Triggers are everywhere. Some are healthy others are not. For me the smell of french fries makes me want to pull over into the drive through of a local restaurant and order some. Another example of a trigger is when someone smiles at me I immediately feel good with a smile in return.
For those who have experienced trauma in their childhood there are plenty of emotional triggers. Some are known while many are not. If you are learning to heal from childhood trauma, you know that the healing process is a life long commitment. One thing that comes up in coaching a great deal is how to manage emotional triggers.
As one who is doing my own healing work due to childhood trauma, I know the challenges of dealing with emotional triggers. Like many of you, I spent a great deal of my life reacting to triggers in unproductive ways. Dealing with triggers reached a point where it was getting in the way of holding down a job and even enjoying the benefits of intimate relationships.
I was exhausted and needed to find better ways of handling my emotions when triggered.
As a Life Coach, who gets coached by other Coaches, I have discovered there were so many useful, powerful and effective “how to” tools that can help Adult Trauma Survivors live an amazing life.
I am going to share some tips that I have given to my clients on how to handle being emotionally triggered without reacting negatively:
1. Take a deep breath. Take a moment to acknowledge what you are feeling and avoid speaking or writing until you are calmer. Taking multiple deep breaths has helped me prevent some unpleasant consequences. Usually there is no need to react right away unless your safety is at risk.
2. Tell yourself you have been triggered. It is important to recognize that your triggers may bring up old emotions, such as betrayal or abandonment. Triggers are emotional memories stored in your body that can be set off by others’ actions.
3. Remind self that you are safe and in an adult body. Remind self you are no longer that helpless child and that as an adult, you have the means to seek out support. I usually say to myself “This situation has triggered me for some reason but I am safe.”
4. Draw a line in the sand. Establish the need for verbal or physical boundaries. No one deserves to be mistreated. Boundaries are vital to the process of healing from past trauma.
5. Don’t take it personally. I have discovered in my many years of healing work that most people project their own issues onto others. This phenomenon of projecting onto others is called “Transference”, which usually means when someone redirects one’s own emotions, beliefs or attitudes onto someone else.
6. When ready respond from Heart. When we get upset, we tend to go into our heads to plan our next steps or actions that may not serve our well-being. We refer to a tool that helps one to speak either from the head, the heart or your emotional gut in ways that serve you for the better.
7. Use I-Statements. This tool is very popular with those I work with. Many have reported that this tool, with practice, is effective, powerful and to the point. Below is an example:
I Feel [upset]
When You [insult me in front of others]
Because [I feel hurt & betrayed]
I need You [to respect me when in public]
8. Learn to identify when you get triggered. Part of our healing work is to make a list of the triggers that affect you. A trigger could be anything, such a smirk, a tone of voice, or use of threatening body language or even a certain touch. Once you know what your triggers are, you can take preventative measures to avoid painful triggers and react with ease in a healthy way.
9. Be gentle with yourself. I remind those that I serve “that healing work takes time and we need to be gentle and patient with the process”.
I hope that you have found the above tips useful in your healing work. True recovery takes time to do it right so don’t beat yourself up if you did not handle a trigger well. It takes a great deal of practice to master managing triggers.
Do you have triggers in your life? Can you recognize when they happen? Do you have a process to handle them? Can the above list help you improve upon your process managing triggers?
Please feel free to comment and share what has helped you to manage triggers in your life. If you want to learn more about managing your triggers you can contact me for a no cost session either over the phone or in person.
Tom Ellis, CPC
Tom is a Path Finder who is solution & action focused as well as a Life Purpose Specialist. Artist & Gentleman Farmer.