On any given day, you possibly experience an array of emotions – excitement, unease, frustration, joy, and disappointment. These often narrate specific events, like meeting with your boss, discussing current events with a friend, or seeing your dear ones. Your response to these events can differ based on your frame of mind & the status surrounding the situation. We can control them by following some simple Steps for Managing Your Emotional Triggers.
What Is a Trigger?
A trigger can be any word, person, event, or experience that immediately triggers an emotional reaction. It is like being shocked by a noise: The noise is the trigger; the shock is the response. Our reactions to emotional triggers are often extreme, lasting longer than what makes sense for the event. It is as if we are still getting startled by the sound of that slammed door hours later.
Not every trigger is negative. They can also kindle joy or happy memories, like when we smell a flower that reminds us of someplace we love or see a photo of some event where we felt happy. Still, we generally use “trigger” to describe negative stimuli that start with sadness, anger, or fear, as well as hurt, shame, & despair.
When triggered, our bodies connect the survival response: fighting, fleeing, or freezing. Our hearts may race; we break into a sweat; we become paralyzed. The concerned nervous system is activated to save us from apparent harm.
Yet we often escape too fast, fight too hard, and freeze for too long. These reactions can start to impede our ability to live our lives. When a trigger creates only a survival reaction, it is a dead end. But they can create a process of healing, too. They can direct us to where we have personal work to do. It can be a boon when a trigger achieves that push toward self-reflection.
How to Manage Your Emotional Triggers
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
These feelings are part of your everyday existence. All these feelings can wake your triggers, & that is normal. Be kind to yourself. Don’t compare your past & present life. Your experience may have left, but your wounds are still healing. What happened in your past stays in the past. Learn from your past & manage the present moment.
Continually remind yourself of this to select a better response to your trigger. This is among the first Steps for Managing Your Emotional Triggers.
2. Listen To Your Mind and Body
A significant step in learning to distinguish your triggers involves paying attention when situations produce a strong emotional response. Beyond swelling emotions, you might also experience various physical symptoms of anxiety, like:
- throbbing heart
- upset stomach
- instability or dizziness
- sweaty palms
3. Step Back
When you notice any of these signs, stop to reflect on what just happened & the response it activated. Say you spent the afternoon cleaning your house & reorganizing the living room. When your partner gets home from work, you wait eagerly for them to comment. Instead, they go to the fridge for a snack & then sit on the sofa without saying a word.
You are frustrated that your hard work went unacknowledged, & you start to get angry & frustrated. You can hear your heart pounding & your palms sweating. It takes everything in you not to snap & say something bitter. Instead of pouring your heart out, try to control yourself.
4. Trace The Origins
Try to follow these feelings back to their roots by thinking about other situations that made you feel what you are currently feeling. Maybe it abruptly felt as if you were a teenager again, trying to make the house look perfect for earning appraisal from the indifferent parent who traveled often.
When the emotional trigger is fired, you are transported back to that particular time in your life when you felt nothing you did was good enough.
5. Be Aware of Projection
Trigger reactions are more about projection. For example, if one of your parents was angrily vicious toward you, you might be triggered by anger in others. This is because your body is afraid of repeating that original sequence, even though anger & violence are not unavoidably linked.
Or maybe your first partner left you for someone else, & now you are uncertain of your worth in every new relationship. We predict outcomes based on our experience. While it is always possible that anger may lead to violence or your new love interest may fall for someone else, that would be a coincidence, not an obvious thing.
Most importantly, when we make our reactions about others, it leaves us defenseless because we can’t change them. When we take control of our reactions, we take a step toward healing & letting go of the past injury.
6. Allow Yourself Some Space
Physically leaving the scene can help you to avoid emotional overwhelm. Excuse yourself for taking a short break. This can help you avoid spontaneous reactions that you may regret later. Once on your own, try some deep breathing or grounding exercises to calm down your nerves & soothe yourself.
The goal here is not to entirely avoid the circumstances that triggered your emotions. You are just providing yourself a chance to cool off to manage the situation more efficiently. Once you feel more relaxed, you may return to the circumstance with a clearer head & calmer mind.
7. Practice Knowing & Showing Your Emotions
Emotions are very much like muscles. They develop in vigorous ways by being appropriately used. Similarly, if we have concealed an emotion like anger or sadness for most of our lives, our capacity to cope with that feeling becomes weak. This is one reason a reaction may feel uncomfortable or exaggerated when triggered.
If we practice knowing & showing our emotions, we tend not to react wrongly when we have strong feelings.
8. Keep an Open Mind
Typically speaking, most people in your life don’t make you feel bad willingly. Some of their actions or words that disturb you could be a byproduct of their emotional triggers or other factors you don’t know.
Your partner walked in & didn’t notice you had completely changed the living room. Perhaps they got some bad news or had a rough day in the workplace & needed some space to relax before talking about it. Everyone has unique emotions dribbling under the surface at any given time, & you may not know what is going on if they don’t tell you.
It is also easier to misunderstand behavior or intention when you don’t know someone well. This makes it even more significant to reflect on their perspective.
Have you seen the Disney animated movie Inside Out? This movie shows how people can be controlled by their emotions every second of every day. Every day, we experience an array of emotions. We can feel happiness, sadness, excitement, frustration, or distress.
All your emotions can be connected to the different events that are happening in your life. Both simple & complicated life events can be emotional triggers. You can be triggered by the loud noise from your neighbor’s home or the news you heard on television. It is not desirable to get overwhelmed by emotions all the time. There are some Steps for Managing Your Emotional Triggers we can practice.