How to handle emotional triggers? We all have things that can trigger our emotional reaction and we all have tools and strategies that can help us deal with triggers that might come from our circumstances, events, and other people. We just need to discover and learn how to use those tools. If we don’t, we are left at the mercy of our emotions and triggers. However, when we learn how to use those tools, we can deal with our triggers more effectively and with grace.
Respond, Don’t React
We often regret when we emotionally react to our triggers. After the emotional reaction, you might think to yourself “That was embarrassing. I shouldn’t have done that.” You shouldn’t ignore your emotions, but you shouldn’t react to it without too much thought either.
We should respond to our triggers not simply react. What’s the difference? When we react, our emotions are in charge and we get emotional without having all the facts about the trigger which caused the emotional reaction. When we react, we don’t sit and think about the trigger, we just react right away not thinking about consequences and how will we feel later on.
When we respond to a trigger, we think about what happened, do we have all information, what is the best approach, how should we act? Should we leave a conversation and respond later? When responding to a trigger, we are more thoughtful and less emotional. In any case, we shouldn’t ignore the trigger and push it aside like it doesn’t exist.
How to Handle Emotional Triggers?
Recognize Your Emotional Trigger
The first step is recognizing and naming your emotional trigger. Make a list of things that trigger you to react emotionally. In this way, you will be able to recognize the emotional trigger before it happens. Often, we don’t know what triggers us or we do but we think there’s nothing we can do about it.
Write about Your Triggers
Now, when you named your triggers, write about it and about your reaction to each trigger you recognized. Maybe your emotional trigger is a disrespectful colleague. How do you react to it? What is your habitual reaction? What are other options?
Why Do You React Emotionally?
Naming triggers and observing our emotional reactions to triggers is the easier part. Now it’s time to do the hard work. Why do you react to your emotional triggers the way you do? Dig deep and find reasons why you act emotionally. If you emotionally react when someone is disrespectful to you, think about who was disrespectful to you in the past. Write about the first time that situation happened that triggers your emotional reaction. Think about the time when you first had that emotional reaction to the same trigger in the past.
Take Ownership of Your Triggers
We should recognize and respect our emotions, but we shouldn’t let them run wild. In order to heal, you need to take ownership of your triggers and how you react in each situation. This could be a long process so be kind to yourself. Distinguish how you feel? Try to get all the information about the event that triggers you, analyze how you react, plan how to handle it in the future, and don’t be too harsh on yourself.
Triggers can often lead to inappropriate behavior and emotional reactions. You can train your emotions just as you can train your muscles. Practice showing your emotions in an appropriate way. This doesn’t mean in any way that you will have to ignore your emotions. Mindfulness and meditation can help you be more present which can lead to less emotional reactions where often you are not aware of what are you doing by losing control of yourself.
When we are mindful, we can reduce our reaction considerably.
Share Your Triggers with Family Members or Friends
We are not alone in having emotional triggers. Others have them too. Even the most enlightened people in the world can be triggered. When you share your emotional triggers with someone you trust, you will realize you are not alone in this.
If you feel that you need professional help, get one. You have resources and tools that can help you heal and grow.