Identifying Your Triggers

(Update: I have a new workbook about triggers that you can find here)

A few days ago, one of the members of the SoulSisterhood shared an image from the Gottman Institute and I fell in love with their stuff. They have some really insightful, wonderful information on their social media accounts and on their website.

They were also sweet enough to give me permission to re-create this image about feelings and identifying triggers.

Let’s talk about feelings and identifying your triggers.

A trigger is something that sets off an emotional reaction in the form of a memory or flashback related to trauma. Raised voices might trigger a memory of childhood abuse. The smell of beer might trigger a memory of feeling unsafe around a parent who was drinking. Hearing certain words or phrases might remind you of an abusive ex.

Some of the triggers may not even make sense to anyone but you. Everyone is different. For the longest time, the sound of Facebook Messenger Notifications would put me on the verge of a panic attack. My ex would send me abusive messages through messenger – even after we had broken up and I developed a sound association.

It seems so silly that just hearing that sound would start my heart racing and make my hands shake as a surge of adrenaline spikes through me.

Yet it’s real for me and scary for me. My immediate reaction is – that’s stupid, get over it. But when we really look behind that initial reaction of fear and dismissal there is:

I feel unsafe.

I feel trapped.

Feeling all of the emotions that I felt every time I was told that I was a horrible person when I was trying so hard to love someone who was in the grips of addiction.

I feel powerless all over again.

Are you able to recognize the emotions behind your triggers?

Often when we are triggered it’s easy to identify those base emotions. Fear. Anger. Anxiety. Depression.

But the real work begins when we are able to specifically identify those emotions behind being upset or pissed off or scared.

When we do that we can face those fears and reassure ourselves that are past trauma is not in the present.

This is also great for identifying emotional reactions.

You can also use this tool to understand why you feel things in your relationships with other people.

If a friend does something that hurts your feelings instead of understanding the base feeling of hurt, you can also use this to understand what’s behind that feeling and why you feel hurt.

If your partner upsets you, look at this chart to see what underlying feelings are triggered by that action. Does it make you feel disconnected or ignored?

Once we understand why we feel something we can A) Communicate our feelings. “I feel hurt because I felt uncared for.” B) Identify where we need to heal our traumas.

I’m 100% guilty of silencing my feelings in my marriage. I spent a very long time being punished for my feelings so I learned how to not have them (or rather suppress them). I’m guilty of saying, “I’m fine,” even when I’m not.

I’m re-learning how to talk about my feelings in a healthy way and this image is perfect for it!

Do you have trouble identifying your triggers?