Emotional trigger points can be a total bitch to deal with.
You are happily or unhappily going along in your daily life when an event occurs—a comment or a situation, which garners a reaction that exceeds what one would expect for the event itself.
Bang, bang, welcome to the trigger point.
We have all experienced this, either consciously or subconsciously. If not dealt with, it can ricochet across your life and the shit will rain down. (Raining ricocheting shit. How’s that for a graphic mixed metaphor?)
Recently, I spent time in a situation where I felt vulnerable, that challenged my belief in myself—my self worth—and stirred things up internally.
During this time, a friend contacted me to let me know an opportunity had arisen for them. Because of this, plans to catch up had to be altered. This change pulled my trigger on other issues related to the now challenging situation of when to meet. My friend, however, received a reaction from me that was completely out of proportion to what was actually happening.
All of my personal shit about not feeling supported or important to others, not being worthy, of being a past people pleaser and feeling abandoned as a kid was rained down upon my unsuspecting friend.
I felt abandoned: foolish for trusting, stupid for caring and angry for allowing myself to be vulnerable regardless of the fact that this had nothing to do with what was actually happening. The emotional mapping in my head triggered a programmed reaction based on other recent events rather than the present moment. And I pulled the trigger.
Luckily I had a friend who not only heard me, but listened, stated clearly what the situation really was and proposed another picture from the reality I had assumed. (Having friends who don’t buy into your bullshit drama queen reactions is a total gift—cherish these people!)
Cliché warning: this was a light bulb moment for me.
I realized I had reacted to the situation as it could have played out in my past, and not what it actually was. I was replaying old tapes in my head, reacting and shooting innocent bystanders rather than reacting to the disappointment I felt over a change of plans. I understood this theoretically but hadn’t witnessed myself reacting from a trigger point so clearly, which enabled me to see and own what I was doing.
This got me to thinking. How do we unload the emotional guns we all carry around, or how do we ensure that in the future, we do our best to not pull the trigger? Then I heard Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice baby” and the weird wiring in my head created a possible working strategy for with dealing trigger point moments.
Stop, Collaborate and Listen.
Stop: when you feel yourself about to go trigger happy on a situation, person or event.
Seriously, just stop. Take a breath; go get a coffee or a cup of tea. Don’t press send on that email or text—give yourself a few hours for emails or texts messages, if you can. If you are with someone or speaking to them, give yourself a time out, state you need a moment and politely excuse yourself. Say, “can I call you back in a minute?” In this stop moment, really feel what you are feeling, own it and ponder when you have felt like this before. Breathe some more and then choose how you’re going to act. If your initial action still feels like your best response, go for it.
Collaborate: work with the people who are involved in the trigger point moment you’re experiencing.
Use “I feel” statements or statements like “when you say this I hear that”. ( Big thanks to Courageous Yogi for that statement.) Own how you’re feeling. There is no shame in losing your shit, but do it constructively. Don’t hurt those who love, help and support you through these situations. Ask for support, talk, bawl your eyes out and do what you need to process how you’re feeling—without taking a man down.
Listen: trigger points make us vulnerable because we aren’t acting or processing an event from the present, so hearing feedback can be challenging.
If you have pulled the trigger, listen to how it made others feel. Listen to what emotions arose for them, listen to how this makes you feel. Listen with compassion for yourself and the others involved. Listen, and be gentle to yourself.
Remember: losing your shit doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a gloriously flawed human.
Whatever the consequences, you need to own the results of your actions. If you didn’t react, you noticed where you were about to act in the moment.
1) You are awesome.
2) Still stop, collaborate with those involved in the emotionally triggering situation and listen to yourself and the others involved.
All of this may be bleeding obvious, but to me it wasn’t. This is something I have had to learn, sometimes incredibly ungracefully, on my path of self responsibility and taking ownership over my life.
Hopefully, and at the very least, hearing “Ice Ice Baby” in your head when you are feeling emotionally triggered will give you a window to question how you are reacting to a situation.
“Ice is here with a brand new invention.”
Neesha Bremner is a freelance writer, photographer and aspiring documentary maker. A bohemian gypsy queen, Neesha embraces a path of self responsibility, spirituality and life ownership through ungraceful acts, travel, awkward yoga, noisy meditation and humor.
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Assistant ed: Catherine Monkman/Kate Bartolotta