What To Do When You Feel Triggered By Someone
Getting triggered by things is a normal and common experience as a human being. I’m here to normalize the conversation around triggers and share my experience of identifying and healing my own triggers, as well as helping many of my clients move through processing their triggers.
In this blog I cover:
- What are triggers?
- Your triggers are your teachers
- The Importance of taking responsibility over your triggers
- The five steps to help you manage your triggers
What Are Triggers?
A trigger is anything that creates an immediate emotional reaction in your mind & body.
These emotional triggers are typically excessive and last longer than what makes sense for whatever it was that you experienced.
Often you’ll find yourself spiraling in thought-based feedback loops which further amplify the feeling of the emotion in your body.
When you feel triggered, your body activates your sympathetic nervous system which leads to a survival response: fight, flight, freeze or fawn.
You may notice that your heart starts to race and your body temperature changes, or that you feel like you’re shutting down; all of which is happening as a result of your mind & body trying to save you from the perceived harm.
Without learning to properly regulate your nervous system & develop emotional intelligence skills, the things that you get triggered by can start to interfere with your day-to-day life, and lead to self-sabotaging behaviours.
Learn more about Self Sabotage & The Five Archetypes of Imposter Syndrome
Your Triggers Are Your Teachers
What I want to focus on today is how your triggers are your teachers.
They are actually an invitation to look within & be reinvigorated back into your power.
They act as a mirror that reflects back to you:
- Where you have personal work to do,
- Where you can learn to develop more self trust
- Where you can learn to become more self assured
Learning to cope & move beyond what triggers you is a process, & it requires heaps of self awareness.
Your ego is sneaky & it creates illusions to help further validate whatever it is that you believe to be true on a subconscious level (even if that belief is untrue!).
Because of these illusions, it becomes easier to feel like:
- It’s other people's responsibility to regulate your emotions
- Other people “should” be more mindful of you,
- It’s everyone else's fault for XYZ
But the truth is, no one is actually in charge of regulating your emotions as an adult, that’s your job.
The Importance of Taking Responsibility Over Your Triggers
Taking radical responsibility over your experiences & life isn’t easy, especially when you’ve experienced trauma or challenging times that are the root cause of certain triggers.
Nonetheless, it’s still your job as a grown adult to prioritize nervous system regulation, & develop emotional intelligence so that you can live a more grounded, secure, & joyful life.
*It’s important to mention that if you’re someone who is deeply struggling with feeling triggered in ways that are impacting your mental health, please seek out a mental health professional such as a therapist or counsellor to help you process what you’re going through -- moving through these things alone can be extremely challenging*
The Five Steps to Help You Manage Your Triggers
Now I want to give you 5 steps to help you deal with and manage being triggered. I personally use these & find them to be very effective:
Step 1 - Give Your Trigger a Voice
Give a voice to the fact that you’re feeling triggered by someone or something either internally or out loud.
Actually pause & identify what you’re experiencing & see if you can actually name what it is that activated this trigger response.
This is an important cue to help you bring in awareness to how you’re feeling instead of getting caught in a feedback loop where you feel you’re so emotionally charged that you can’t get out of it
Step 2 - Pause & Feel
Pause & give yourself the space to feel the emotions that you’re experiencing.
It’s very important that you create this awareness to avoid projecting onto others or suppressing the feelings that your body is experiencing. This also invites in personal responsibility because we can’t actually change other people or the past.
When we make it about someone else, we are giving our power away. When we take ownership over the way we are feeling, we are able to develop self trust & learn to regulate ourselves instead of outsourcing it to someone else.
If you’re in a situation where you’re in person with someone such as a partner or family member & you’re feeling triggered by something they are saying & doing, you can actually pause & calmly/slowly say to them,
“this is the word or behaviour that feels triggering to me right now.”
This actually allows you to redirect the energy while also creating space for the other person to hear you, see you & feel you so that together you can move beyond the experience. This is where you can set boundaries if need be & communicate your needs
Step 3 - Calm & Self-Soothe
This is where it’s time to calm your nervous system & self-soothe.
It’s very helpful to have your go-to’s for activating your parasympathetic nervous system, for example:
- Slow, deep breathing in through your nose,
- Doing some form of movement such as walking, dancing, or shaking,
- Doing some kind of state changer such as taking a shower, going outside, or even going into another room.
The key here is to get out of your head, & back into the present moment, where your body & mind are calmer & more easily able to move past the experience.
Step 4 - Change Your Perspective
This is where you get to look at whatever caused the triggering response through a different lens. Know that you’re not alone in experiencing feeling triggered, & that it’s a very normal part of our experience as human beings.
When you have given yourself the space to calm your nervous system, you can create the space to view your response to the trigger from a different perspective. Sometimes you may even notice yourself feeling like what you got upset about was unnecessary or even humorous.
Step 5 - Generate Self-Compassion & Acceptance
This is one of the most important parts. Have self compassion & acceptance for your experience.
Far too often shame & guilt can arise after the experience of feeling triggered, especially once you’ve calmed down.
I encourage you to thank your body & mind for communicating with you what it is that you needed to see, hear, or feel in order to help direct you towards a path of self healing, & returning to wholeness.
It can also be helpful to communicate with your inner child. Let them know that they are safe & that you are here to support them as they learn new ways of processing the things you experience.
To Wrap This Up...
This conversation about managing triggers is never about bypassing harmful behaviours directed at us by someone else, it’s directed towards things that trigger us that aren’t actually causing immediate harm or danger.
Perhaps it’s something you read on social media that you don’t agree with, or the way someone explained something, or how someone chooses to respond to you, for example.
Please remember that you are responsible for who you are & how you choose to show up in the world regardless of external circumstances.
Like I always say, I don’t expect you or anyone else to resonate with every single thing I say, do, or share…
That would be kinda worrisome because we all hold individual lived experiences that impact what we believe & the lens we see out of on an identity level.
It’s taken me years of unlearning & reconditioning to arrive at this moment in the present where I honour & love all parts of myself
Where I’m able to fully see my triggers as my teachers & not project onto others when I feel challenging emotions.
Know that if you’re ever triggered by me or someone else, use it as an invitation to go deeper into yourself.
You’re so loved!
If you loved the topic of this post, be sure to listen to the full, unedited podcast episode of The Embodied Leadership Podcast at the links at the top of the page.
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