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hosted by Dr. Corey Allan

Triggers | Debra Fileta #629

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On the Regular Version …

Counselor and author Debra Fileta joins me today as we talk about triggers, trauma and the state of the world.

Learn more about Debra and find her books here –

On the Xtended Version …

We continue the conversation and shift it towards what are some steps we can take to address triggers and traumas in our lives.

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Corey Allan: One of my favorite things is being joined by somebody that's also in the trenches. If you, I guess you could say when it comes to the therapy world and the coaching world in the sense that, uh, the bread and butter, uh, you and I both do Deborah is, uh,

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: let's be in the chair with people and let's, let's

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: get into what's really going on. So Deborah Phelate is joining me, uh, an author, a podcaster, an LPC. Um got quite the platform and quite the voice so this should be a fun conversation debor. So thanks for joining me and welcome to the show

debra: Of course, it's so good to be here with a fellow counselor. I love it.

Corey Allan: All right. So let's just dive right in that. Uh, one of the things that we were talking about right before we got started is, um, you know, the world in which we live is an ever evolving thing. Uh,

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: you know, we all came out of a pretty huge pandemic and a lot of ways we're out of it

debra: Yep.

Corey Allan: in some ways, maybe not. We're all, I think we're both always going to be altered to a degree, but when it comes to marriages and people, uh, what are you seeing that, uh, is worth unpacking a little bit worth talking about. that would help people that maybe they haven't gone to see anybody about this, but we could at least talk about it as if they have and

debra: Yeah,

Corey Allan: are.

debra: yeah. Well, it's kind of fascinating. I would say the past year to two years, there's definitely been an increase in counseling clients, like a massive increase. And here's what I think is going on. I really think that 2020, 2021 was like walking through this trauma, this unknown

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm,

debra: trauma.

Corey Allan: absolutely.

debra: There's death and grief and loss and things are out of control, we didn't know what was coming and anxiety and so those two years were kind of in this survival mode situation where you're just trying to stay alive, literally,

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: just trying to get through, just trying to protect your children and nothing else is really on your radar, nothing else. I'm not processing anything, I'm not dealing with anything, I'm not checking in on the health of my marriage, I'm just trying to survive. And... I think oftentimes what happens is that later on, that trauma comes to the surface. It's like when a soldier goes off to war and he's in the middle of the battlefield, he's not there to process the trauma, right? He's there to survive and get out of there alive. And when he comes home and life begins to resemble some safety and security, that trauma begins to come to the surface for the first time. It's like, deal with me now. And so people are like, well, I got through 2020. I got through 2021. We survived. Our marriage got to the other side. Why all of a sudden in 2022 and 2023, do I have all this junk coming to the surface? All this tension, all this stress, all this relationship problem. It's because life is starting to resemble safety and security. We're no longer in that survival mode. And now things are coming up to the surface that maybe we've never dealt with, that maybe we're hibernating while we were in survival mode and we just didn't have the bandwidth to pay attention to them. Things with our children, things with our marriage, things even within ourselves, anxiety and depression and panic and stress and addictions. And it's all starting to come to the surface. And so to be honest, I'm not surprised by it and I'm not scared of it. I am thrilled because I believe that God brings things up to the surface. He reveals things when he's ready to

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: heal things. And so when somebody comes in and they're like, Deborah, all of a sudden I'm struggling with porn again and I haven't struggled with porn in a decade. Or Deborah, our marriage is like all of a sudden we're just, I don't know what's going on. We feel like we're on the brink of divorce. I say, you know what? That's okay. God is revealing it in order to heal it and this is the work of healing. So things are coming up to the surface, Corey, that's what I'm seeing.

Corey Allan: I think that's spot on. I'm looking at it, the phraseology I've been using lately is the idea that there's a lot of checks due now

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: from what all went down. You know, like we had this little, we took out loans, if you will, on how

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: we were approaching life.

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: We also, the thing I recognize, cause I thought going into, foolishly, going into this thing with the pandemic in 2020, when it all first started, I thought, okay, you know what? Could we have like this whole mini baby boomer world happen again, that all of a sudden, now that we're all, you know, we're just stuck with each other, what else are you gonna do? You're just gonna have sex. Well, that's not at all the case, cause the reason we were stuck to each other and isolated was fear.

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: It was from an unknown and unseen thing. And that doesn't make you necessarily want to seek out somebody when they could be the one carrying whatever that that unknown unseen thing. And so it seemed like I keep coming across this idea of. Fear and isolation is so paramount

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: of seeing how people are approaching the world, moving out into the world or not, how they're dealing with relationships or not.

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: And I love the idea that you're saying of the people that are waking up to it and seeing it as wait, wait, wait, in some regards, my opinion, the world's always been like that. We live in a drastically unsafe world, right? We've had it really good as a society for a long time.

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: As far as feeling safe

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: and comfortable,

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: but when in reality, no, it's the world's not necessarily for us here.

debra: Right,

Corey Allan: And

debra: right.

Corey Allan: so learning how to lean into that, those are the ones that I think I kind of get the sense from you, the clients that come in, they're like, all right, it's time to buckle down and deal with this. Let's deal with this head on and real. That's the fun. Those, those do get you charged up in this profession.

debra: Yeah, yeah, the work of faith is not avoidance. The

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: work of faith is in the facing. Facing what happened and facing what I'm experiencing and what I'm dealing with. I always tell people in my sessions, if you want to preserve pain, you bury it. Go ahead

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: and bury it, repress

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: it, ignore it, pretend it didn't happen, and you will preserve it for a very long time. But if you wanna deal with the pain, you bring it up to the surface and you start to face it and you start to heal it. And I'm seeing that. It's so encouraging. Somebody on Instagram, I hang out on Instagram a lot these days and somebody on Instagram was like, I am just so discouraged by the state of men in our country, dot, dot, dot, dot, dot, yada, yada, yada. And I'm like, I'm not. I'm seeing some great things happening. In fact, the majority of my clients right now are men, the majority. And I think that says something about the work that God is doing. in this generation, revealing things, bringing things up to the surface, and inviting us all into a new level of healing. And the people who are like taking the invitation, who aren't afraid to face their stuff, those are my kind of people, you know? Those are my kind of people. So it's been, to me, it's been refreshing to see. And I know it's a little pocket that I get to live in and there's other things going on in the world and people aren't willing to heal, but the people who are drawn to my ministry because I'm like pushing this stuff, it's exciting to see what God is doing. It really is. And I even think in marriage counseling right now, one thing you asked me was like, what am I seeing in marriages and relationships right now? Well, I'm seeing that people are getting triggered by each other in a way that maybe they weren't before or didn't notice before. And I think being stuck together for so long without distraction, like you work from home now and so

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: does she. And our kids are home. And there was all, there was a lot of that. And some of that has still lingered. I know so many couples who the husbands for example, or the wife started working from home for the very first time. And three years later, they're still working from home because it's just the new norm now. And so they have so much more time together or around each other, which then equals more triggers, more things getting pressed. So, so let's talk about that for a minute, cause I think this is an important subject. So, so here's how I navigate marriage counseling. I see couples who are triggered by each other. There's something going on, and it usually seems like the superficial thing. Like, she keeps nagging me. She's just nonstop critiquing, nagging, criticizing, always wants something to change. And she's like, he's withdrawing from the relationship. He doesn't seem invested. He's avoiding, he doesn't wanna have these hard conversations. Well, they're both being triggered by each other. and the more they're around each other, the more they're triggered by each other. So what is a trigger? I like to define a trigger as an exaggerated emotional response. It's an exaggerated

Corey Allan: Okay.

debra: response. And another way of wording it, as I call it, emotional sore spots, where it's like I have this black and blue spot in my life, this pain point, that if you didn't push it, I wouldn't feel it. But... when you get close to me and you push on these spots, I feel it and it hurts and I react. And maybe you didn't cause that sore spot, but you're pushing on it,

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: right? And so I see these couples. And one thing that you probably know this, I think you know this about me, but my podcast I often do on air couples counseling.

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: And so we bring these couples on. to the Love and Relationships podcast and we talk about, usually I don't know what I'm gonna get, so that's kind of the fun of it. I have no clue who these couples are, I just know their first names and they come on and we talk. But that was a, that couple I mentioned a minute ago is one of the couples on the podcast, is she's feeling like he's withdrawn and he feels like she's just constantly nagging and pushing. And when we begin to unpack. where these sore spots are coming from, you realize that a fraction of the problem is actually about my spouse.

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: But the majority of the problem is my past hurts, my past pain, my insecurities. And I'm seeing more of that than ever before. And I think it's because of the close proximity that we have today that we haven't had in previous years. We could kind of avoid it, or the explosions would happen once in a while. Whereas

Corey Allan: Right. Or

debra: now,

Corey Allan: you could,

debra: like we're

Corey Allan: you could

debra: in each

Corey Allan: tolerate

debra: other's face.

Corey Allan: it because it was a shorter span that you were actually together. Then you had a bulk of your day or week apart where you kind

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: of like, okay, I'm good. And then you can, cause it seems like we can muster up. If I know I'm going to be in close confines. I mean, that's, I always think of this in the holidays.

debra: Yeah,

Corey Allan: Like when

debra: exactly.

Corey Allan: you go visit family, I know

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: what I'm heading home to. I know the

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: kind of crazy I'm walking into when I visit family members or an uncle or a cousin or whatever, I know that they do life different and I know what to kind of prepare for. So. I can tolerate two, three days and

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: then I'm out. But if I know I can't get away from them, then it just makes it all right there by the surface, like you're describing.

debra: Yeah, and I think sometimes in the marriage counseling space, it's often that people address the superficial

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

debra: without going deep. You know, like, well, let's talk about your communication styles and let's talk about your love languages. And I think all of that has a place. The Gottman principles, I love them. I love John Gottman and all of those amazing principles of how to avoid conflict and how to handle it in a healthy way and not to stonewall and all of these things that are so important. But if we're not getting to the roots of our triggers, then we're not healing fully, and that's just gonna come back. You're just covering up the sore spots instead of healing them and identifying them. And so... Right now, what I'm seeing in my counseling world is people who are willing and ready to go deep and say, okay, we don't wanna do the superficial thing. We wanna figure out like, where is this pain point coming from and how do I truly heal the root? And that couple that I worked with on on-air session, you can actually listen to the whole session if you go to the couple's therapy series, but it was like he was coming from a place of, I constantly feel like I'm failing you. Every time you tell me I need to do something differently, I constantly feel like I'm failing you, I'm not being a good husband, and it triggers me. So I would rather withdraw, I would rather not deal with it. Well, why do you feel like that? Well, he grew up with a childhood where, you know, a family of immigrants and he had to work starting at age 11 and 12. He had to work at a young age to add value to the family. It was about the currency that he was bringing in. When I asked him about emotional connection in the family, he laughed and he's like, to be honest, that wasn't a thing.

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: I don't remember ever getting hugged.

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: Like my wife comes from this emotionally connected family. He's like, that was not my life at all. It was just about what can you bring in? What do you bring to the table? My love was the currency of money. If I could bring money and work hard, I was valued and here he is. 20 years later, working hard, bringing in money, focusing on his work, just like he learned to do, and it's not enough for his wife, right? She's like, I need an emotional connection.

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: She comes from a family where growing up, she did everything right. She was a straight A student, a track star. She did amazing things, amazing athlete, and her parents could care less. They

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: didn't come to her events. They didn't cheer her on. They didn't affirm her in that way. And she felt like I'm just invisible. Nobody cares about me. And so when he continues to work hard and he's a workaholic and trying to get his value in it makes her feel those feelings all over again. I'm invisible. I don't matter to you, right?

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: So they're triggering each other in the most profound way. I don't know. Is it God's? grace and mercy that he puts us with people who trigger our deepest

Corey Allan: I don't

debra: wounds.

Corey Allan: know. I was thinking the same thought. I phrase that when I hear that severe of a dichotomy, you know, as couples are unpacking things, I'll actually at some point go, you know what? You guys are actually perfect for each other.

debra: Hahaha

Corey Allan: And that typically throws them off of the dynamic for a bit because it makes them go, what are you talking about? They, we drive each other crazy. How could we be perfect? And I'm like, because what's being exposed here is like what you're describing. That's the very thing you probably need to be dealing with because that's you. That's not

debra: Yeah,

Corey Allan: them.

debra: right. It's the work of healing. Again, God reveals things that need to be healed. And not only that, I think when we're triggered, that exaggerated emotional response, my husband says something. I always joke that the most triggering thing my husband can say to me is, relax, hon. There is no other phrase on earth that makes me feel less relaxed and makes me want to call him the opposite of hon.

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: Relax, hon. Just relax. You know, we all have these things that trigger us.

Corey Allan: Mm hmm.

debra: And instead of just pointing the finger at our spouse, like stop triggering me, no, triggers are a sign that there is more healing to receive in me. That's what it's telling me. I need to be in tune to my triggers because God is revealing something here. And thank God in His mercy, He allows us to have this marriage, this partnership where I'm getting exposed. I'm I'm seeing these things that I need to heal in my life and God is inviting me to go deeper. And that's where the work of sanctification happens. So those triggers can either push you apart from one another or they can draw you close. You can lean in and learn from them and begin doing the deeper work of healing. And once you begin to do that work piled on top of the the work of communication and all the other stuff we talked about. I mean, there ain't nothing that'll get you down, you know?

Corey Allan: Well, yeah, you're able to handle life because that's where I've landed on the word solidness.

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: You go about life with a completely different idea of solidness of self, right? Of identity,

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: of value, of worth. Because I think it's, I mean, tell me if you agree with this, because we have a lot of the same philosophy. We probably just use different language, but it's the

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: same target. Um, but, but the idea of when you're dealing with these things that are being triggered, uh, cause I use the phrase we overreact to an overreaction. So that's

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: the exact same thing. It's an, it's an exaggerated emotional response. That's an overreaction. Um, so it's not like necessarily. Bear in mind, it could go away, but, but whatever that sore spot is, it's there. You just

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: don't, it is not as painful when it is approached or touched. attacked because I also believe in as couples I know exactly the triggers I can send to Pam

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: depending on the mood I'm in if I wanted to actually intentionally poke I could

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: and sometimes do and vice versa but I think of it in terms of it gets revealed. And so then I recognize I needed to do the hard work of growing myself up to realize, wait, wait, wait, this is about me here. I don't like

debra: Yeah.

Corey Allan: the relax, hon, but

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: still this is about me. Cause

debra: Right.

Corey Allan: it, cause too often don't we get into this whole, well, then stop saying that,

debra: Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: you know, don't,

debra: And that

Corey Allan: don't,

debra: doesn't

Corey Allan: don't

debra: mean...

Corey Allan: push this button, dude, what are you doing? And now it's like, I got no control over whether that happens or not.

debra: Exactly. And that doesn't mean we never bring anything

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: to our spouse, but I always say deal with your portion first because that's usually

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: about 80 percent and

Corey Allan: Right.

debra: then the 20 percent I then bring to my spouse. Hey, you know, I would really appreciate it if you responded to me in this way instead. You know,

Corey Allan: Or just

debra: it would

Corey Allan: so

debra: mean

Corey Allan: you're

debra: a lot

Corey Allan: aware,

debra: to me.

Corey Allan: this is what it elicits in me when this happens

debra: Yeah, let me tell

Corey Allan: and.

debra: you what's going on and how we can do this a little bit better together and what this means

Corey Allan: Okay.

debra: to me. It doesn't mean there's default to that first without doing the work first. And sure,

Corey Allan: me

debra: okay,

Corey Allan: tell you what you need to do.

debra: exactly. And let's say, let's just break it down into the 80, 20%. Okay, if I just give them this portion and it's 20% of the work, even if they do it perfectly, there's still 80% work that I need to do. The problem has still not been solved.

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: I'm just, you know, avoiding. getting triggered, okay? Maybe my, let's say my spouse is perfect and they respond perfectly, which never happens. I go out into the world and I'm still vulnerable. I still have that sore spot.

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: So it's not just the work for marriage, it's the work for life. It's the work of life and healing and dealing with people and my children and all of it, the Lord is inviting me to a healthier place and in His kindness is using the people in my life to kind of reveal. the work that I need to do. So this has been a big theme for me. This past two months, I released a book we were talking about called Reset, and it's 31 practices to help you heal from the inside out. It's like 31 bite-sized, like two-page chapters, but then there's an activity at the end of like, hey, here's how you actually do the work. And there's quite a decent... portion in there about just this emotional work and identifying your triggers and what feelings they're attached to and what beliefs they're attached to and What traumas they might be rooted in and just kind of helping people because I know there's a lot of people really well This all sounds great But what do I do? Where do I begin? my hope is that Reset gives you a place to begin and you know If I had to like tell you my dream for this book, it would be to guide people into the work of healing. I want you to read it and feel like Deborah walked with me through

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: this whole journey from start to finish. Not saying that you won't need a counselor or there's no room for extra help, but I think it's a great place to begin.

Corey Allan: That's awesome. And perhaps then we need to spend a little bit of time and extend the content here in just a little bit. Let's talk about some of the bigger ones, if you will, of we'll give some of the Academy members some bite

debra: Yeah,

Corey Allan: size. Here's

debra: we'll

Corey Allan: what

debra: give you

Corey Allan: you

debra: a

Corey Allan: do

debra: sneak

Corey Allan: with

debra: peek

Corey Allan: this.

debra: into some of the practices.

Corey Allan: That's so great. So Deborah, how can they find you, the book, the podcast, everything?

debra: Yeah, well, you can get reset anywhere books are sold. And let me just remind you, if if there's something in your marriage, you want to heal, you got to start by healing yourself

Corey Allan: Mm-hmm.

debra: and see how that overflows into your relationship. Sometimes people will say, well, what's the best book you wrote for my marriage that I should start with? Well, I have Choosing Marriage. There's Married Sex. There's relationship books. But to be honest, I think you have to start with reset because you need to start with you and allow that to overflow into your relationship. So You can find Risa anywhere books are sold. My website where you can find my podcast books and my counselor's network if you wanna connect with a counselor is

Corey Allan: Perfect well that'll be in the show notes so man, thank you so much for the work and The the thoughts today and I'm excited to go deeper

debra: Yeah, yeah, thanks for having me.