What to do When You Feel Triggered

What to do When You Feel Triggered - The Art of Living Consciously


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 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 consciousnessNotice 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? 


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  1. Nancy Franklin on July 21, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Oh, Louise, I have a lot of triggers😔 and much of the time I don’t know how I feel except angry. I know that I am controlling, I try to “control” that part of me with little results most of the time. 🙅🏻‍♀️

  2. logan on September 7, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    i feel scared when suicide comes up or people around me do things that could hurt them emotionally/mentally and i think that is a good trigger to avoid, no one wants their friends hurt but i’ve been crying, pacing and my head hurts how would i go about being okay when people around me aren’t mentally safe?

    • Louise Finlayson on September 23, 2020 at 4:22 pm

      Dear Logan, It makes sense that you feel distressed when you are around someone who is suggesting that they are suicidal, it would be unnatural for you to feel OK in that situation. . Unfortunately, you can’t know whether they are saying these things to get your attention, as a cry for help, or because they really intend to harm themselves. I suggest that you seek professional help for yourself and suggest that the person in distress also seek help. If they make a credible immediate threat, call 911. You can receive expert advice on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is available 24 hours a day. 800-273-8255

  3. Dylan on March 10, 2021 at 11:01 am

    I understand all of this absolutely.
    Anger also is an indication that something is NOT RIGHT, and our boundaries have been crossed.
    If a boss is abusive (or a partner), and says something verbally inappropriate, anger is the APPROPRIATE response. Pausing, is good, noticing is good, reflecting on how to handle it is good. But it it isn’t because you have something to heal. It is because someone has HURT YOU.

    The appropriate response is to GET AWAY from abuse. I stayed in abusive situations far too long because of the messages in your article, always trying to not be triggered by people who hurt me. When I learned that no, my reaction is THE CORRECT RESPONSE TO BEING HURT, that it wasn’t me needing to heal, it was my body giving me a message that something was not right, then I could take appropriate action. In healthy relationships, funnily enough, those ‘triggers’ didn’t exist.

    • Louise Finlayson on March 18, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you for pointing this out, Dylan. When I think of triggers, I think of reactions that are out of proportion to the actual event. I was not clear about this in the blog post. Your point is well taken. I agree with you 100% that anger is a healthy reaction to abuse, and I would not want you or anyone to ignore or minimize the importance of anger as a self-protective response to abuse.

    • Heather on March 23, 2021 at 9:16 pm

      Yes 🙌🏻.

  4. Jack on August 22, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    I was triggered just now and that is why I was reading your article. I felt too vulnerable after sharing my mental health concerns with a friend. I suppose I need to heal some fears about social rejection. When I was young, I was in a dysfunctional home, and I was very introverted. I don’t think I learned much in terms of social skills from my parents behavior. So, I have experienced a lot of rejection and I don’t know how to fix the part of me that is powerfully triggered when I sense a threat to the sense of “self” or to my position in the group.

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