Emotional Triggers – Recognizing and Reducing Their Effects

Everyone has emotional triggers. While some triggers, like an old song that reminds you of how you met your partner, might bring you back to a pleasant place in time, other triggers can set you off like a rocket ship.

Triggers are different for everyone. You might become enraged when a certain person interrupts you. For other people, their emotional triggers may have more to do with messy desks and clutter. Every one of us has a unique set of emotional buttons.

How Emotional Triggers Affect You

An easy way to think about emotional triggers is to compare them to a reflex. The blink reflex happens automatically if something comes at your eye or touches it. The same goes for emotional triggers, someone presses a button from your past and a negative emotional response automatically springs into action.

Use these tips to disconnect your emotional buttons:

1.     Observe your behavior

Like other habits, to get a handle on your emotional triggers, you need to be aware of them.  To do this you need to step outside of yourself and observe your behaviors. Do your best to notice who and what triggers you. Also, determine when they get set off.

This can be much harder than you might think. You probably think, like all of us, that your emotional buttons are rational and reasonable. You also think that there are good reasons behind your reactions to them. I can all but guarantee you that this is not always the case.

To get a handle on your triggers, first, think back on times you’ve been very upset in the past. What person or event triggered that reaction? What exactly was said? What was the situation? Is there a pattern to you being triggered in these situations?

Now that you have some data, pay attention to your emotional reactions over the next month. Pay attention to when your emotions start to take hold on your emotions. Compare these with your past experiences to determine the cause.

If you’d like a great process that will help you keep track of your behaviors, pick up a copy of Mindful Mastery.

2.     Ask for other people’s feedback.

We all have blind spots. This makes it difficult to identify your emotion triggers. Because you see yourself differently from how the rest of the world sees you, getting other people’s perspectives can help you see what you haven’t in the past. Ask a few friends to give their opinion regarding about your emotional triggers. Also, ask family members for their feedback. You may be surprised by the input you receive.

3.     Write down your emotional triggers in a journal.

As you identify your emotional triggers, write them in your journal. Also, write down who is present along with any other factors that might contribute to them.

Then take the time to analyze what you find. Is there a pattern?

Maybe you’ll find you are triggered by people cutting you off in traffic. Perhaps people being late. Is it when you are interrupted? By who and when? You can only do something about triggers that you know about.

4.     Identify how those emotional buttons are affecting you.

What does this emotional trigger cost you? Is it affecting your relationships? It is affecting your chances for a promotion at work? Go through each of your emotional buttons and think about the harm it is causing you.

Keep in mind that every one of your emotional triggers is harming you in some way or another, even if it’s just damaging your peace of mind.

5.     Consider why it affects you.

Why do these things trigger you? Can you identify something that happened from your past? Keep in mind that nobody has the same emotional triggers. Figure out why these things get such an emotional rise out of you.  

6.     Replace your present response with a more effective one.

Go through how do you respond to your emotional triggers and come up with an ideal response for each. What kind of response would be the most appropriate or advantageous?

Can you take a break? Go for a walk? Take a minute or two for deep breathing? Count to ten?

7.     Monitor your new responses effectiveness.  

As you try out your new and improved responses, notice their effectiveness and give yourself feedback. When are you responding appropriately and when are you falling short? Write your observations in your journal.

8.     Have patience with yourself 

It might take a while to learn to be present enough to make your new responses a habit. It is challenging to be thoughtful and logical during a time of high emotion. Your brain doesn’t function the same way in an emotionally charged situation. To learn more about how to be more mindful and patient with yourself, pick up a copy of Modern Mindfulness.

Remember, learning to respond appropriately to your emotionally triggers is a skill you can learn. With sufficient practice, your new positive responses will become automatic.

You Can Take Charge of Your Emotional Triggers

No matter what your emotional triggers are, after you learn to identify them you can learn to tame them. Let’s face it, these hot buttons can be a big obstacle to moving forward in your life, your career, and your relationships. They can pose an even bigger challenge to your emotional and physical health.

Use these tips to minimize the effect your emotional triggers have on your life. You’ll experience less stress and greater peace and serenity with your life and with those around you.

author avatar
Wil Dieck
Wil Dieck is a teacher, coach, mentor, martial arts master instructor, Neuro Linguistic Programming master trainer, and master hypnotist. He is the founder of Black Belt Breakthroughs, a community dedicated to helping people use Mindful Mind Hacking to achieve clarity and focus and feel more connected to themselves and the world around them. Through his work as an author, college professor, and martial arts instructor, he has helped thousands of people from various types of backgrounds unlock their true potential. Wil combines physical training techniques from Qigong, Taichi and Yoga, neuroscience insights from over four decades of research, mindfulness meditation and his background in NLP and hypnosis to help people access their inner power so they can gain greater feelings of joy and purpose. His passion is helping others find ultimate fulfillment in life through developing mental strength and emotional resilience.
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