TRIGGER, not just the name of the Roy Rogers horse.

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We all have triggers, some good and some bad. Positive triggers can bring back good feelings like the smell of coconut oil that takes your mind back to your wonderful holidays in Bali as a smile draws across your face, laying on the beach, soaking up the sun and enjoying your time away from the stresses of day to day life. Laying back on the beach with a cold refreshing drink just watching the sunset slowly over the ocean on another glorious day. These bring to you a closeness with happier times of carefree enjoyment as you sit and soak up the smell to wring every ounce of enjoyment you can pull from that fond memory. Or in the case of negative triggers they can bring back quite traumatic memories that can leave the affected person, often times feeling helpless, alone and scared.

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Triggers be it good or bad are your bodies coping mechanisms to a situation. An emotional trigger is something that brings up certain feelings within us. These feelings may be positive or negative.
We naturally prefer to experience positive rather than negative emotions, so it’s valuable to know what triggers us to have negative emotions. Examples of negative triggers include:

  • Being rejected by someone.
  • Having one of our personal values violated.
  • Being ignored by someone.
  • Someone blaming, shaming, criticising or judging us.
  • Being controlled or threatened by someone.
  • Not being included in a decision that affects us in some way.

There are many things that could be added to the list that can triggers us, which is why it’s important to learn to identify them and also be aware of them when they’re actually happening. As part of our ongoing mental health and growth, learning to identify our emotional triggers and manage them better, is really important.
The better we can manage our emotional triggers, the less reactive we’ll be, which means we’ll not let external events or conditions affect us in a negative way.

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  5 Ways to Become More Aware of Your Negative Emotional Triggers

  1. Observe what you’re feeling in your body. A negative emotional trigger will cause our bodies to react a certain way. It may be feeling knots in our stomachs, feeling tense or nauseas or starting to breathe faster. As soon as we start to feel something different, we know we’re having a negative reaction to a situation. This is when we need to take action to prevent further emotional damage to ourselves.
  2. Determine if certain words or behaviours cause a reaction. Words have power and they can cause us to experience different emotions. Likewise, there may be things other people do that bring us certain thoughts, which then cause certain emotions. By paying more attention to these triggers, we can be proactive and take appropriate measures to deal with them beforehand.
  3. Identify activities that bring up negative responses. There are things we do that we may not necessarily enjoy, but we do them because we feel we have to. There are other activities, which we may have more control over, that may be generating certain responses. An example could be watching the news on television. If negative news triggers us, we have the choice to stop watching the news.
  4. Determine if certain people or conversations bring up negative emotions. As we become what we are surrounded by the most, we have to be more conscious of the conversations we have with them. For example, if certain people prefer to talk about politics and that generates heated discussions, we can choose not to talk about politics with them.
  5. Identify if time is a trigger. Sometimes things may happen at a certain time that bring us negative emotions. For example, being in rush hour traffic or even the thought of being late may trigger a negative reaction so we can choose an alternative means of travel, or choose a different time to travel, or be better prepared mentally ahead of time to deal with rush hour traffic.

Awareness is often the first step to any lasting change. The more aware we are of our negative triggers, the better we can manage them and have the experiences we want. If we don’t develop a higher level of awareness, we’ll continue to be triggered by past or current events, and not behave in a way that will support us in being the best we can be.
Action Step: Identify a negative trigger you have and reflect on how you have dealt with it. Review the things mentioned above to become more aware of when and how you get triggered so that you can better manage them.

Trust and distrust

How would it be to live in a household where not only did one parent not like you but they also hated you enough to not trust you and blame you for anything and everything.

This was my life growing up, my stepfather and I never saw eye to eye and never really liked each other as much as tolerate each other. It didn’t matter what happened because I usually, or more often than not, got the blame as well as the resulting punishment, and with this man there was always punishment and it was always brutal.

The bearings in the wheels on my skate board wore out, I got blamed for how I rode it, if I got a flat tyre on my BMX bike again it was my fault and he refused to fix it or even help fix it because I damaged it so it was my problem, I would have to go and earn money myself if I wanted it fixed. And when I snapped the frame after coming off my bike, if the pain from the crash wasn’t bad enough the hiding I received when I got home was.

One of my best friends when I was young betrayed me when he stole a few hundred dollars  from a local retail store and bought a remote control car, which he then bought to my place to play with and left it there so we could play with it during the week after school. I had no Idea he had stolen any money but my stepfather had already read about the theft that day and the story said it was a child involved in the theft, he found the toy car in our garage and instantly had it in his head that I must be the thief.

He asked me where I got the car from and I told him it belonged to a friend that had bought it over. Now instead of believing me he put me and that toy in his car and we drove to my friends house, all the while he was telling me about the theft of money and that if he found out it was me he was going to kill me. When my mate was confronted by his mother at the front door about his toy car he told both his mum and my stepfather that it wasn’t his, it was mine and that’s why it was at my place.

My stepfather hurled me back into the car and got in the drivers side slamming me in the chest with the back of his hand and telling me what was in store for me when I got home. We got home and as soon as the door was closed I copped the hiding of my life up until that point, he flew into a verbal tirade of calling me a thieving little (expletive) and a lying little (expletive) and laid into me physically until I nearly passed out.

These episodes with him in my teenage years were frequent and bought with them a lot of anger and trust issues for me, I had created a survival mechanism where I would make sure I always got in first and put the other person down, both physically and verbally. These where some very dark times for me and I had very little to no friends.

This is just one of the many bad times in my book entitled Walking with the black dog.

Understanding Depression.

The term the black dog has been used throughout the centuries before being made famous by Winston Churchill’s chilling account of his own battle with the black dog of depression in the 1930’s.

We quite often find ourselves in times of self doubt, self pity, hate and uncertainty that we seem to focus more and more of the negativities in life and forget about the positives. I myself discovered I was suffering depression due to family abuse and break up dating back as far as 1976.

I had grown up in a family affected by sexual, physical and emotional abuse with both a father and a step-father that had unfortunately left me psychologically and emotionally scared to the point that I trusted no one. I inherited this self destructive behavior from my own family, and for years found it hard to communicate and even deal with people.

I ended up homeless on the streets of Kings Cross Sydney in 1985 at the age of 15 where I was surrounded by street kids, bikie gangs, drug dealers, sex workers, drag queens, transvestites, corrupt cops and extreme violence.

I had gone through life working jobs short term, this isn’t because they were short term jobs, this was mainly due to my attitude. I would work for months and sometimes years with no problems when all of a sudden, out of the blue something would go wrong and I would not let it go. I would always blow it up to be bigger than what it was. I would attack not so much other workers but senior employers, I would challenge them, talk down to them, intimidate and often fight them.

I could see that I was putting my loved ones through hell, particularly my wife. In April of 2017 I wrote a short 15 page story to myself about my life and some of the things I had been through to see if I could make any sense of my life. After quite a bit of soul searching and internal conflict I decided to let my wife and my mother in-law read it. My mother in-law cried while reading this as she had always seen me as this hard person and could now see why.

My wife convinced me to expand on this as she knew there was a lot in this story that I had not said and she believed it would help me to understand everything I had been through a lot better, both the good and the bad if I wrote it down. I decided to do this and I was blown away by not only how much I remembered but how much detail and how all these situations made me feel. I grew up feeling alone whilst in my family, I felt scared, overwhelmed, anxious, hateful, but mostly I felt hurt. Not because of the abuse, I grew used to that but I was hurt that I had absolutely no protection by my mother from any of this.

I know there are a lot of people out there that know exactly what I am talking about from their own experiences, but there was one thing I could also see by doing this that it wasn’t all bad times, there where some good times as well, and although I may not have been able to help what happened to me as a child I now see that the negativity I was so focused on while growing up certainly dictated where my life headed as an adult.

Everything we do in life, every decision we make is based on emotion, how we feel about a situation or someone, previous things that have happened to us. How we react to these situations determines the direction our life will go, once we understand this basic principal we can make the fundamental changes within our lives needed to achieve positive outcomes.

Everyone is different when it comes to the amount of abuse they have endured or the amount of time spent suffering from depression, My hope is to help people discover that although life may not be going your way at this point in time, and let’s be realistic here, things are always going to go wrong from time to time. We don’t have to stay stuck in that moment because of our emotion towards a problem. As Tony Robbins once said, a problem is merely a question that hasn’t been answered yet, If you can’t find a solution to a problem, ask better questions.

You certainly don’t need to beat yourself up about it, acknowledge what has happened by seeing it as it is but not worse than it is and allow yourself to move on, at the end of the day the only thing preventing any of us from being happy is ourselves. I will share with everyone the tips and techniques I have been using to stay focused via blogs, links and apps in future publications.