The Message and The Messenger

Gabor Maté attributes Buddha when he offers the teaching, “Your mind creates the world.” It’s a deep contemplation. 

Words and actions mean one thing to one person; and different things to others — the recipient’s responses or reactions can run the gamut. Why?

Your mind creates the world says that interpretations of happenings outside of yourself are colored by what’s inside. This leads to the piece that Gabor adds to the teaching, “But first the world creates your mind.”

To put it together, first, the world creates your mind; then your mind creates the world. 

How The World Creates Your Mind

The things you experience in childhood, beginning in the womb, imprint your mind and body, build your beliefs and most importantly, install meanings. Something happens to you or a need doesn’t get met, and feelings arise. How you process those feelings and what happens next depends on the avenues available to you; is there someone to listen, receive, and accept you? Are you shut down, told you’re wrong, that “you ought to be ashamed of yourself,” or asked: “what’s the matter with you” and sent to your room? Are you instilled with a sense of safety, or are you in constant fear that you’ll be yelled at, hit, or dismissed? Answers to these questions influence how your brain chemicals release, impact your nervous system and lead to forming beliefs and meanings. Mind created!

The Message and The Messenger

There’s a book called The Presence Process, written by Michael Brown

Simply reading the book provides opportunities for new awareness, but doing the 10-week experiential process is even more powerful.

When something triggers you or someone says something upsetting, it’s easy to focus on the person or event instead of what it brings up inside you. “If this or that hadn’t happened, then I wouldn’t be feeling this way.” Blaming the trigger for how you feel focuses on outside events, away from your internal landscape, the world your mind has created.

One of the distinctions The Presence Process offers is the importance of dismissing the messenger (triggering person or event) and focusing on the message (your interpretation).

This approach welcomes triggers because they help you identify the places within yourself that are still raw, the spots that need attention, love and healing. They spotlight the unhealed wounds that silently influence your life, and sometimes, not so silently. Like when they get poked.


In the living situation I mentioned in my previous blog on Blame and Passive Aggression, I’ve had many opportunities to dismiss the messenger and focus on the message.* I’ve gotten triggered — and believe me; it’s taken every part of my beleaguered soul not to offer up a plate full of expletives. Instead, I’ve asked myself, Why am I reacting this way? What memory is getting awakened from my past causing me to feel violated? Who does this bitch think she is? Oops.

I get curious about my reactions rather than assuming myself as a victim. Focusing my attention on what’s coming up inside myself and feeling into it allows old wounds to be seen and begin to heal.

*This doesn’t mean staying in a situation that doesn’t work. It simply means using what’s happening as grist for the healing mill while making plans to leave.

Recognizing Progress

You’ll know when you’ve made some headway. How? Someone will say or do something that used to get you going, and you won’t have the same reaction. The words don’t stick. You won’t be inclined to lash out, to give them a piece of your mind, or to rip them a new one. You don’t go into autopilot. You may or may not even respond.

Once unresolved feelings are recognized, integrated, and the wounds healed, the same words, events and people won’t impact you. You’ll remain in the present.

And, there’s another benefit to the messenger/ message distinction. When you begin practicing it, you’ll more quickly become aware of when you’re triggered, and instead of reacting impulsively, you’ll get curious.

One Last Thing About Triggers

Gabor Maté offers the best description of triggers I’ve heard, and I would like to share it with you.

When you consider a trigger on a gun, it’s a small part of the weapon. The weapon is loaded, ready to fire, and it’s got explosive ammunition. When the trigger is pulled, it activates an intricate mechanism inside, releasing an explosive bullet hurtling through the air towards its intended target. 

Consider this: you are the weapon, and when you see or hear something that triggers you, you fire. Gabor mentions being more interested in the ammunition than in the trigger. Be curious about what ignites you. Society focuses on not triggering people. He asks, “Should we look at that small trigger, or should we look at the loaded gun and the ammunition we all carry around with us and are so afraid of?”

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