Graduations, Triggers, and Anger

Your high school graduation was long ago. Okay, not that long ago, but back then having parents (who could barely speak to each other) smiling together in graduation pictures was bizarre. But you were young (or numb) and treated it as an annoyance, not life changing.

However, twenty-five years have passed, and now your child’s graduation is coming. Planning for the big event goes well until the Ghost of Graduations Past shows up.

A slideshow of memories flash through your mind. There’s the embarrassment when your boyfriend’s parents met your dad, mom, and her husband. They’re all smiles, but the awkwardness felt like a steel ball in your stomach. Of course, their smiles later melted into glacial stares resulting in social courtesy so strained, it sent you scurrying from your party to somewhere less tense. It was “no big deal” at the time, but now anger brews over the unfairness you feel being forced into a position like that.

The specter’s next memory is of “the call”. The one responsible for the tepid relationship between you and your dad. The conversation announcing how, because you were 18 and new priorities had arisen, no college money was coming. The Ghost’s work is done now. All you can think about is how hard it was to get through college and how unfair it felt.

Now it’s happening again!
No need for the Ghost of Graduations Future to show you how your child’s event is going to play out. Dad with wife number two, Mom with current boyfriend, and step dad number one have accepted the invitation your child sent them. You know what’s going to happen, because it’s happened already. The question is, are you upset because of your discomfort today, or triggers from 25 years ago?

Triggers remind us of past events, but create an emotional response in the present. The frustration of our graduation creates “rose colored glasses” through which we see our child’s graduation. We project our experience onto their event. This can hide the real reasons we’re more quick-tempered as the event approaches.

Many of us deny we’re angry about events in the past, but words like “frustrated”, and “annoyed” are close cousins to anger. So, what can we do if graduation triggers are producing anger in our lives?

  1. Acknowledge this graduation is reminding you of your own. Stop pretending it’s something else.
  2. Identify specific issues you were upset about then, but didn’t share with anyone. Write them down if possible.
  3. Pray about them with God. The Psalmist wrote, “I pour out my complaint before Him.” (Psalm 142:2, NLT)
  4. Share them with your spouse or a close friend.
  5. Enjoy your child’s graduation. Regardless of how everyone acts, try to look at the graduation festivities through your child’s eyes. They’re probably oblivious to the drama.
  6. Meet with someone after the graduation and share your thoughts and emotions. Talking about it is a powerful way to avoid building up anger and anxiety.

Support Group for Adults with Divorced Parents in Southeast Michigan

I am excited to announce that I will be co-leading a support group for adults with divorced parents starting in May.  Please contact Sycamore Counseling Services for more information.

Here is a video with a brief description of who this group is for.

Upcoming ACD Interview with Kent Darcie on Internet Radio

Kent Darcie from Adult Children of Divorce Ministries on WEXL 1340AMOn Wednesday, October 28th at 1:30pm I will be interviewed on the ways parental divorce still impacts the kids after they grow up. You can hear this interview at The host of the program is Dani Nunley.

The Brady Bunch is Back…and So Are the Triggers

I’m among the 8% of Americans who don’t have cable, satellite, or fiber feeding their televisions1. What’s fascinating to me is the programs coming through my good-old-fashioned antenna are a steady stream of shows from my childhood.

mod squad 75Brady Bunch 20Steve Mcgarrett 60
Programs I haven’t seen in decades are filling the screen each night: The Mod Squad, Brady Bunch, Bob Newhart Show, Carol Burnett, Happy Days, Starsky and Hutch, Hawaii Five O (the one where they wore suits and neckties), The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, even The Beverly Hillbillies. Each show’s theme song time-travels me back to the 70’s, and I relax in anticipation of a good, clean, half-hour escape from the world’s problems.

But my mood saddens sometimes because I’ll suddenly remember how I often watched those programs alone. This was the period right after my parents’ divorce. Back then, feeling there was no where to turn with my broken heart, I  needed an escape. And these shows s365.060 - Watching TV by Al Ibrahim 22erved me well.

Now I see my attraction to The Brady Bunch differently. They were perfect and my life wasn’t. Every week brought thirty minutes of stability, loving fatherly wisdom, and everything turned out ok (except for their two-part Hawaii trip when I spent a week wondering if Greg would drown!)

This whole experience is an example of a trigger. A trigger is a stimuli—like a scene in a movie, a song, or even a friend’s divorce—which causes us to react. The problem is, when we’re triggered, we’re reacting to something in our past and applying that to our present situation.

Adults with divorced parents can have layers of triggers acting like mines in a minefield. One minute we’re in the present, but the next moment, BOOM, we’re unknowingly reacting from something in our past. Even if we realize it’s happening we often miss the parental divorce connection. So we become melancholy, cranky, or angry.

Fortunately, triggers can be overcome. Here are some helpful steps:praying woman 15

  • Admit that we are saddened by the trigger event (Remember, what hurts our heart is never “silly”)
  • Share with someone or write out specifically why you feel sad
  • Take your pain or loss to God in prayer. (Cast all your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you.2)
  • Stand on the truth that God has blessed you today. Your past may contain pain, but the past is over. Focus on today’s blessings.

Working through our triggers is very important when trying to maintain healthy relationships. childrenofdivorce.netThe Long Way Home by Gary Neuman helps adult children of divorce identify and deal with triggers caused by their parents’ split. Once identified and dealt with, over time, the trigger’s sting will diminish and there can be as much joy in your home as the Brady’s!

21 Peter 5:7
Head Image – 365-060-Watching TV by Al Ibrahim

Is it Okay to Lie? Part 3 – Moving From Fear to Trust

 In the movie Liar Liar the main character, Fletcher,  is a pathological liar until his son makes a birthday wish that forces Fletcher to tell the truth for 24 hours.Liar Liar Suddenly a steady stream of “truths” flow from his mouth that berate, insult, and demean others. I doubt anyone would take this Hollywood definition of “truth” for more than the comedic response it’s seeking, but can you tell the truth without hurting others or being hurt yourself? Definitely, yes.

As we’ve discussed, fear is often at the root of our lying. As young people we feared hurting or angering our mom or dad so we said what we thought they wanted to hear. As adults we continue this line of reasoning by conveying what we think our spouses or friends want to hear. Consequently, we still don’t share our hearts, feelings, or thoughts. While this may not seem like a big deal, underneath, resentment, bitterness, and anger can build up and poison us and our relationships.

So how do we stop?no lies

  1. The first thing to understand is God hates lying1. Regardless of how necessary we may mistakenly think it is, we must ask ourselves, “Should I bdoing something God finds abominable?”1
  2. Second, we must realize Satan is recycling old fears—fear of abandonment, fear of inadequacy, and others from our childhood. Think back on the last couple of times you said “A” when you wanted to say “B.” If you had said “B” what would have happened? “My spouse would have gotten mad at me, left me and I’d be all alone.” Really? The consequences we fear are almost always overblown by Satan and would rarely occur if we were obedient to God’s commands. I’m willing to bet your spouse is not the one in ten thousand who’d overreact. More likely, they’d welcome your honesty and feel more secure in the relationship—as long as the truth is conveyed in love.God we trust by Donny Warbritton cropped
  1. Third, the last half of Proverbs 29:25 says, “But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”2 We can have confidence we’re telling the truth in love when we approach situations using the Bible as our guide and God’s Holy Spirit for our power to overcome the fib monster. We must also trust that since God made us with our temperament and likes and dislikes, our opinions, feelings, and thoughts matter. As a result they’re okay to share with others. But first we must trust God.
  1. Lastly, changing a years-long habit won’t happen overnight, so don’t start by walking into your boss and giving him an earful. We want to imitate Jesus not Jim Carey. Begin by confessing your lying habit to God and repenting. Tell your spouse or friend what you’re trying to do. Then start with small “safe” opportunities to stand on the truth.

Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.3 Start today walking in trust and truth and giving thanks to God for your truth-telling victories!

We’ll finish our look at lying by addressing the “Does this outfit make me look fat?” type questions.

1Proverbs 6:17
2Proverbs 29:25, New International Version.
3Matthew 5:37, New King James Version
Coin Image: “God we trust” by Donny Warbritton cropped

Triggering to the Truth – Audio

Bible with Cross Shadow David Campbell  FCC ( A, $, @) 337522540_8eb3c1f974_oTriggers can be problematic for adult children of divorce and toxic to their relationships.

This program contains my talk about triggers and how they impact adults with divorced parents. This was recorded from the New Beginnings Radio show which is normally hosted by Rick Van Briggle, but I was the guest host for this program, .


Bible with Cross Shadow Image by David Campbell

Kent Darcie is on the Radio this Saturday

Kent Darcie on WEXL 1340AM smJoin me this Saturday morning (4/11) at 9am as I guest-host the New Beginnings Show on WEXL 1340am. I’ll be talking about triggers in adults with divorced parents. It will be streamed live at Feel free to call in and join the discussion!