Understanding your emotional triggers
Everyone has emotional triggers. If someone says an off the cuff remark about you that most other people would laugh off, but your day is ruined by it – this is likely to be your emotional trigger. Feeling like this can lead to anxiety, depression and even shame.
It can be difficult understanding and identifying what your triggers are, but getting to know them is key to helping you heal and cope better in response.
So, why do we have emotional triggers? Put simply, because we were children. When we were growing up, it is likely that some form of pain or upset happened that we weren’t equipped to deal with at the time.
This means, as adults, we become triggered by experiences and remarks that remind us of this. As a result we usually turn to an addictive or habitual way of coping.
For example if a child was raised with absent parents (physically and/or emotionally) that child may grow up to be triggered when someone he or she cares about isn’t available.
To help identify your triggers, see if any of the following situations trigger a particularly strong reaction:
- Someone rejecting you.
- Someone ignoring you or discounting your thoughts/feelings.
- Someone blaming you.
- Someone leaving you.
- Someone judging you.
- Someone criticising you.
- Someone trying to control you.
- Someone making sexual advances.
- Someone looking at you disapprovingly.
- Feeling helpless or useless.
Once you have identified triggering situations, you can begin to ask yourself where they may have originated from. Think back to childhood experiences which may have led to you having this strong reaction.
Next, think about what your reaction is to these situations. Do you get angry? Do you shut down? Or do you turn to an addiction? How do these responses make you feel? These may sound like ‘big’ questions, but getting to the root is essential if you want to begin to respond in a more healthy manner.
Try to be honest with yourself and also kind to yourself. Understanding your reactions can help you gain clarity, and think them through more the next time a trigger situation arises. This should help you devise healthier coping mechanisms over time.