Breaking the Trigger Habit

Every day on social media and in the news, we are seeing that so many people are on edge, with frazzled nerves and being triggered into reacting with a great deal of emotion. But think about when that happens in our daily lives, when you react to a comment someone makes, or the tone of their voice. It very rarely goes well for either side. Has being reactionary ever really given you the result that you wanted back from the other person, or did they just react right back, causing an unfortunate domino effect? This happens quite often with children, or spouses, and often times turns into a much larger fight over something that was relatively insignificant in the beginning. 

Perhaps your husband makes a comment or doesn’t do or say something you think he should, and 5 minutes later you are in a full blown fight over larger issues in your relationship that may or may not have anything to do with what started the argument in the first place. But what causes those triggers? Many times it is something that happened long ago, that we think has since been forgotten, but that our subconscious mind has held on to. That comment could have triggered a negative emotion, and our defenses go up, trying to protect us from those feelings. But how do we fix it? Well the first step is awareness. So whenever you find yourself being triggered, stop. Take a few deep breaths, and assess the situation. Then ask yourself some questions to find out what is really going on.

  1. What are you really feeling? What are the emotions associated with this event? 

  2. Where in your body are you feeling those emotions? Is it in your gut, your throat, your neck and shoulders, your head? 

  3. If that feeling were an object, what would it be? What would the shape, size, color and weight be like?

  4. How long has this object been there? And who or what put it there?

  5. What is its purpose, and what are the true feelings it is representing?

  6. What is it that you really need in this situation? And how can you get that need fulfilled? 

Pausing, taking some deep breaths, and asking yourself these questions, especially when you have found that your quick reaction has become a habit, can help retrain your brain to respond versus reacting. When we are in instant reaction mode, we let adrenaline take over and it’s coming from a place of hurt, anger, fear or resentment. But when we take the time to contemplate those feelings and what they truly represent, and then respond, it can come from a place of calm, love, compassion, and mindfulness. Instead of pointing the finger at someone else, and blaming them for causing us to feel negative emotions, we are considering instead what is coming from inside of ourselves to make us feel that way, and how the other person’s words and actions may have triggered that to come out from inside of us. We all tend to react without thinking and overreact from time to time, but if you find that it is a habit, it’s a good indicator that it could use some attention. Changing habits is always a process, and takes time and intention to really process through what’s happening behind the scenes. But doing so can make your life, and the lives of the people around you, so much better when you do! 

Some of these questions, especially the last, can be challenging to answer on your own, so it may be necessary to obtain professional support in working through this list. If you have emotions that are often and easily triggered that you would like to resolve, please feel free to reach out for guidance.