The word ‘trigger’ has gotten a bad wrap.
We have a tendency to solely identify them as the things that make us spiral into anxiety, depression, or dive head-first into some pretty unhealthy coping devices. But triggers can be so much more than that.
In today’s blog we’re going to learn a little bit about what triggers actually are and how you can use their powers for good instead of...evil.
So, as crazy as it may sound, triggers aren’t a curse, they’re actually a gift.
Triggers give us insight to the things that need extra TLC in our lives. They help us understand where we might be out of balance, and show us where we need to invest our energy. But humans are silly-ass creatures and we usually try to avoid our triggers.
...which is kinda like avoiding road, signs, ya know?
But not here, my friend. We’re actually going to hunt for them, scoop them up, give them a big sloppy kiss, and thank them for being so dang helpful. Then, we’re going to rewrite their script. We’re going to turn our lemons into lemonade, because damnit, we’re thirsty for some sweet living.
Alright, let’s start by learning the anatomy of a trigger.
Triggers all start with something called a stimulus. A stimulus is a thing or event that evokes a specific reaction. It's a thing that rouses activity or energy in someone or something.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Pavlov’s dog. If not, here you go…
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian physiologist, and he had a dog. Every time Pavlov rang a bell he’d give his dog a treat. Eventually, with enough repetition of this pattern, Pavlov would ring the bell and the dog would start drool because he was expecting to be fed a snack. The bell became a trigger (stimulus), and the drooling became a reaction. And this whole process is what we call conditioning.
We’re no different than Pavlov’s dog. We’ve become conditioned to react to all sorts of stimuli. And just like Pavlov’s pooch, we don’t put much conscious thought into our behaviors. How we react to everything in life is just as natural as breathing.
So that means we’re not always aware that we’re drooling when someone rings our bell.
But here’s the thing, if you’re living in overwhelm, anxiety, depression, or simply can’t get through the day without numbing your brain with tantalizing external stimulants, then perhaps my friend, you’ve got some triggers that need looking after.
So, what does being triggered look like?
First off, let’s just remind ourselves that not all triggers provoke unwanted reactions. We can be triggered by all sorts of things that inspire us to be active, creative, or connect with others. So let’s just put that in our pocket, okay?
So, let’s get back to the unwanted triggers. What do those look like?
Well, honestly, that’s going to be different for everyone, and will also depend on the type of trigger it is. But to give you an idea let’s have a little chat about the brain for just a minute…
The subconscious brain is always scanning for potential problems. That’s just what it does. This might seem like a terrible default setting, but this feature is actually designed to help keep you safe. But when we perceive a stimuli as a potential threat it activates something called the sympathetic response. You may loving know this as “fight or flight”.
Depending on our conditioning and personality type, when we’re feeling threatened, stressed, or challenged by stimuli we can react in all sorts of ways. We might:
- Make verbal attacks
- Become assaultive
- Put off aggressive body language or tone in our voice
- Become defiant
- Experience muscle tension
- Become avoidant or non-responsive
- Abuse substances
Yada, yada, yada. All sorts of things.
Anyway, it’s important to become aware of our behaviors because they’re useful keys to figuring out what our triggers are. And speaking of keys, this whole AWARENESS thing is the second key to creating Self-Care Independence. (But we’ll talk more on that later).
So, once we’re aware of our behaviors, the next step is to figure out what emotions are causing us to take these actions.
Because feelings are what actually drive our behaviors. What we FEEL dictates our actions. But emotions are wicked complicated and not always so obvious. When we’re trying to track down and transform our triggers, is important to get really clear about how you’re feeling when you’re reacting to a trigger.
Now, we’re not all going to react the same way to certain stimuli. Take this whole mask-wearing situation that came about from the pandemic. Some people felt threatened by having to wear a mask. They felt like their rights were being taken away. So they reacted by being defiant or aggressive in some manner. On the other hand some people felt a sense of security by wearing a mask. It was a way they felt like they could have some sense of control in a seemingly uncontrollable situation. And, of course, there are infinite ways one could react to having to wear a mask, these are just a couple of example.
But whatever the reaction is, it all boils down to one thing; conditioning.
Now, the cool thing is, is that we can recondition ourselves. I actually know some folks who hesitated wearing mask thing due to their claustrophobia. But once they recognized their resistance, identified their anxiety, and laid out the facts about wearing a mask, they were able to work through their fear and now wear masks with ease. Spoiler alert, I was one of those people.
And that brings me to the final step of transforming our triggers….
Once you’re aware of your feelings and reactions, it’s time to start making conscious, deliberate choices instead of letting your subconscious conditioning do all the driving.
The trick is to practice catching yourself in the act of being triggered. Stop what you’re doing, identify your feelings, and why you’re feeling this way. Once you’ve got an idea, try doing something DIFFERENT.
What thoughts can you focus on? What actions can you take? What choices can you make in this very moment that will bring you to a more stable, centered, or grounded place?
Creating Self Care Independence is about having control over your actions, and feeling empowered and clear-headed in challenging moments. And becoming familiar with your triggers is beyond helpful when doing so.
If you’d like to learn how to turn your triggers into powerful self-care tools, check out my E-Guide: Tracking and Transforming Triggers. Or, if you’d like to support my work and receive all of my guides, kits and classes for FREE, check out my Patreon Memberships, they start at just $5/month.
I love you.
I appreciate you.
Thank you so much for being here.
I’ll see you soon.