Here are 9 Things You Should Know About Emotional Triggers


The news.






These are just some of the many things can trigger a response that knocks you out of being centered and calm and sends you tumbling into an unpleasant emotion like anger, jealousy, or even sadness.


It’s a part of life.


The question is, are you able to recognize when you feel triggered and then access tools for working with these emotions?


Our brains create powerful associations between things that hurt us, and whatever happened to be occurring when we got hurt.


The first step to understand and deal with triggers is to simply notice them.


Once you see when you are being triggered, you can find ways to deal with it. You can choose to avoid certain situations if possible, or you can find ways to deal with the emotions when they arise.


Maybe you wonder what’s really going on when you feel like certain events push your buttons. Take control of your emotional triggers by increasing your awareness and developing new ways of responding.


Emotional triggers are events or people that consistently set off intense, emotional reactions within us. Proactively dealing with triggers is essential to our personal and professional development. If not managed appropriately, our emotional triggers can cause acute stress, discontent, and interpersonal conflict. Unmanaged triggers can also prevent us from having the types of relationships and career success we really want.


When triggered, we may experience a range of emotions including frustration, anger, resentment, insecurity, jealousy, and defensiveness. We may have emotional outbursts and be unable to express ourselves appropriately. As a result, we develop coping habits that can create interpersonal conflict.  Or we act in a passive/aggressive manner.  Or we stop communicating at all.  Over time, these self-defeating habits become patterns that produce further emotional stress, drain our energy, and influence how we live and work.



Understanding Your Emotional Triggers


  1. Learn the definition of triggers. A trigger is an experience that draws us back into the past and causes old feelings and behaviors to arise. An ice cream sandwich may remind you of summer vacations or gossiping coworkers could bring back images of high school cliques.
  2. Spot external prompts. Some triggers are situational and social. Many people tend to eat more at holiday gatherings. If your spouse is tense, it may affect your own mood.
  3. Identify internal causes. Over time, anything can be internalized. Even when you’re surrounded by loved ones, you may be carrying around old conflicts that interfere with your ability to live in the present moment.
  4. Realize we all have triggers. Much of the literature about triggers focuses on addictions. It’s important to remember that memory plays a powerful role in all our lives.
  5. Accept individual differences. If you’re startled by loud noises that your spouse fails to notice, you’ve seen how differently people react to the same stimulus. Taking such variety into account improves communications and relationships.


A trigger is an experience that draws us back into the past and causes old feelings and behaviors to arise.


Managing Your Emotional Triggers


  1. Keep a journal. Tracking your triggers is often the first step in mastering them. It might be helpful to keep a log of occasions when you experience intense emotions or engage in behavior you want to change. Note what’s going on in your head and in your surroundings at the time.
  2. Challenge yourself. The key to change is placing yourself in difficult positions and being open to doing something new and more constructive. If worrying about money is keeping you up at night, call your creditors to arrange payment plans.
  3. Know your capacity. Proceed at your own pace. Start out by being more assertive with your spouse and friends if you need to practice before talking with your boss.
  4. Come up with alternatives. Take advantage of quiet times to brainstorm new strategies you can use when you are under pressure. List productive and enjoyable activities you can substitute for gambling or other habits you want to break.
  5. Make time to relax. Reducing daily stress will make it easier to handle intense emotions. Begin a daily meditation practice or start out the day by listening to instrumental music during your drive to the office.
  6. Consider therapy. If you’re having trouble making progress on your own, professional help could make a big difference. Ask your physician or people you trust for references or call the psychology department at your local universities.
  7. Live healthy. One simple way to make yourself more resilient is to take good care of your body and mind. Eat right, sleep well and exercise regularly. You’ll be better prepared to bounce back from any obstacles that may arise.
  8. Develop a strong support network. Close family and friends are vital to feeling validated and nurtured. When you’re dealing with stubborn issues, it’s good to know you have people who care about you and want to help.
  9. Show compassion. The more you know about your own triggers, the more insight you can develop into what the people around you may be struggling with. Strive to be a little more patient and forgiving and people will be more likely to do the same for you.


The key to change is placing yourself in difficult positions and being open to doing something new and more constructive


Need More Help?


Talk to your family members and friends about the triggering situation and your feelings. Sometimes talking can really help reduce emotional triggers and promote understanding. Your family and friends know you better than anyone. They know when to anticipate your triggers, so they can help encourage you during those times


Get professional help. Find a good counselor, social worker, or psychotherapist. Lots of people have trouble managing their emotions and dealing with triggers. People with special training can help you identify your triggers, and they can teach you strategies for dealing with them.


Speak to a doctor. These are caring professionals who may have tools for helping people work with intense emotions, or they can refer you to someone who does. A spiritual director or pastor can also give you spiritual guidance that can help you during those times when you’re trying to manage your emotions. A doctor can prescribe medication if needed that can alleviate emotions like stress and depression.


Seek out self-help books on emotions and triggers. Anger management and emotion regulation might be good places to start. Books dealing with trauma could help you identify the root of your triggers. If you’ve already identified the reasons behind your triggers, then read books about that topic. For instance, if your triggers are caused from being in an abusive relationship, then look for books about domestic violence and abuse.


Consider attending a support group. Often groups can help work with and understand emotions. Some of the members within a group have confronted the same triggers and therefore can provide some helpful suggestions. Search the Internet or ask a counselor or therapist to help you find support groups in your area.


In summary:

We all have our own unique emotional triggers. Learning to handle them constructively enables us to fix the issues that get in our way and move ahead in life.  When additional help is needed, seek professionals that can help you.


Your Turn:

Do you know what your emotional triggers are?  What are some of your coping mechanisms? If you could share your insights with us to help others, it would be greatly appreciated.  Share your thoughts in the comments box below or join the conversation on social media. Also,please  share this article with anyone whom you think would benefit from it.



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