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Getting triggered. What does that mean?
It seems to be one of the buzzwords going around these days. Well, to me, it means getting upset by someone or something. It happens to us all whether we like to admit it or not. We ask someone out and they turn us down. We get sad, disappointed, or maybe even upset about the “rejection” of our offer. Or we get passed up for the promotion we were applying for. Or we get cut off in traffic.
All of these situations have the potential to upset us or “trigger” us into feeling a certain way about it. Since this happens to everyone (Oprah, Bill Gates, our moms or dads, and so on), what can we do about it? Great question.
I will share some of the tools I have acquired over the years that have helped me and my clients. As a coach who works one-on-one with clients, I believe it is my duty to lead by example when it comes to personal growth. I ask myself, how can I be in integrity by leading someone on their journey if I have never been on their path? How can I ethically tell you how to find peace if all I have ever known is angst or discord? And so, when someone comes to me and expresses dissatisfaction or unhappiness with someone or something, I ask if it would be alright to share some of my tools with them.
The first thing I ask them is “What is true about what is happening right now?” This usually catches them off-guard, and so I ask it again. Humans are so damn good at making up stories about what they think is going on that we start to believe them without verifying if they are true or are exactly what they are: stories.
For example, we text someone we like and may be interested in asking them out. We “patiently” wait for 15 minutes, 30, 60…no response. Another two hours goes by. Another two hours. So, now what? Do they like us? Are they not interested? Maybe they’re talking with someone they like better? Maybe they’re sleeping? Maybe they got in an accident? See? These are all just stories because we have only one piece of information—they have yet to respond.
What can we do to know what is story and what is truth? Well, we can ask ourselves that question: what is true about this?
Using the example above, there is only one truth: they have yet to respond to your text. Any conjecture about them not liking you, being busy, in an accident, or anything else is story. What I have my clients do next is to pay attention to what is true and let go of anything else. Why? Because listening to stories causes us to make decisions based on false information. How has that worked out for you? So, let’s stick to the truth.
The next tool I offer is asking oneself “What can I learn from this?” When we get triggered, what it is telling us is this is an old wound that has yet to heal. This may be a new concept for some of those reading this essay. Most of the world goes around blaming others for being upset. “They did this, and it upset me.”
Instead of taking responsibility for their response, they project outward the reason they think they are upset. The reality is this: do people do things that can upset us? Yes. Do they do it intentionally? I would wager most people do things without the knowledge it might upset others.
Do some people do things with the intention of upsetting others? Of course. In my experience, most people do things completely oblivious to what the outcome will be. So, with this in mind, can we justifiably blame someone for our reactions? To me, it would be similar to being upset that it rains and blaming the sky for your reaction.
When we turn the mirror on ourselves and honestly ask ourselves, “Why am I having this reaction?” we can start to understand ourselves on a deeper level. This will help us to understand others in that same way. When we can see others as we see ourselves, we see that we are similar and that maybe, just maybe, they had no idea their actions would affect this way.
Let’s say you’re triggered. Maybe you’re triggered reading this? Who knows? How do you get back to a state of stasis or being at peace? Well, if using the tools I suggested fails, try talking with the person who might have triggered you. I highly encourage coming from a place of curiosity and seeking to understand versus placing blame and proving who is right.
You may be asking, “Well, how am I supposed to do that?” Another good question. I have just the thing for you. Ask questions. Ask questions such as, “Hey, I noticed you did this and I am feeling curious as to why. Would you be open to talking about this with me?”
Coming from a place of wanting to be right and someone else to be wrong only leads to a feeling of needing to defend oneself. Imagine how you would feel if someone approached you and asked you, “Why did you do that?” What if they came to you and said, “I would love to talk with you about when X happened to get your thoughts on it. Would you be open to this?” What you could do at that point is to ask questions instead of thinking whatever happened was intentional.
When we ask ourselves what we can learn from a situation, we give our brains permission to look for answers. Asking questions such as, “What can I learn from this?” “What is the lesson here?” “How can I grow from this?” will help kick-start your brain to look for answers it doesn’t have—yet.
So, what have we talked about so far? Well, we covered truth, making up stories, and what we can learn from situations or people. I hope this helps at least one person. You are worthy of having different outcomes that have you feeling you have resolution for you and for others—a win/win.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me.