All humans have emotional triggers: a trigger is a reminder of past trauma. Somebody says something, we read an email, certain types of events happen and your current mood switches in a flash. We feel upset, out of balance, irrational and overrun with emotion. Triggers can give us clues as to what is unresolved and needing healing.
What are Triggers?
Ever lose control of your emotions, acting in the heat of the moment, out of proportion with the situation? When triggered, our capacity to think and act clearly is significantly impaired. Emotional triggers are intense reactive places hidden deep inside that surface when we’re activated. The ability to master our emotional reactivity is a core skill.
Triggers are always personal. What triggers you may not trigger me. They are shaped out of our life history. Our response may seem out of proportion with the incident because of our stored memories. We focus on the person and their behaviour as dangerous or unsafe. But the real threat is what we have been holding inside.
Our triggers activate strong emotions and memories which may track back to our childhood – not feeling valued or seen by a parent, left out, or the impact of an emotionally absent parent. It may be divorce, death, physical or emotional abuse. When triggered, you may withdraw emotionally and simply feel hurt or angry (flight response). Perhaps you react in an aggressive manner (fight response). Your reaction is so immediate and intense because you’re defending against a painful feeling that has surfaced.
Common triggers: betrayal, rejection, unfair treatment, being ignored or excluded. Your emotional triggers are wounds that need to heal. These beliefs are based on fears and not present reality.
There is a lot of past history included in the moment when we are triggered. There is unresolved energy that has been triggered and is looking for release. That energy needs the adult in us to be present.
If you are triggered but trying hard not to be triggered, you will find yourself quite busy with yourself and your thoughts. If you’re with other people, it is difficult to find the capacity to relate to another. A simpler approach can be to honor what is here for you. “Yes, I am activated”. You may find the internal chaos and friction you were experiencing calms. You are just being clear with what is here. This is an important step.
Many of us have been running away from our pain for a long time. We isolate from people, things and events that trigger us. Especially if this has happened to us before. We avoid talking about certain things or going to certain places. We can be extremely angry when people bring up things that are triggering to us. How insensitive – we expect them to know to avoid these things. We believe avoiding what upsets us is the only way to keep ourselves safe from feeling more pain. This is exhausting. We have unresolved pain that needs to be addressed.
Our triggers can force us to look at things we would prefer not to face: feelings of shame, grief, anger and painful memories that we have worked so hard to repress. As we heal, we discover there is considerable harm in avoiding triggers. They never go away. When we are triggered, we are being spotlighted on areas of ourselves still needing healing and integration. If you allow yourself to look within and go on a journey of exploration, you open the healing process.
Using compassion and looking directly at our triggers we start to reclaim our power over the pain that has been stopping us. Start to pay attention to what creates the most intense reaction. What am I responding to when triggered? Is it something someone has said or done? Something witnessed? Where did that pain originate?
You need to develop a practice to presence and make conscious what is being activated. Not to run into a reaction. It is cultivating the practice of not acting when triggered.
The first step is to Name – identify what is going on. Simply by saying I am Triggered. You move out of a powerless survival position simply by naming it. It doesn’t eradicate the emotions churning through you. It does give you more access to your adult self and to your witness and observer self. You can have more rational thought and space to relax, breathe and centre yourself.
Every time we interrupt ‘being triggered’ and begin the practice, it’s like strengthening a muscle through repeated use. We’re laying new neural pathways which, over time, start to develop this new habit.
Emotion regulation is a challenging skill to master for most people, and it’s not easy to identify triggers on your own. Seek guidance to help you find the root of your trigger and process unresolved feelings, emotions and energy.
Develop your awareness of signs in the body when you’re reacting to a trigger – changes in your breath, tension held – understand how to calm yourself and shift your emotional state.
My sessions provide a safe, non-judgmental space to identify triggering situations and explore potential reasons behind your triggers.
Empower yourself to learn to manage your triggers. Releasing the feelings held allows you to heal the trigger causd by the unintegrated energy. Move forward to embrace your true power.