Handling Emotional Triggers

Woman's hand on her chest handling emotional triggers feeling calm

We all have triggers that set us off and can throw us into an energy draining negativity tailspin. The key to stopping the spin is understanding why we feel so emotionally charged by those triggers and how to stay in our emotional power and remain more neutral.

What are emotional triggers?

Emotional triggers are those hyper-sensitive over-reactive sore spots within you that get set off by the words, gestures, or actions of others.

Your triggers can cause intense, unwanted negative reactions and emotions that drain your energy and leave you emotionally overwhelmed.

You know when you’re triggered.

You feel the immediate rise and heat of extreme anger, frustration, sadness, shame, or hurt. You momentarily lose rational thought and you usually respond to those triggers with exaggerated aggression or withdrawal. You need to get a handle on them so you don’t get derailed.

Why remain neutral when you spot a trigger?

You might think it’s ok to mentally spin out when triggered, (I mean, why does your husband have to chew so loudly?)

But it’s not ok and the only person who suffers the triggered energy sap is you.

When you let triggers rule your roost, you are letting the external mess with your internal.

“What drains your mind drains your spirit.” – Caroline Myss

Spinning isn’t so bad except that it tends to spin out of control. That is where the danger of getting emotionally sidetracked and emotionally exhausted lies.

When we let triggers affect us more deeply and for longer than is healthy, we give away our power.

We allow the words, actions, and events around us to drain our positive energy. And we need all the positive energy we can get in order to keep moving forward, being productive, growing and expanding on a constructive path.

Time spent in trigger-land is time we can’t get back.

And worst yet, our overreaction actually changes nothing about the trigger in the first place!

Don’t get detoured

Allowing what triggers you to cause you overreact and bring up a cartload of negative emotions takes you off track. It ruins your momentum and sidelines you from the flow of good action, from what you need to be doing, from how you want to feel, and from what you want (sometimes for hours, and even days or weeks).

So how to handle these feelings? Slide into neutral.

Overreacting with negative emotion to what triggers you is normal. We can’t ignore what bugs the ___  out of us. That’s not healthy or productive either.

Instead, figure out how to remain more neutral and see the triggers for what they are. Literally stop as you feel your blood pressure rising and voice getting louder and the heated flush of anxiety surging up your neck – and see the trigger for what it is.

See the trigger as mirror of your sensitivities.

Something put in your path or thrown at you that you do have the option to shield or dodge or deescalate. You can understand that you are giving your power away to the trigger (or triggerer) and instead exert emotional stability.

You can communicate how you feel if that will help the situation (and if anyone is listening!) but you can do so in a constructive, productive manner that doesn’t propagate further aggravation, more time, more loss of your energy and more drain your emotional resources.

Trigger hack & neutralizer

Here’s quick trigger de-escalation hack that often works to reduce the level of overreactive negative emotion. When you feel triggered by something, instead of letting the trigger throw you off, distract you and spin you out of your lane, note it on piece of paper. Like on a little post-it note or scrap of paper, to remind you to deal with that trigger later, when you have time and energy to consider it. This way, you haven’t ignored the trigger nor your perhaps justified reaction, you’re just delaying dealing with it until later.

“When you seek to identify what is triggering how you feel, you give yourself the chance to feel differently if you want to.” – Marcia Reynolds, PsyD, psychologytoday.com

More likely than not, when you get around to your end-of-day post-it notes, you gain a higher perspective on the trigger. You realize how much more insignificant and unworthy of the scream-festival or major upset you would have had in that moment it truly was.

Your perspective shifts and you can more rationally see that the trigger wasn’t worth the energetic drain and productivity derailment of your usual full-on trigger response.

And this is a subject for another post someday (and something I get into in my upcoming mindset course) … but becoming aware of your triggers can be an important part of powerful transformative and healing self-work. Many times, triggers have an origin you hadn’t thought much about and those triggered emotions run much deeper into yourself and your past than you realized.

“The people who trigger us to feel negative emotion are messengers for the unhealed parts of our being.” – Teal Swan

Healing triggers is work but can set you emotionally free. 

You are the Boss of You

It doesn’t always feel like it, but you have choices. You are in charge of you. You are the Queen of your Internal Scene! You decide how upset, angry, hurt, derailed, irritated, jealous, and downright distracted you choose to be by your triggers.

Emotional triggers don’t have to drain your energy.

You can choose to stay in your emotional power and learn to neutralize your trigger reactions, to liberate yourself from being thrown off course by the comments or actions of others. – Marlene




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