Practical steps for working through triggers Working and transforming your triggers brings emotional flexibility and freedom. It helps you to respond appropriately and sensitively to situations rather than react in ways that might be limiting or hurtful to you and others. It is worthwhile to put some time and energy into working with your triggers, because the payoffs are numerous. Some of these benefits include: being more facilitative and helpful to your children; clearer communication with your significant other; it allows you to respond creatively to situations instead of reacting impulsively, you can catch yourself before a rupture appears that might affect a friendship adversely; and, it can allow you to work and respond more efficiently at your job.
Forward Steps to Freedom
- Know your triggers.
- Notice if you suddenly become quiet, or feel like disappearing, or perhaps you become argumentative, irritable or angry. This includes any pronounced feeling that seems to come “out of the blue” or that doesn’t seem to match what is going on. You will need to get into the habit of noticing. It takes practice to be aware of what is going on inside. The more you do this, the more skilled you will become – thus allowing your unconscious triggers to become conscious so you can effectively work with them, rather than having them work you.
- Slow it down: what’s happening in your body? What sensations are you experiencing? Tune in to any intense or subtle feelings. Not only does this familiarize you with the sensations that can act as cues in the future, but it can also buy some time so the prefrontal cortex can be brought on board to help evaluate the situation. You will eventually get to know what sensations and feelings are associated with which trigger. In this way, even before you are aware you are being triggered, you can recognize the sensation or emotion that acts as a signal that there is a memory, or old threat, being activated.
- See if you can maintain an observing awareness. Try not to judge the feelings or sensations right away; just observe. You may be too activated to accurately evaluate your response. Be curious; if possible – open into a non-judgmental attitude. Being able to witness your reactions (instead of being taken over by them) is a valuable asset in working with triggers.
- Take a time out if you find that you are reacting in a way that is hurtful or harmful to self or others. See if you can simply take a ‘time out’ from what you are doing and put some space between you and the situation.
- Once you are no longer feeling triggered, see if you can understand what happened and what got evoked. Go easy with yourself, find a safe place to do this work: either with a therapist, a trusted, non-judgmental friend or perhaps through journalling or other process-oriented methods.
- As we understand and work through our triggers we gain freedom. Triggers hijack our ability to be flexible and thoughtful in our response to situations or people. Repeating the above steps gives us more clarity and awareness of our emotional responses and enables us to take responsibility for our actions. Gain freedom and empower yourself today by working with your triggers. Your ability to experience life unencumbered by the conditioning of the past will allow you to see the world anew and celebrate life with a fresh perspective.