict when we try to challenge it.
The thing people often fail to understand is that differing opinions, especially those of a political nature, cannot be deemed as right or wrong.* Opinions develop out of life experience, and as we all have different experiences, our views will inevitably differ. What social media does is allow people of similar life experience to converge into “bubbles of consciousness” revolving around similar views they hold based on similar experiences they may have had, regardless of their physical environment, country, or culture.
Then, when people from two very different bubbles of consciousness meet, there is an explosion, set off by the clash of two end-points sharpened by an accumulation innumerable life-experiences, the worldview-outcomes of which are incompatible with each other.
That explosion is what we call being “triggered”. And although it can be very uncomfortable, this is not a feeling to dismiss or avoid. The feeling of being triggered is a signal that there is something we don’t understand, and is thus an opportunity to open one’s mind to a newfound store of empathy and understanding, and thereby comprehend a greater portion of humanity.
The ability to encounter an opposing view and react to it calmly, regardless of if you are able to understand it or not, is a superpower. Each time we get triggered, it is a new opportunity to hone this ability.
When humans do this on a large enough scale, this is when the consciousness of humanity will start to evolve.
But let’s discuss the individual context for now.
How do we convert the discomfort of being triggered into expanded consciousness for ourself?
One option is: take a deep breathe; maybe even meditate with your eyes closed for a few minutes. But when the feeling takes over, usually it’s too late to do that. This may also, to the beginner, feel like you are shying away from the situation in defeat, rather than turning it into something positive.
Is there another option?
If being triggered is a result of a mismatch of worldviews based on an accumulation of life experiences, maybe it would help us to understand the specific life experiences that have given rise to such views.
The human aspect is often overlooked in political discussion**. But when we engage with people at a human level rather than arguing about vague and broad concepts which have little to do with our lives, we will usually be able to find some common ground, or in the worst case, agree to disagree.
“What brought you to such conclusions? What experiences have you had that caused you to develop such an opinion?” we may choose to ask our virtual enemies.
One we have learned of the backstories of enough people with whom we have conflicting and mutually incompatible beliefs, we will start to become more empathetic, and less triggerable. Doing so will also help us understand our own views better, and maybe even cause us to change and improve them based on new information.
If we understand ourselves at the deepest level, we will be able to understand all of humanity without having to ask.
On the other hand, when we convert the feeling of being triggered into outrage and antagonism, we are missing an opportunity for understanding and tolerance, and at the same time, pushing the other person away from empathy or curiosity about our own point of view.
The range of experiences a human beings can have on this earth is innumerable, and the ability for anyone to empathize with any one else is a miracle of human nature. To make the most of life, shouldn’t we make use of these gifts we have been given, and take some time to understand the world and our fellow human, rather than preserving our own small bubble of consciousness and closing ourselves off to the magnificent wonder of life that is the feeling of full acceptance and gratitude for all that is?
*When we discuss the concept of right and wrong, we should always relate it to actions, not beliefs. Condemning people for their beliefs without looking at their actions is a very common pitfall that gives rise to hate and conflict. All political discussion, therefore, it neutral, because most of us discussing it cannot really do anything to affect the issues in question (if our country were a real democracy, however, that might be different, but in that case we would probably be doing, rather than just talking about issues).
**This is usually because those discussing the issues have no personal stake in the issues they are talking about, and their views are simply formed by taking a path of least resistance in their society; i.e. adoption the views that everyone else has, without actually asking why. This type of phenomenon gives rise to a largely ignorant bubble of consciousness, and one which can unintentionally be the cause of much evil in the world.