Updated: Apr 19, 2021
Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessive emotional reaction within us. Common emotions that we experience while being triggered include anger, rage, sadness, and fear. Virtually anything can trigger us, depending on our beliefs, values, and earlier life experiences such as a tone of voice, a type of person, a particular viewpoint, a single word – anything can be a trigger.
Why do we all have triggers? In short, because we were all children once. When we were growing up, we inevitably experienced pain or suffering that we could not acknowledge and/or deal with sufficiently at the time. So as adults, we typically become triggered by experiences that are reminiscent of these old painful feelings. As a result, we typically turn to a habitual or addictive way of trying to manage the painful feelings.
Identifying your emotional triggers is so vital because without bringing to consciousness what provokes extreme responses from you, you’ll be a puppet constantly manipulated by your emotions. Your friendships will be strained or ruined, your relationships will be turbulent or sabotaged, and your life, in general, will be much more painful. It really is worth putting in the effort to explore your emotional triggers. The more aware you are, the less you will be ruled by the unconscious forces within you.
Once you’ve identified your most frequent emotional triggers and explored the thoughts or memories you relate to that trigger, you’re ready to choose your reaction. Rather than giving into the trigger, recognize that you can control your thoughts and memories. You can then look objectively at the current situation and choose a healthier or more appropriate reaction. This doesn’t mean you won’t always be triggered. But, you can avoid letting the trigger dictate your behaviours and words.
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