The Truth Behind Emotional Triggers & How To Better Navigate Them: Part I

Being Triggered is Physically, Emotionally, & Mentally Costly!

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If you stop to think about it, how many times on average would you say you get emotionally triggered in a day? And, how would you say these triggers affect your physical and mental wellbeing?

If you are anything like I used be and this article drew you in, then chances are your answers might be along the lines of “too many to count” and “they leave me feeling drained, powerless, and/or physically ill.”

The truth of the matter, however, is that if you are on a mission to restore your health and transform your life, you simply cannot afford to allow triggering events to level you.

By leveling I am referring to allowing the trigger to ignite your fight or flight response and then spiral you into a cascade of rumination, resentment, self-doubt, people pleasing and/or going above and beyond to prove yourself.

Emotional Triggers Perpetuate Victim Mode!

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From this space of stress-based thinking, it becomes virtually impossible for the body to enter a state of rest, digest, & repair and for you to cultivate the energy needed to move your life forward. This then lays the foundation for victim mode, anxiety, and depression to prevail.

I speak from up close and personal experience here. Being emotionally triggered on a regular basis for a large portion of my life was a key player in setting the stage for chronic health challenges to take hold in the first place and preventing countless interventions from moving me forward once I was already sick.

As a functional health health practitioner I now see this same pattern in many of my clients as well as in countless stories of chronic illness on social media. When it comes to unraveling chronic illness it is absolutely essential to identify and address bio-chemical imbalances such as impaired digestion, hormone imbalances, and chronic infections. At the same time, however, it is equally imperative to also identify and address sources of emotional distress that will undoubtedly prevent bio-chemical interventions from working and keep a person stuck in victim mode.

When one is in victim mode, the psyche will naturally oppose and resist forward thinking. Instead, the psyche will seek people, thinking, and experiences that match the vibrational frequencies of victim mode. When this happens, people then have a tendency to succumb to defeatist thinking, ignore self-care, and participate in destructive behavioral patterns. For instance, one may choose to engage in thoughts such as “Fuck it, why bother!"?” or make choices such as staying in bed all day, obsessive social media use, chronic video gaming, chronic complaining, and/or lashing out at others.

As somebody that clung to victim mode for decades of my life, trust me when I tell that THIS WILL NOT SERVE YOU! I was motivated to write this article by what my own life journey has illuminated for me and what I now see my clients and so many others struggle with in their life journeys.

The First Step In Developing Greater Stress Resilience

To give yourself a fighting chance to break free from the stress-pain-illness cycle that victim mode perpetuates, you will need to learn effective tips and strategies for disengaging with triggering events and calming the fight or flight system. And, the first step in this process is cultivating awareness of the underlying reasons behind why you were so triggered in the first place.

The reason this step is so important is that awareness of what is truly happening is always the first step in shedding all that no longer serves us so we can move forward. That said, when you find yourself triggered, one of the following has taken place:

  • An unhealed trauma is being re-activated

    In this scenario, a painful memory causes one to look and react to the present moment through the lens of the past. For instance, I was a high-school classroom teacher for two decades. I know, first hand, how stressful teaching is, how much work goes into the profession, and how undervalued teachers are in our society. To this day, when I hear remarks such as “Teachers have it so easy with having summers off”, “How hard can it really be to spend your day with a bunch of kids?”, and/or “Those who cannot do teach.” Even though I walked away from my teaching career years and ago and have since established myself in a new profession as a functional health practitioner, comments such as these never fail to evoke a strong emotional response within me because the wounds have not fully healed.

  • A core value is being undermined or challenged

    Using the same example as above, a core value of mine that is being undermined in this case is that I strongly value education. Additionally, I wholeheartedly believe that those that commit their lives (as I did) to public service and the shaping of future generations should be highly revered and treated with utmost respect.

  • A personal boundary is being violated or compromised

    To illustrate this point I have yet another story for you. A few years ago, I hosted the annual Ellis family Thanksgiving Dinner. At this time I was going through many personal and professional hardships and my physical and mental health were at an all time low. I had upwards of 30 guests in my home and every step I took was a major struggle. As I was frantically trying to be a good host and get dinner served to all these people, one of my relatives began to go through all of my kitchen drawers and cabinets in an effort to find a bowl to mix her special mashed potatoes. In doing so, she opened the cabinet where I store all of my supplements and medications.

    Anybody that knows anything about digging one’s way out of the trenches of complex, chronic illness knows how quickly the bottles of pills can pile up. There were many people standing in the kitchen at this time. Instead of closing the cabinet upon seeing the contents, this relative then proceeded to take each bottle out one by one, reading the labels, placing them on the kitchen counter, and saying “look everyone at how Jen is using her body as a science experiment.”

    At this juncture I asked her to stop, put them all away, and close the cabinet but she kept going. Everyone in the kitchen got a good laugh out of this and it served to fuel the invalidation often associated with chronic health challenges that I had endured at the hands of my family since I first fell ill in 1997. This, my friends, is a perfect example of a personal boundary that was horribly violated. Coincidentally, this relative is no longer in my life. More about this is and the importance of removing toxic people from your life in a subsequent blog article. Stay tuned!

  • A light is being shined upon a truth that needs to be revealed

    This is by far my favorite of all the reasons for being triggered. When considering this reason, it is important to understand that the truth being revealed could be one a few different scenarios.

    #1: A truth about a pattern within yourself or aspect of your life that needs to be shifted in some way.

    #2: A truth about somebody in your life in which the relationship needs to be re-evaluated

    #3: A truth about a situation or circumstance in your life (such as a job or a marriage) that is no longer serving you but that you are too fearful to change.

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Ok, so there we have it. You now have a starting point from which to cultivate awareness of the reasons behind the people and events in your life that trigger you. This awareness will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your surroundings and is the first step in making necessary shifts in your life.

Stay tuned for part II of this blog series, where I will be discussing tips and strategies for disengaging and how to better navigate triggering situations.