I’ve been thinking a lot lately about triggers (also called “hooks”). Triggers are thoughts, memories, events, words, or actions - - that when exposed to - - trigger, or hook us, causing an emotional upset.
We are never triggered by the content of things happening to us today, but rather because of things that happened in the past. And, those triggering events came to reside in us only because of situations we were in that we were unable (due to our immaturity of age or mind, or due to great emotional turmoil, etc.) or unwilling to be with.
Today, when we get triggered by someone else’s words or actions, we need to stop and consider that we are being triggered by our pasts, and not by the current situation. We have a predisposition to react (not respond) when we are triggered. Our predisposition is to react out of anger, rebellion, despair, or some other emotion that isn’t even appropriate to the situation at hand. But we don’t always see that because when we get triggered, our thoughts and feelings take us back to the past and we react out of feelings about that past triggering event.
So, we are left with two goals here. The first is to recognize when we are getting triggered and ask ourselves, in the moment, if we can give up our emotional reaction in order to respond appropriately to the situation at hand. The second is to locate that triggering event and relive it. Do this with someone you trust. Close your eyes and describe the event or memory. Feel any bodily sensations. Feel your emotions surrounding that event. Listen to what you are thinking regarding that memory and relay all of this, out loud, to your friend. Let your feelings come out about that event. Sometimes this will be crying. Other times it will be anger or another emotion. Your friend needs not say anything but simply be there as a sounding board. By reliving the event, and now dealing with it with the maturity of an adult, you will be able to allow that memory its release and it will no longer have a hold over you.