Emotional Triggers and Accountability
We all get triggered. Whether it’s road rage, or that ‘one thing’ that your partner does that bugs the hell out of you, we all get to deal with these subconscious programs that sometimes make us act like a five-year-old.
In fact, most of the time, our triggers are created before the age of seven, and then are strengthened by confirmation bias.
For triggers, our brain creates a story, based out of fear. There are five major fears that the amygdala in our brain creates. These are:
- Fear of failure, or not being good enough
- Fear of loss or abandonment
- Fear of what other people think
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear for safety and security
As a child, something as simple as being picked last for a team can create a traumatic story in our head of not being good enough. Getting lost in a store while shopping with a parent could create a traumatic story of abandonment.
This story creates an anchor. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or not. The brain doesn’t care. Once the anchor is created, the brain looks for proof of the story by using confirmation bias. For empowering stories, it’s great. For disempowering, fear-based stories, it can be devastating.
After a while, these programs run in our subconscious, but they affect our current lives. Something small can trigger these programs, and we become unreasonably emotional.
One of the triggers that I’ve dealt with during my life is the fear of abandonment. I was adopted as a child, and this is a common fear for those that are adopted.
Recently, an amazing relationship that I’ve been in for the past three years ended. It was sudden, unexpected, and obviously sad. Guess what trigger showed up, even after years of working on it? Yep, abandonment.
Journaling is the tool that I use to work on my triggers. Here are some of the questions that I ask myself:
- What did I feel when this happened? (name the emotions)
- When do I remember first feeling these emotions? What age? What situation?
- At that time, what did I think it meant about me? Is that true? (Hint, it never is true)
- If my Higher Self or a trusted advisor were to witness the situation, what would they say to me?
- What is a new empowering belief or story that I could adopt, instead of the limiting belief?
After I go through this process, I create a new, powerful mantra around this belief and repeat it daily for at least 30 days. Little by little the trigger weakens until many times, it just disappears.
This is a process that gets to be repeated as new triggers arise and as old triggers get to be revisited.
Our emotions are ours. Nobody can ‘make’ us angry. When we learn to take accountability for our emotions, it puts us in a place of power. If we get triggered and act on the trigger (like lashing out at somebody), we can clean it up by apologizing and letting the person know that it was our fault.
When we take full accountability for our emotions and triggers, we realize that we can do one of three things with them:
- Attach to them- When we have an emotion and attach to it, the emotion grows. If these are emotions like anger, it rarely does any good.
- Act on them- this would be lashing out at somebody, or even worse, doing something physical.
- Let them go- Just because you feel an emotion doesn’t mean you have to act on it or attach to it. You can choose to let it go. Choose to focus on something else after you’ve taken the time to feel the emotion. This doesn’t mean suppressing it or hiding it away. Just embrace it for a minute. Don’t label it as good or bad (because that just increases the charge around it). Then, let it go.
The key to being able to let emotions go is to create a space of awareness so that the trigger program doesn’t automatically run. As soon as you notice it, stop and take a breath. Create a space of awareness. Then you can intentionally choose what to do with it.
Making Decisions While Triggered
Many of us say or do things that we regret when we’re triggered. This is how many bad decisions have been made. This is how relationships have ended.
Instead of making decisions when you’re triggered, give yourself time to really look at the current situation. Don’t bring the baggage of past triggers into a current decision. It’s easier said than done, but becoming aware of triggers and not acting on them allows you to create a more beneficial, powerful decision.
Emotions aren’t good or bad, they just are. We can choose to use them in empowering or disempowering ways.
Fear can create trauma which creates anchoring and confirmation bias for disempowering triggers and programs. We can learn to first be aware of them and not run them. Then we can learn to create new, empowering programs to replace them.