One of the primary things I do when working with new clients is have them record when they get TRIGGERED.
This information is gold dust.
BUT…only if you do something with it.
We all get triggered.
But IT is the wisest among us who learn from it, in order to grow and evolve and to not get triggered (as much or not at all) next time.
Firstly let me define what I mean by ‘Getting Triggered‘.
It is essentially any time where we are reactively taken out of an elevated emotional state, neutral state or homeostasis, and dropped into a survival emotional state. Essentially the amygdala has determined there is some sort of physical threat, so it activates the sympathetic nervous system, and we have a physiological fight, flight or freeze response. This does not include automatic responses to real physical threats.
Sometimes we are ‘positively’ triggered and that is awesome and another great thing to learn from.
Thumbs up and now do more of that.
However, for this article (and your ongoing well-being) I am more interested in the ‘negative‘ triggers, and the bigger the trigger, the more (loving) attention we need to give them.
Examples include: getting triggered by an email, getting triggered while driving on the road, getting triggered by your partner or friends, getting triggered by people wearing face masks while alone on a beach, getting triggered by being told ‘no’, getting triggered by people riding motorbikes through intersections while texting on their phones, etc..
Part 1: A recent personal example
Here is an example of how I was recently triggered (and how I identified it as a triggering event).
We are in the process of selling our house here in Bali, and to push things along (because the real estate agents here are not so proactive), we went out the other day and posted some good old fashioned ‘For Sale’ posters on a number of poles, trees and posts.
Later that day, as we were heading to lunch, I saw a pole in a prime position, beside a set of traffic lights and thought that would be a great place to put a For Sale poster.
However, the next day when I decided to convert the thought into action, I was ‘TRIGGERED‘ and started getting anxious, uncomfortable and nervous, and started to feel threatened in undertaking a pretty benign activity (putting a poster on a pole). Especially since we are talking Asia (which is a bit rubbery on ‘rules’ about what you can and can’t do).
In the end, I did force myself, through sheer will-power, to overcome my fear, anxiety and discomfort, and place the poster on the post.
But then – because I don’t like to let a good trigger go to waste – I asked myself the very pertinent question: “WTF just happened then?!?!”
Which takes us to Part 2.
Part 2: The learning bit
Whenever I am triggered, I want to understand WHY?
Why did I have a disproportionate response (fear, anxiety, and a desire to hide or runaway) to something that seems pretty irrelevant.
The physical act of placing the poster required no extra adrenaline, elevated heart rate or deactivation of my digestive system.
I parked my scooter beside the post, stood on the seat, placed the poster in position and then wrapped clear tape around the poster and the post.
Easy-peasy physically, but mentally it was another story.
So now the learning…
As I curiously observed and analyzed the Triggering Event (post event) from a perspective of calm and desire to learn, I realised what I was telling myself that make me react.
I was telling myself: “I am not allowed to do something, unless I have the permission from an authority figure.“
Yep and Bugger!
An oldie, but a goodie.
It was clearly from my childhood where I would get into trouble if I did something without asking for or getting approval first. And this was further reinforced (neurologically in my brain) for 14 years, while I was taught the same ‘rule’ in the Military.
But here is the thing.
I am 54 years old. I live in Asia where the rules are a bit loose. I don’t have a boss. I am an adult and providing I am not hurting anyone, then I can actually give MYSELF permission, as a sovereign human-being on planet Earth, to do what I want.
I realised my old triggering belief was not serving me.
It was outdated and needed an upgrade.
So here is my upgrade (which I will apply with conscious awareness).
It is okay to do what I want, providing I am not harming someone (physically or emotionally) or damaging someone’s personal property.
And even as I write that – “It’s okay to do what I want…” – there is still some resistance, which is again great feedback.
The feedback being, it’s time to go deeper, with a specific processing technique (EFT, The LifeLine Technique, the Rocking Chair activity, guided meditations, etc.).
The Steps in Summary
- Acknowledge when you get TRIGGERED.
- Place your curiosity and love-of-learning glasses on.
- Understand WHY you got triggered by asking a great question like: “What am I telling myself that causes me to react? (In almost all cases, if you are disproportionately triggered, there is a past event, story or belief, which needs processing)
- By merely becoming aware of your inner mental and emotional landscape, energy starts to shift around the trigger.
- For more gnarly triggers – that are harder to move – use more specific techniques or see someone who specialises in processing this stuff.
My Parting words
Getting triggered is a pain at times, but also an opportunity.
Unfortunately most people will seek distraction (consciously or unconsciously) rather than figure shit out.
But here is where you get ahead.
Here is where you evolve, learn and grow.
Plus you stop getting triggered, which is not really that much fun the 2nd, 3rd or 10th time around!
99% of the time there is an UNTRUE story or belief behind the triggering event.
Find it. Process it. Resolve it.
And live happily ever after (until the next triggering event.)
I am laughing as I write this.
A sense of humour is also a MUST in this life thing.
Final message: if you haven’t read the Preface from my new up-coming book click here.
Have a trigger-free kinda day, but if you do get triggered, get curious so you learn and grow.
See you next week.