Have you seen the animated movie Inside Out? It is a movie that shows how a person can be controlled by their emotions every second of every day. Every day, you experience a variety of emotions. You could feel happiness, sadness, excitement, frustration, or disappointment.
All your emotions are connected to the various events that are happening in your life. Both simple and complex life events can be emotional triggers. You can simply be triggered by the loud noise in your neighborhood or the news you hear on television.
All your reactions to these triggers are based on your current mindset. A trigger is anything that could bring about unpleasant feelings and instantaneous emotional responses.
An example of a trigger is when you are disturbed by a piece of terrifying news. The news is the trigger and being disturbed is the emotional reaction.
What is an Emotional Trigger?
An emotional trigger can be your memories or experiences that create a powerful emotional reaction, despite your present mood. Emotional triggers are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
Triggers explain the reason behind a person’s reactions rather than being used as an excuse for the behavior. These reactions are a person’s survival response.
Understanding triggers can help you become more understanding and forgiving of your misbehaviors. Being able to recognize your triggers is also a responsibility. You should be responsible enough to change your unconscious responses.
How Do You Recognize Your Triggers?
Every single person has different emotional triggers. These triggers are usually unwanted and uncomfortable memories or experiences.
Listed below are common scenarios that trigger extreme emotions:
- Being ignored and disapproved
- Challenged beliefs
- Feeling unwanted or too needed
- Feeling of insecurity
- Loss of control and loss of independence
- Unfair and unjust treatment
These scenarios are difficult to avoid and can happen unexpectedly. Not all of these can trigger you. So, how do you identify triggers that set you off?
Here are the steps on how you can recognize your own triggers:
1. You Should Pay Attention to Your Mind and Body
Being mentally aware of your triggers is very important. If you are in a situation where you are triggered, you have to make a mental note of it. This first step is important in recognizing your triggers. You have to listen to your mind and body when it creates intense emotional reactions.
It is easy to determine if you are triggered if you feel any of these physical signs of anxiety:
- Pounding heart
- Disturbed stomach
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Cold and sweaty palms
2. You Should Step Back and Think
Suppose you find yourself in a situation where you feel you will be emotionally triggered. Pause, think, and ask these questions: “What just happened? What do I feel? Am I angry or happy?”
3. Determine the Cause of the Intense Emotions
After asking yourself the questions above, you should also ask: “Have I been in a similar situation before? Did I react in the same way?”
Negative childhood experiences may have shaped your triggers. Ask yourself it’s possible that you feel this way at the present moment because of your childhood issues.
You might have been in a situation where you were very pleased about something and wanted to share it with your parents. They came home, tired from work. You told them about it, but you didn’t receive the reaction you hoped. You feel you aren’t good enough.
The trigger here is your parents’ reactions. Whenever you are in a situation where you are about to share something positive, you instantly feel depressed, thinking that sharing is pointless because you are not good enough anyway.
In adulthood, every time you are caught up in this situation, you feel like a child again, wanting approval from your parents.
4. Be Curious
There may be times that the triggers are not that clear, or maybe your reactions are inconsistent. If this happens, you have to think harder and dig deeper.
Fighting your triggers is pointless. Don’t ignore them. Instead, be more curious and think of the deeper reason why you are triggered.
You should pay attention to patterns in your reactions. For instance, are you constantly envious or depressed if you are in a situation where you talk about romantic relationships? Is this because you fear being alone or abandoned? Be more curious and question yourself.
Tips on Managing Your Emotional Triggers
Being aware of the situations that can trigger you emotionally is not enough. It is not easy to escape or avoid these situations. Not all triggers are escapable. They can happen anytime and anywhere.
Facing the unexpected is part of everyday life. You don’t need to hide or run away. Here are some tips on how you can survive every day by managing your triggers:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
Feelings are part of your everyday existence. All these feelings can stir up your triggers, and that is normal. Be kind to yourself. Do not compare your past and present life. Your past experience may have left you wounds that are still healing.
What happened in your past stays there. Learn from your past and deal with the present moment. Constantly remind yourself of this so you can choose a better response to your trigger.
2. You Deserve Some Space
Sometimes, when the trigger is so overwhelming, it is better to step back and leave. It is okay to ask for a break so you can avoid bursting with negative emotions.
If you are alone, relax and take a deep breath. Your goal is to feel better and to think of a better action plan in approaching your trigger. You are giving yourself some space to breathe and clear your head. As soon as you can control yourself, it is time to face the triggering event calmly.
3. Be Open-Minded
Every single human being is at the mercy of their own triggers. If you think the people around you are deliberately making you feel bad, think again. They, too, are humans like you. They, too, may feel triggered without you knowing it.
Be open-minded, so you understand the behavior of someone you are not familiar with. Don’t be judgmental and try to consider their own points of view.
4. If You Feel Negative Emotions, Practice Positive Actions
Often, when a person experiences negative and strong emotions, they show negative responses as well. If you are lonely, you initially want to lock up inside your room and starve. Instead, you should practice showing positive actions.
Do not lock yourself up. You should call your family members or friends and hang out with them. Engage in activities that will produce positive feelings.
5. Create Positive Memories from Positive Experiences
If you want to have positive triggers, it makes sense to invest in positive experiences. Spend time with people who help you make happy memories.
Examples of good memories are setting up the Christmas tree, which reminds you of your wonderful childhood, or hearing your favorite song playing, which reminds you of your special someone.
6. Learn to Communicate
You have done all the tips mentioned above, but you still find yourself in a triggering situation. It is now time to open up. Talk to the person who triggered you so you can both avoid the situation from repeating.
Be calm and composed. You have to communicate to yourself by identifying what you feel. An example would be: slamming the door at your partner for not noticing the effort you put into your relationship. You can do the following:
- You have to name what you are feeling.
- Tell your partner, “I feel so frustrated and angry right now. I don’t feel that you are putting the same quality of effort as I do in this relationship. This pisses me off. I don’t want to feel this way because I love you. What can we do about this?”
Of course, you have to consider that others may not be open communicators like you. You can’t force them to open up or explain their side to you.
What’s important is you are able to bridge what you want to say. The other person will have their own personal and silent moments to think about what just happened.
How to Deal With Emotional Triggers
The tips listed above are short-term strategies in dealing with emotional triggers. Since triggers can pop up anytime and anywhere, you don’t just need band-aid solutions to cover them up. You need stitches or long-term strategies to cope. Listed below are long term strategies you can use to heal:
1. Be More Mindful
Being mindful is being present. Pay close attention to your feelings and live in the present. Be mentally ready by using mental preparation strategies. If you are more in sync with yourself and your emotions, it is easier to understand your triggers and be able to cope with them well.
Self-regulation is an important skill to learn starting from childhood until adulthood. If daily meditation and yoga are helpful, then practice them regularly.
2. Be Able to Recognize a Toxic Relationship
There are people who will constantly and consistently bother and annoy you. Even if you politely ask them to stop, they don’t listen. A toxic relationship is where mutual understanding, respect, and consideration are absent.
3. Have a Mood Journal
Writing can be a tedious task for a regular person. But, writing in a journal can be very therapeutic and can help you recognize trigger patterns. Writing the important information down will serve as a guide for positive change and avoiding triggers.
4. Seek Professional Help
Mastering emotional self-regulation is not easy. Young children are taught about self-regulation as early as possible to adapt and adjust as they move toward adulthood.
Oftentimes, triggers are intensely rooted in a person’s behavior that they are unable to recognize it. If you are having a hard time detecting your triggers, it is advisable to seek professional therapy.
Therapy is a safe and judgment-free place where your triggers can be explored. You will be able to manage your emotions effectively. Therapy can offer you support and guidance while you are in the process of healing.
Good News: Help Is Available
Don’t let your triggers haunt and control your life forever. Take advantage of this opportunity to work with an amazing support system. Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) can plan the right treatment for you to work on your emotions. Learn how to deal with emotional triggers by booking an appointment now!