Triggers, Dealing with the Reactive Self

My road of self discovery has been jagged, strewn with attempts at change. Mastery remains a lofty goal. I once asked one of my spiritual teachers, ‘It gets easier ,right?’ She smiled wryly. I didn’t want to receive that answer.

At the moment, I’m working out how to deal with people who trigger me. I’m sure you also have people and circumstances that trigger you. Mine involves:

  • misogyny
  • invalidation
  • overstepping boundaries
  • breaches of trust


Situations that trigger me, send me into autopilot, emotional and physiological responses fuelled by the adrenaline surging through my veins. I’m ready to fight the invisible enemy. Any one nearby feels the subtle energy shift and wonders what just happened.

Once triggered, I become useless to both myself and the situation. The ability to moderate and reason becomes impaired. I adopt the role of a defensive child cradling hurts from the past. It’s all in the subtext. Humans go to enormous lengths to avoid emotional pain. Emotional outbursts and female hysteria are frowned upon by many societies. These parts of us must be ‘bad,’ so we suppress them. This lesson is learned early in life.

But the problem is that I’m a feeling person.

I carry with me a random collection of invalidated events tucked away far, from my normal consciousness, ready for random association. A careless action or word from a family member or close friend, peels the scab from a sleeping wound. In close company, I relax rendering me more vulnerable.

Enter the situation.

Enter the facilitator.

Pull the trigger.

>>>>>>>>Watch the fun.

This is not the time to spiral into auto-drive. Old unhelpful behaviours don’t help here. As the play unfolds, I say, ‘Trigger,’ to myself, ‘Trigger, trigger.’ I give myself time out immediately. The toilet is a great excuse. I fight to stay present labelling the emotion and seeking its root, e.g. ‘I’m angry because those words made me feel like dad did when I …………. as a kid.’ This helps to create perspective reminding me that I am now an adult and I can comfort my child self. The behaviour may no longer be relevant. Maybe I should let it go.

It is hard to accept that no one is doing anything to me. I have the power to change my response to the triggers. I can control whether the drama unfolds according to an old script or not. It is up to me.

This last paragraph is a bitter one to swallow.

Creating distinction between the past and the present is a valuable tool. Looking at the situation in this way, helps you see the other person more clearly. Often, they too are reacting out of pain. Compassion leads to forgiveness and forgiveness, especially of the self, leads to resolution. Family love you but they know how to push all your buttons.

I hope this post helps you recognise triggers, your responses and most importantly your choices. Kindly leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you’ve found useful.



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