Triggers are a hot topic these days.
Maybe you have become aware you experience unpleasant emotions when you’re exposed to certain behaviors, topics, or words.
You might notice you get agitated and reactive and tend to blame the other person for this. “You triggered me!” You then might get controlling and want the other person to stop doing what they’re doing so you don’t feel that way anymore.
Does this sound familiar?
This happens to many of us, and the truth is, triggers are inside of us.
Triggers are always about us
When we know we have a trigger, we try to do everything we can to avoid being triggered, which usually means attempting to control other people.
In relationships, we say “Don’t you dare go near those topics! Don’t bring that up!”
When we simply avoid things that trigger us, our lives become very small.
Think of it like this: If a relationship is a mansion, and each of the rooms is a different topic, one of those rooms of the mansion might be called “Don’t you ever ask me about my ex,” and that room is locked off.
We wall off all the rooms we don’t like and try to control the other person in the relationship so we don’t have to come in contact with whatever we feel triggered by.
When all those rooms are blocked off, we end up in this small little place because we never work through those hot buttons. The rest of the mansion is closed off into unconsciousness.
How triggers help us
Triggers tell us about ourselves and places that are helpful for us to heal.
That’s all it is. It’s a signal that we have something to heal.
For example, maybe you feel triggered when someone calls a woman a girl. Maybe you fly off the handle when that happens and launch into an angry lecture.
Now, it’s perfectly okay to have an opinion and prefer that women be called women and girls girls. But if you feel stressed and angry every time someone calls a woman a girl, that’s an area that might need some healing.
If you feel triggered, ask yourself what feelings it brings up for you. Do you feel afraid? Like you’re not being taken seriously? Pay attention to what you’re actually feeling when you feel triggered, and take the steps to heal.
What to do the next time you feel triggered
1- As always, the first step is consciousness. Notice when you feel triggered. Simply say to yourself “I’m feeling angry right now. My boss said something to me, and now I feel angry.”
Do not blame. Simply notice.
2- Explore. We can ask “What’s going on for me? Why am I so reactive?”
This is important, because we often want to think the other person is terrible for doing or saying something that triggered us. If we say it that way, we’re not respecting the other person.
When we stick to our guns and are stubborn, that shows us there’s something stuck in us and we want to control other people so they don’t bump into our wounds.
Our job is to heal our wounds.
So what do you want to heal?
3- Take steps to heal. Spend some time thinking about the feelings that trigger brings up for you. If you feel afraid, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. If you feel slighted, ask yourself what you’re missing.
Are the thoughts you’re having actually true? Is there anything you can do to parent yourself and alleviate those fears or hurts?
Triggers can actually be a gift. They lead us right to our wounds so we can heal them. Isn’t that amazing?