No one ever wakes up in the morning and thinks “Hey! I think I want to get really upset about something today!”
But while we don’t want to feel negative emotions, at some point we all get triggered.
However, it usually seems like an overreaction on the surface–which can be confusing for both you and the people around you.
It’s important to understand that being triggered isn’t about being too sensitive or soft. Instead, you’re actually having a reaction to something that happened in your past that’s being echoed in your current experience.
Our brain is always watching out for our own well-being. Sometimes it goes a bit overboard in trying to do that.
It’s one thing to get upset. It’s another to turn RED with rage on a dime. (Or in uncontrollable tears over something that shouldn’t be a big deal.)
Your circumstances are making your primitive brain feel rejected, unloved, etc. Typically, you will exhibit a trauma reaction of Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn, which is intended to get you towards “safety” as fast as possible.
However, we’ve all been on the other side of a negative emotional trigger reaction! It’s not a fun experience.
So for our own inner healing and for the sake of our relationships, let’s take a look at how we can get “over” being triggered:
How To Deal With Being Triggered: The Simple 5-Step Process
Getting Triggered Step #1:
Ask: Is your response appropriate or inappropriate?
If it’s appropriate: own it and feel it. Don’t run or hide from your feelings. We’re allowed to experience the full range of human emotions, including rage, bitterness, disappointment, etc.
Sometimes it’s very clear to understand where your emotions are coming from. But at other times, it can be a little confusing. While you feel the emotion very strongly you might have no idea why you’re really feeling that way.
If you’re in a place of understanding, name the emotion. Ask what’s it’s here to teach you. Then take the action or express whatever you need to. Simply allowing yourself to feel and express it will allow it to pass. Then continue to Step 5.
However, if the level of emotion seems inappropriate or you’re not really sure why you’re feeling the way you do, go to Step 2.
Getting Triggered Step #2:
Check In With Your Past
With a sense of self-love (no judgment!) start to get curious about where your feelings are coming from.
Again, an emotional overreaction is a sign that we’re actually reacting to something that happened in our past.
- What else does this remind you of?
- When did you first have this feeling?
- Does that feeling actually have any relevance to the current situation?
Simply notice what comes up without minimizing it or denying your feelings. Again, remember that this is simply a natural function of your ego-mind, trying to protect you from this experience.
Spend some time journaling on this if you need to and keep a sense of curiosity. If we keep asking ourselves questions, we’ll stay out of judgment and create a safe space for our memories to show up.
(Sometimes you will experience a trigger that you can’t rationally explain! In those situations, it might be a response that happened to someone in your family, long ago. Generational trauma is passed down from parents and grandparents etc. For this, I suggest doing a Timeline Therapy hypnotherapy session. I’ve also got an audio hypnosis for this inside Recode Manifestation Academy.)
Getting Triggered Step #4:
Thinking about our past hurts and traumas can be a harrowing experience. But again this is a protection mechanism at work.
When we think about past events, our brain relives them, experiencing the same fear, sadness, anger all over again as if it’s right here, right now.
You might not have consciously thought about the original core event wound for ages, simply because your brain wanted to avoid that pain altogether.
However, it’s damn difficult to shift perspectives or do any healing while our body is in a Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn response. Your brain is simply too overloaded with “survival” to worry about things like “logic”. (Hilarious but true!)
So before we continue on, it’s important to calm down our nervous system and assure both our body and mind that you are actually safe and not in need of rescue.
Here are some ways to calm down an overloaded nervous system:
- Take a cold shower or splash cold water on your neck.
- Take some deep cleansing breaths, exhaling for longer than your inhale.
- Watch something funny! Yes, laughter is the best medicine so throw on your favorite comedian and let their routine shift your mood.
Another technique is to simply get mindful. Drop into your body in this current moment. Notice how your body is feeling, what you can smell, what you see in front of you. When we get out of playing that old story loop in our mind, we can let ourselves calm down and notice that right now everything is actually fine.
Getting Triggered Step #4:
Take Care Of Your Needs
Now that you’ve gained an innerstanding of where your trigger reaction came from, let’s take the next step.
Every emotion is here to nudge us in a certain direction. Where does yours want to take you?
Most often, our reactions are a cue to shift our attention back to ourselves.
- What do I need right now to feel better/safe/loved right now?
- Can I do that for myself or ask someone for exactly what I need?
- If you’re thinking more about a past moment than the present, then get curious. What did I need then and can I give that to myself right now?
Getting Triggered Step #5:
Turn The Story Around
Finally, here’s a foolproof way to take back your own narrative, no matter what.
Remember, our feelings are ultimately generated by our thoughts. Shifting the way we perceive the story can bring us so much inner peace.
Your emotions are not wrong. But they’re not facts either.
So let’s come back to the current moment and untangle the story:
- What are the actual facts of the situation?
- What’s the story am I creating about this?
- What am I making assumptions about?
- If that story wasn’t true, what else is possible?
- How would I feel without this story?
- Who would I be without this reaction?
Our brain often wants to hold onto being “right” rather than shifting into a new perspective. Remember that that’s just your ego kicking up noise. If you can see a different perspective that isn’t so hurtful, I implore you to move towards it as much as you can.
(Please note: if you’re dealing with CPTSD, this process alone might not be enough! I encourage you to work through that with a trained therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you’ve never processed these emotions before. This process is not meant to replace a professional.)
As a final note, give yourself as much space as you need to untangle and do some healing around your trigger. Don’t let yourself (or anyone else!) rush you thought the process or tell you you “should” feel differently. “Should” always equals shame and self-judgment, both of which are roadblocks to the healing process. We must always begin with self-acceptance and love, even when it comes to our darkest emotions.
I sincerely hope this practice serves you!