What To Do When You Feel Triggered: 3 Helpful Strategies
We all get triggered. There is no one that has never been triggered by something that they have heard, seen, or felt. But, what do we exactly mean by 'getting triggered'? And, how can we better cope with our triggers and emotional reactions? In this article, we will explain the psychology behind triggers and share some strategies you can use when you feel triggered.
What Does It Mean To 'Get Triggered'? An Example
'Feeling triggered' is a phrase we use to convey the feeling of overwhelm, frustration, annoyance, or discomfort we experience when we see or hear something. We usually get triggered by something that is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath that tip of the iceberg, there are memories and experiences from our past that are related to what triggered us. Under the surface of any trigger we find a lot of depth and personal meaning. Sometimes we might not even realize that we have been triggered. But, when we look back and observe that our reactions to an event were disproportionate to what is considered a 'normal' reaction, we might realize that we were triggered.
For example, take that your friend texted you saying that they are sorry and are not able to meet tonight. You then start crying and feeling desperate. You cannot find a way to feel better and cannot comfort yourself. Thereafter, you realize that this was a trigger for you. There is something more to this message that your friend sent you. You understand now that it is not unreasonable that your friend cannot meet you, but it still triggered a disproportionate reaction. These reactions to triggers are usually related to what has happened to us in the past. In other words, triggers are reminders. They disconnect us from the here and now, and connect us, in a subconscious level, to memories of difficult and/or past traumatic experiences. For instance, our triggers might remind us of past betrayals, bullying, abuse, embarrassment, rejections, pain, or suffering. Put simply, our triggers are our brain's reminder of a negative experience of the past which activates the "fight or flight" response in our brain.
2 Types of Triggers
According to psychology and researchers, there are many types of events or occurrences that can trigger a person. It all depends on the individual's unique experiences. However, all types of triggers can be categorized into either external or internal triggers.
External triggers encompass external occurrences that are associated with our past emotional experiences. They include:
On the other hand, internal triggers are those that arise from within. They include:
What To Do When You Feel Triggered: 3 Strategies
We can all get triggered by different types of events or phenomena. However, we can all manage our triggers and reactions by using some of the helpful strategies below:
1. Use self-soothing techniques
First and foremost, the most important thing you can do when you feel triggered is to practice self-soothing. This means that you use different strategies that allow yourself to feel safe and calm again. Some self-soothing techniques include:
2. Talk about your feelings
Besides practicing self-soothing techniques, another thing that can help is to talk about your feelings at the moment with somebody you can trust. It can be a friend, family member, partner, or therapist. Simply, choose somebody with whom you feel safe to talk about what happened to you. It is most helpful if it is a person that can listen without judging, and if they can help you process and structure all these overwhelming feelings and thoughts that you are experiencing at the moment.
3. Get it out of your system
Finally, it can also help to get all these emotions out of your body—which means: physical movement. Perform an activity that uses your body, your hands, and/or your legs. You could exercise, dance, or go for a run. However, it does not only have to be exercise. It can also be painting, for example. Or, anything that allows you to channel these emotions from the inside into the outside.
A trigger is any event or phenomena that reminds us of something painful from the past. It can lead us to react in negative and, sometimes disproportionate ways. Avoiding triggers is not always possible, and at some point or the other, they might creep up, ready to remind us of our past traumas or negative experiences. However, we have the tools in order to manage our triggers. It is only a matter of putting it into practice and learning how to better cope with our triggers. I hope this article has been helpful and, along your self-healing journey, please remember, you are not alone. We all deal with triggering situations, so do not be afraid or ashamed to talk to a loved one about it or seek professional help. Take care.
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