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.
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.
5 Ways to Become More Aware of Your Negative Emotional Triggers
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.