“Pray for my sister’s lil woofer, Poncho. Ain’t nothing wrong with him. He just freaks out when he’s near a banana.”
That’s the caption attached to the meme. The triggering banana.
I encountered an image of a bug-eyed chihuahua, staring into the camera with a petrified look on its face, a banana resting at its feet.
And I thought about triggers.
An overused word, especially amongst those of us recovering from abuse and trauma.
How many of us are like this pup and the banana? What causes the visceral reaction?
Maybe it has something to do with a few possibilities…
It’s a reminder to you and me.
We don’t know the personal pup history of our little friend. Perhaps, each time our doggie encountered the yellow fruit, there was something unpleasant that went along with it. Maybe there was a startling noise; maybe there was an unfamiliar stranger who made the little guy feel uneasy.
The power of association. The reminder. It cannot be underestimated.
So much of the time, we can be shamed by what is associated with a certain memory, object, place, or person. Sometimes, we talk ourselves out of how it affects us.
We are uncomfortable, yes, yet we do not allow ourselves permission to admit it and face it. Many of us turn inward, shut down, and stifle our discomfort.
But it is still there.
And part of that reason for the powerful discomfort involves another possible explanation…
It represents something significant to you and me.
Wait, isn’t that the same thing as a reminder?
There is, indeed, major power in what something individually means to us.
For instance, there are hundreds, even thousands, of dogs who are not one bit freaked out by a banana. That still doesn’t take away from the one, like Poncho here, who clearly is unnerved by the fruit being in its vicinity.
Things mean what they do to us, for whatever reason; they exist on a case-by-case basis. The explanations for those meanings don’t require anyone else’s permission for those things to be what they are to us. We are affected because of unique reasons.
And they are valid.
Furthermore, there is the issue of safety…
It is risky for you and me.
The visceral and overwhelming response we can have toward something can exist because our physical, mental, and emotional safety were all at risk in connection with that thing that makes us feel “uncomfortable.”
Poncho perhaps felt imminent danger from the banana. Maybe there was trauma connected to it, like the pup being separated from its mother, being hungry, or abused. There are, indeed, many shelter pets who have come from horrific backgrounds. Some of them will cower, lifelong, for fear of being neglected or hit. I have seen such animals. It’s heartbreaking.
Likewise, you and I can also reach the desperate conclusion, “I AM UNSAFE!!!!!”
To the casual onlooker, it doesn’t make sense. We appear to be overreacting. These are people who have never had the experiences tied to a banana that convey a sense of risk and danger. Their “banana” may be something else entirely.
Discomfort, pain, and trauma can be connected to anything, including something that looks innocent or harmful. If we have the bruises and scars to prove how our “banana” did, in fact, harm and threat us, that ratchets up the danger response when it shows up in our lives.
Be… Uncomfortable… and Be Okay with the Uncomfortable Reality…
It’s not to stay stuck, paralyzed by fear.
Rather, it’s an opportunity for us to permit ourselves the unpleasant emotions, to address them, to face them, and to continue to work on them. Therapy, supportive people, a personal faith, and continual learning can all aid in that process. It’s ongoing and repetitive. It’s difficult. And it’s valid.
Take it from Poncho. Your “banana” is valid.
Copyright © 2022 by Sheryle Cruse