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Eliminate Emotional Triggers Through Self Discovery and Personal Healing

Updated on October 28, 2016
Becca Linn profile image

My greatest passion is empowering others to improve their quality of life and achieve their goals by choosing healthy thoughts and habits.

What Does Being Triggered Feel Like?

If you're like most people, you've experienced the uncomfortable feeling of being triggered at one time or another.

Sometimes all it takes is a single word to change an otherwise comfortable situation into one where you feel unsafe.

Your mind and body go into a hyper aware state of fight or flight. It can make you feel like you're being attacked, victimized, or undervalued. Sometimes you feel so threatened that it literally feels like you could die.

You may want to fight back and prove yourself or you may want to go hide under your covers and cry.

Because you are a unique person, the exact details of your triggered state are unique to you. On the other hand, we're all part of the same huge human family, so if you feel alone in being triggered, take comfort in knowing that everybody feels triggered at times.

While triggering experiences seem painful in the moment, they can be valuable tools of self discovery leading to great healing if you are willing to take time to dig deep and figure out what's really going on inside.

Why Do We Feel Triggered?

Like I mentioned before, triggering moments are great tools to help us to learn more about wounds we hold deep inside.

Humor me for a moment while I share an analogy with you that I think could be helpful in explaining triggering situations.

I go jogging on a regular basis, and when I jog, I get sweaty. While sweat is a little bit gross, it doesn't really hurt anything. I jog, I sweat, I come home, clean up, and I'm ready for the rest of my day.

Well, one day last week, I got home from my jog, and a spot on my leg above my left ankle was stinging really bad! I was kind of confused, because I was pretty sure that I hadn't gotten stung by anything.

When I examined my ankle more closely, I discovered that the pain I was experiencing was coming from a small scratch I had gotten while picking blackberries the day before.

When the salt from my sweat got into that scratch, it hurt!

In normal circumstances when I don't have any wounds, my sweat doesn't hurt at all, but when I had a wound, all of the sudden I became a victim to the pain of that sweat that usually would be harmless.

That might seem like a silly metaphor, but that's exactly what is happening when we get triggered by someone or something.

All of us have emotional wounds. Some of them are small and even unnoticeable in most situations, but if someone or something reminds us of those wounds, we can experience extreme mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical discomfort.

Someone could say "offensive" things to me all day without me being offended, but if I have an unhealed emotional wound, I could easily become offended by a comment that wasn't even meant to hurt.

Before I go any further, I want to mention that if you are being abused in any way, that is completely unacceptable. I'm not excusing the words and actions of anyone who intentionally hurts people,

I'm just pointing out that in most situations the amount of hurt we feel is directly related to previous emotional wounds.

So, What Should You Do In a Triggering Situation?

Whether we like it or not, we're going to come across plenty of triggering situations in our lives.

Some people will purposefully try to hurt us or devalue us, and a lot of other times, we will experience hurt as a result of our unhealed emotional wounds even when no hurt is intended.

These triggering situations don't usually bring out the best in us right in the moment.

A person who is in a state of fight or flight will often argue, say hurtful things, or assume the position of being the victim, taking a horrible beating.

The best thing to do initially is probably to maintain a sense of calm and keep any hostile thoughts to yourself, because you are likely to say or do something that you will be ashamed of later.

If removing yourself from the situation is a possibility, that's probably a good route to take until you get yourself calmed down.

Once you have a little bit of distance (of time and/or space) between you and the triggering event, you will be in a better situation to analyze what happened with a clear mind.

Choose Empowerment By Taking Responsibility for How You Feel

You claim a huge amount of personal power by taking responsibility for how you feel rather than placing blame on others.

Take time to reflect on the triggering event, but instead of focusing on the injustice of the person or situation that triggered you, try to focus on what was going on within you.

Dig deep and figure out why the experience was so painful for you.

Did it make you feel like you aren't good enough? Did it make you feel like you needed to prove yourself? Did it make you feel unwanted? Less than? Lonely? Afraid? Sad? Angry? Vengeful?

Rather than beating yourself up for how you felt, recognize that you felt that way and validate yourself with the understanding that these feelings came up for a reason.

You're not a crazy person. You're a person who experienced a traumatic emotional wound in the past that hasn't properly healed yet.

You might feel broken now, but that's actually a good thing in a way. You wouldn't normally fix something that's not broken. Discovering that there's something broken within you, is the first step to healing.

Take Steps Towards Healing

Oftentimes the pain we feel comes from false beliefs we've created for ourselves because of the pain in our pasts. Sometimes these false beliefs are passed down for generations.

These false believes leave us feeling vulnerable when we are faced with situations that validate them. The following are a list of false beliefs that can cause a lot of pain if not corrected.

  • I'm not _______ enough. (Fill in the blank with whatever fits your situation...pretty, smart, cool, outgoing, organized, successful, educated, athletic) If you feel like you're not enough in any way, you will be triggered by any person or situation that challenges you in these areas.
  • I have to prove my value. (What do you think you have to be doing in order to bring value to the world?) If you think you have to prove your valuable, you will feel triggered any time that you or someone else thinks you haven't proven yourself.
  • I have to earn love. (What do you think you have to do to be lovable?) If you think you have to earn love, you will be triggered any time you think you have fallen short of earning people's love.

Everybody's healing process is a little bit different.

Obviously in severe cases of trauma, professional counseling may be a necessity, but I wanted to share some simple healing tools you can do from home that have helped me in the past.

  • Prayer is always my number one go to. I believe 100% that through the atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ, all of my brokenness can be healed, and I can be made whole over and over again.
  • Journaling is a great way for me to process my past and present issues. As I write down my feelings on paper, I'm able to make discoveries about why I'm feeling the way that I am. Then a lot of the times, I've been able to figure out how to change my thinking in order to heal the wounds of my past.
  • EFT tapping is a great way to quickly process and release negative emotions using accupressure points. I've experienced amazing results overcoming traumas and overcoming triggers with tapping in the past. Check out this great tutorial if you're curious!
  • Positive affirmations are a great way to replace false beliefs with liberating and empowering ones.
  • Inner child work can also be a great tool. This involves imagining yourself as a child and pouring out the love and sense of belonging on that inner child that you can sense you are lacking as an adult. It might seem silly, but I've literally brought myself to tears while imagining myself hugging the little girl version of myself.

Here's a great link to help you practice inner child work! It might make you cry, but it will be a good healing cry!


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