top of page

Being triggered is your issue

And what you should do

Being triggered is your issue
00:00 / 00:02

In this article, I will discuss what I feel is happening for the individual in response to stress and how they might assist themselves when they are triggered. The article covers a lot of material, and what I provide is a subset of my ideas on the issue in the hopes of helping others. I'll explain my perspective on being triggered, what I feel is going on, and what you should do about it. I'll attempt to cover as much as needed in order to answer as many questions as feasible for as many people as possible while still keeping it easy, relevant, and somewhat short.

One difficulty I ran into when writing this was trying to be as broad as possible in order to answer as many questions as I could, but when you generalise issues, you lose a lot of meaning and complexities, making the concepts easier to dismiss. The only way to compensate for my generalisations is to consider them while reading, change the context of the analogies, and remember the spirit of what I'm saying. You will benefit more if you apply it to your own situation.

The impulse to avoid danger by being aware of oneself and one's surroundings is one of our basic instincts. However, everything has a disadvantage, and if you sense a danger where there is none, you risk overreacting. Furthermore, you have an instinctive tendency to foresee the worst-case scenario in every circumstance; inevitably, these two characteristics collide, and you sometimes make judgements that you subsequently regret. We are all prone to overreacting from time to time. When we are irritated, we respond and aggravate the situation. As someone who has overcome numerous triggers and as a therapist who helps others overcome theirs, I think I can help you overcome yours. I intend to give you a detailed overview of a perspective that I find valuable. This point of view, I hope, will give you fresh ways of dealing with your triggers and bring you to self-mastery, as it did for myself and others I work with. Changing your perspective may lead to better outcomes, self-control, feeling alive, and obtaining more of what you desire. Recognizing your trigger for what it is may assist you in being grounded and in charge of yourself, enabling you to get what you want and need in life rather than hating or regretting everything.

First and foremost

You are the one who has been triggered. Let's imagine someone called you a name or cut you off in traffic; maybe you heard or saw something upsetting, and you now need to complain about it. Because you are the one responding, you are the one who gets triggered and now you have a problem; you are now distracted and uncontrolled in some respects. The process starts with determining what the issue is, who is responsible for it, and what you should do about it. Being triggered is natural, healthy, and necessary; otherwise, you would not move out of the path of the oncoming bus. The issues arise from how you respond to the trigger, since some behaviours move you closer to your goal while others do not. When working with clients, I use the following analogy to demonstrate an important idea when looking at triggers:

Assume you're pulling out of your driveway when another driver races past and almost hits you. You had to slam on the brakes to prevent an accident, and you heard the other driver beep back at you. You see them as the kind of jackass you detest seeing on the road. "Do you think it was an irresponsible youngster," or a "damn delivery driver," or even "a foolish old fool," and you're irritated, right?

Would you be so upset if an ambulance rushed past you like that? No, and that is exactly the point. Yes, you were provoked, but not by the other motorist; you were more irritated by the fantasy you created in your head than by reality. Upset at an imagined other into whom you transferred a whole personality, and then angry at the fiction you created about them. The other car may have continued on their way without seeing you, and now you're all wound up. What if what happens in your brain irritates and angers you more than what happens in reality?

The Story You Tell Yourself

As you go about your day, the subconscious /primitive brain is constantly scanning for risk, looking for indications of threat and circumstances you detest. A trigger is an emotional response to a stimulus, such as something you have heard, felt, seen, or thought. For instance, you might see or hear something that triggers memories of a traumatic event or an old love. Someone might make you feel uneasy when you enter a room, or a friend might make a hurtful remark to you. In each of these scenarios, the moment you become aware of the stimuli, the older part of your brain automatically initiates a response, and part of this is the narrative you tell yourself.

You interpret and react in a way that is expected to keep you safe and the narratives help by having one-sided, straightforward, condescending viewpoints in which you are good and others are bad. The narrative is based on everything you have gone through from your point of view, with memories and feelings from a younger, more intense time leading to more potent narratives. The narrative aids in your escape from the circumstance, demonstrates your rightness in your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and removes some of the blame from yourself. The narrative is experienced in quick bursts of ideas and emotions. Think for a moment about a minor irritation you have. You should be able to identify the story you tell yourself in that situation by asking yourself a few "why" questions.

It's possible that you spend more time reacting to the stories in your head than to reality, and that you frequently change the facts to support your negative stories. The issue with being triggered in this way and not realising that you need to take responsibility for your own actions is that you are constantly dependent on other people. being capable of being provoked at any time into a state in which you are not actively thinking and reacting positively. For instance, it would imply that in a heated argument, your partner could press the secret button and utter a few words that would cause you to lose your cool and lose the conversation. Understand that if you respond angrily to something, others will follow suit. Consider the following scenario: You had a legitimate point to make in an argument when the other person changed the topic to distract you. If you wish to communicate correctly, staying in control and calmly returning to your point will be more successful than changing the topic. Consider that they have control if their trigger causes you to respond in a specific manner. Knowing your triggers may help you remain grounded and in control in more circumstances by allowing you to determine how you will feel ahead of time. Staying focused and in control, regardless of the circumstances, can help you do this more often.


Answer each of these questions while taking notes on your ideas to demonstrate how fast you can conjure up a tale.

  • Do you consider yourself mature?


  • Are you fair?

  • Are you truthful?

When you react to a question, you try to make yourself look and feel better. This may also be a false negative in which you try to seem worse (the game remains the same). Even if you know the answers to all of the questions are "I don't know," you must still demonstrate in some manner that you are who you claim to be. With the help of a well-crafted story, you can accomplish this without risking seeing aspects of yourself that you don't want to see.

Important Ideas (Know Your Monkey)

In my view, the ideal way to think about anything is to dissect it into its component parts and then use first-principles reasoning to determine what course of action should be pursued. The problematic component of this is the amount of processing power and effort necessary to take into consideration a broad variety of factors with varied degrees of confidence. Defining some of the elements that govern my views and highlighting areas that are prone to being disregarded might be beneficial. Here are a few thoughts that I find useful to keep in mind while I explore the perspective I will later explain.

  • The brain is divided into different levels, with the higher level being where logic and reason are found, and the lower level being the old, primitive brain that is emotion-driven and has its own logic and reason. Imagine the brain of a dog in order to understand the lower level; although animals are capable of expressing their feelings and emotions, it would be absurd to expect them to comprehend a simple children's story.

  • We do not see reality for what it is; what we see, hear, feel, etc. are signals from our senses, and these are easily deceived.

  • We have evolved to notice and react to danger and threats. We overreact to many things because the system is constantly looking for danger, is too sensitive for our modern lives, and is out of date.

  • The primitive brain is aware of things that you are not, and it will react to situations without your permission to protect you. Consider how you hold your breath before making a potentially risky comment or instinctively removing your hand from a hot surface. You may sense tension in situations when you don't believe you should; this may indicate subconscious awareness. The primitive brain has a faster route to action that circumvents the reasoning brain. It is conceivable that your overreaction is motivated from below.

  • The primitive brain requires security. The most important thing to the primitive brain is your survival. Because of this, you could occasionally feel weak or find it difficult to carry through with tasks that are at odds with other parts of you.

  • You enter a type of "flight or fight" response when you are startled. The primary objective of the primitive brain is to protect you. Your response will either be "fight," "flight," "freeze," or "flop," depending on the situation. You will act in a way that, in the short term, is most likely to keep you safe, according to the perspective of your primitive brain.

  • The mind is lazy; it prefers to think quickly and predictably, to break everything down into manageable topics, and to see the universe as being in black and white. Chocolate is great, salad is awful, and my political stance is true while the other's is not. The English are X, the French are Y, and the Americans are Z; this is where stereotypes begin. Yes, this is poor thinking, but you must accept the fact that this trait is generally beneficial.

  • The mind is incapable of telling the difference between reality and fantasy. Observe how terrified you feel when you wake up from a horrible dream because your brain cannot tell the difference between the two. You respond as though the dream were true the instant you wake up.

  • The primitive brain doesn’t use words to communicate. Consider how a pet might act under stress to appreciate that the primitive brain doesn't communicate with words. The primitive brain doesn't function with a language-based system. At the level of the brain where emotions and body language are communicated, actions speak louder than words.

  • The default mode of the primitive brain is fear and pessimism, which gives you the highest chance of living long enough to raise the next generation. The game would end if we opted for bravery and attempted to defeat the lion; it is preferable to flee and live to fight another day.

  • The mind is able to block or forget distressing occurrences. Most of the time, this talent is not required. However, it manifests in our capacity to significantly reduce the amount of what we experience. Things that are directly in front of us can be missed.


Let me break it down further now to clarify what I believe is happening a bit more clearly after considering these concepts. Looking at the automatic, predictable collection of thoughts, sensations, and emotions based on the self-described story you told yourself that is running through your mind. It is easy to predict your negative feelings and outbursts. As a result of your brain's inability to distinguish between imagination and reality, it now responds to the story it has made by distorting reality to fit the narrative.

You base your judgements on behaviours that appear reasonable,

but since you base them on an excessive number of assumptions, the issue either lingers or becomes worse as your outburst is misguided.


Finding a New Perspective

Now that you are aware of the above concepts, let's examine another instance in which you may be triggered and react in accordance with the narrative you gave yourself. Imagine an argument with a close friend or significant other. They have just said something really unpleasant, upsetting, accusatory, blaming, or anything else that angers you. Your spouse may have just told you to leave, or they may despise you. Perhaps someone made a viciously insulting comment to you, or perhaps they made a disrespectful gesture toward you, or perhaps it was because they were walking away. The result is the same; you are the one who was triggered by another person's words or actions. Despite the fact that you may consider them accountable for setting off your trigger, you are the one responding angrily and escalating the situation. As a result of the "flight or fight" response, you feel terrible and are unable to think clearly. Your odds of responding in a manner that is advantageous to you have diminished dramatically. If you can quickly recognise that you are triggered and need to stay grounded, your likelihood of acting positively increases.

If I substitute a new collection of stories for the ones I used in the first example, you will see the possible change. What if the person who almost hit you while pulling out of your drive was in fact a young man driving a sports car who was obviously driving recklessly? But suppose this time you spotted him and thought, "Bloody hell, that was close; I'm competent for having noticed him." The narrative changes your emotions, and with only a slight adjustment, you suddenly behave differently and even enjoy your surprise. You may have also believed that the driver was attempting to reach the hospital while his wife was in labour, or any other story other than that this jerk should have his licence revoked. You get what you put out. It is obvious that the story you are telling yourself influences how you react to a trigger. So, how can we adopt more positive responses? In short, the transformation happens naturally as you become more conscious and develop an honest view of the world. Because you desire greater rewards and are able to express yourself more clearly, you naturally put out a better vibe and are rewarded accordingly.

Understanding and identifying the issue

To find a solution, you must alter your perspective; you must live in reality rather than in your thoughts. Not just the individual trees, but the entire forest, must be seen. There are ways to make it more difficult and few quick fixes; however, there are shortcuts and things you can do to make it easier. You hold the key to the problem, not someone else. The goal is to relax and take life less seriously while ultimately getting serious about responsibility by fighting against false beliefs and notions that don't serve you. The problem is more likely to be resolved by working through your inner issue instead of completely avoiding it or going around it. Accept your triggers for what they are: messages from you to yourself about how you are feeling. As you learn to trust these uncomfortable sensations, you might feel as though you are being asked to step on a landmine. This is a common reaction when you decide to consciously disregard the terrified part of yourselves advice and do the very thing it has been warning you against; in a sense, this will be the death of that part of yourself.

If you want to be untriggered, you must gain control of yourself and discover how to let go of everything else, as there is really no control over anything anyway. By doing this, you can choose how you feel in any situation. I tried it many times before, and I can assure you that complaining about the universe won't improve things. You do, however, have some degree of control over how you react, and this is the starting point. If you prioritise your need for control first, you will always feel empowered and more grounded. This will make it easier for you to decide on a constructive course of action. You have to work hard to retrain yourself if you want to feel better because you can't directly control your subconscious. While it takes more work than pointing the finger at others, the benefits are fantastic.

Because the mind is lazy, you search for a simple explanation from the outside world to justify how you feel, why you should not change, and how you should feel about your response. Learn to question the narratives you generate; you are always free to seek out more details before making decisions. I recommend being sceptical of the first account you hear (despite genuine danger), as experience reveals how flawed you can be. Take into account the instances when you convinced yourself to do something you knew you shouldn't because the story supported your feelings. You can gain insight into other aspects of yourself by taking some time to consider the trigger without criticising it. From this point, you can concentrate on how triggers affect you and how you can take care of yourself.

You will feel much happier and more in control after taking the time to reflect first, which will lead to better outcomes and relationships in all areas of your life. It's difficult to describe how you improve in so many different ways without sounding like a wonder drug commercial. The difficult thing to realise is that you are constantly at war with yourself, not with the other person, completely unaware of it, and getting caught in repetitive, old patterns.


How to change

How do I stop getting triggered, you ask? I always respond. "You don't; you stop caring about the trigger." You reach a certain level or stage of maturity and stop worrying about the trigger, just as you stopped worrying about things you did as a child. The triggers and reality don't change; what changes is how you perceive it.

Imagine daily traversing a path through the woods; over time, the path would get easier, the ground would get firmer, and you would stop noticing it. Imagine having to take a different route because the previous one was impassable. It seems impossible to imagine walking this route every day due to the grass, overgrowth, and obstructions like branches and bushes in your path. Here, you must accept the fact that your daily path will not be the same each time. The hardest part is starting and sticking to it; as you get used to the new pathway, the path becomes exponentially easier until you again fail to notice it.

If what you see outside your window confirms your perspective or narrative, you might notice litter, graffiti, shortage, famine, fear, and anger. You probably have a long list of arguments to support your claim that this is the real world. However, it's important to understand that someone else, or even you on another day, might see flowers, rainbows, happiness, and hope while looking out that same window because you are trying to validate your viewpoint or story on that new day. To be more aware of how you focus on your triggers( what you see), stop letting your primitive brain control you without first ensuring that you're content with the results. Begin by observing as much of the reality as you can to construct your comprehension of the world around you and recognize that other individuals have varying perspectives on the same reality and you should not be so sure of yourself.

Learning to let go

Let go of the story you believe. Stop defining yourself by who you think you are or were, who you want to be, or who you believe others to be. Live in the moment - these are all essential parts of this work. If you believe that you frequently make poor decisions on instinct (despite obvious real danger), you can expose your story for what it is: a single point of view on a situation. Learn to take a step back and consider the situation more broadly before reacting. By doing this, you have a better chance of seeing more of life as it actually is, as opposed to how you would like it to be or how you feel it should be. You will then have a greater chance of making a positive contribution. Why do you believe your single point of view when any police officer could tell you that if they interviewed five witnesses, they would each have a different account? When your thinking brain is activated, give it something to do. Before you act, consider whether your story is based on black-and-white thinking. Do you possess bias? Recognize that sometimes it is better to strike while the iron is cold. How often do you reflect on your actions and wish you had acted differently? The key is to start by thinking about what you need to stay grounded and in control..

It's ironic that when you try to avoid thinking about something, you end up thinking about it more. This is because you tend to focus on things that hold your attention. Instead of trying to fake your way through it, it's better to shift your attention to something else that is more important to you. By doing this, you can genuinely move past your triggers. For example, think about times when you were able to get things done even when you were ill or upset. These situations teach you how to set priorities and let things go. Imagine someone who learns that they have a limited time to live. If they allow themselves the freedom to say, "F-you, world," they can experience a shift in perspective that can make them feel better and more alive than ever. While the outside world may not change, a change in perspective can have a significant impact on your life.


How and Why should I change?

To create meaningful change, you must first have a strong motivation or reason for making that change. Simply knowing "how" to change is not enough. We cannot predict how we will act in the moment, so having a compelling reason to stay motivated on the path towards change is crucial. For instance, if you want to stop getting angry and snapping when you're stressed, you need a convincing reason to put in the effort and make the changes required to achieve your desired outcome. This could be wanting to live in peace and be free of triggers, or perhaps to be able to say the appropriate thing in the right moment. A legitimate reason can keep you from pointing fingers and instead motivate you to behave differently.

The process of change can be both difficult and simple. Let's take the example of a drug addict. Quitting the addiction seems simple; all they have to do is put it down and they're done. However, it's only simple when the addict truly desires to change.

Until then, the addict will struggle with various desires and impulses. To achieve lasting results, it's important to focus on the reasons behind the desire to change. If the addict has a strong enough reason to quit that resonates with them on all levels, then the addiction will lose its grip.

Are you afraid of rejection when meeting new people, or frightened of flying during vacations? Knowing why you need to change can make all the difference. For instance, falling in love with someone from another country can be a compelling reason to overcome your anxiety. A great reason to change is more important than how you will change. When you trust this process, you become more in sync with yourself, and most of the anxious questions will no longer arise given time. Since dealing with difficulties is an inevitable part of life, the goal is to find productive ways to deal with them and have better problems to solve. Listening to and taking responsibility for your needs provides you with the best opportunity to feel the way you want to feel. Don't worry about how you will change, instead focus on why you want to change, with an emphasis on how you want to feel. Having a compelling reason to change is key to feeling better and happier more often.

If you're unsure why you should choose one option over the other, consider this. If you make it a habit to tie your happiness to things outside of your control, you've already lost since you're staking your happiness on something you can't control. This disempowerment tactic is a learned helplessness habit. However, you can choose to feel how you want in many situations and discover new ways of seeing life. The biggest motivation I've discovered for changing is to ensure that I'm always in control of my actions. If I'm easily provoked, I risk making things worse for myself. Instead of fearing them, understanding your triggers might help you gain self-control. Assume you're continually dealing with the same problem in your relationships. Better relationships might be the answer to why you should change. Perhaps you want to feel different when provoked; the reason for why you want to change is to feel calmer. Focus on why you want to change, emphasizing how you want to feel and what you can do now to feel more like that. The goal is to start thinking long-term. You might not always know what to do, but thinking beyond the present moment can help you establish your own set of beliefs and principles that will help you act more productively over time.

The more primitive portion of your brain will suggest that you flee the stressful situation/stimuli, which, when you think about it, is exactly what it ought to suggest. You can see that there is little purpose in battling an emotion that is meant to aid you since it will only serve to frustrate you. The solution, as far as I can tell, is to pay attention to your instincts but act in a way that brings you peace. For example, imagine that you need to make a presentation or that you want to ask someone out on a date.

How would you handle any of these things? It's quite obvious to the primitive brain: get away from there! If you make a mistake, you might look foolish, or others may see a side of you that you dislike. Your instinct to flee or hide is likely to be evident. Arguing with this position is futile because it is ultimately your viewpoint. Learn how to calm yourself by developing the ability to recognize feelings and messages without attaching a story to them. I've found that accepting a negative or fearful feeling works much better than denying how you truly feel. The primitive brain can ultimately find a way to meet its safety demands by compelling you to pay attention with a nice little panic attack. Understand the emotion for what it is, a message from yourself alerting you to a potentially hazardous circumstance. Say something simple to yourself, such as, "Yes, I understand the risk; thank you brain, I'm alright though." Recognize your subconscious, your gut instinct, your inner voice, and yourself, and reassure yourself that you're okay. If you face opposition, such as unfavorable emotions or ideas, you may not genuinely believe yourself. If this is the case, figure out why. Until you learn how to calm yourself, you'll most likely feel uneasy. In challenging situations, if you're not conscious of your emotions, you risk overreacting. This is likely where your actual difficulties begin because you respond to stress in a way that you might have avoided, creating a vicious cycle where you feel powerless as you watch your life fall apart.

It can be helpful to manage worry by laughing a little and humorously exaggerating the stress. In your mind, acknowledge your worries in a light-hearted manner. For example, you might say, "Yes, there will be a lot of people there, but it's okay if I stumble on stage or say something silly. It makes me human and relatable." Or, if someone disagrees with you, you might think to yourself, "Yes, what they did was not good, but bringing it up now won't help." The goal is to be honest with yourself and manage your emotions effectively. Oddly enough, agreeing with your fear in a humorous way may be helpful. Remember to try it out.

When you acknowledge your worries, you might expect to feel worse. However, if you focus on the fact that you're still okay instead of dwelling on what's wrong, you take control of the situation and create a positive atmosphere. This positive approach shows that you understand the situation and are capable of dealing with it, which can help to calm your worries. Remember that you're stronger than you think, and focus on the truth of your capabilities instead of doubting yourself. It is common to experience worries and anxieties from time to time. Sometimes, acknowledging these worries might seem daunting as we might expect to feel worse. However, it is important to understand that acknowledging our worries is the first step towards taking control of the situation and creating a positive atmosphere. By focusing on the fact that we are still okay despite our worries, we can shift our attention towards our capabilities and strengths instead of dwelling on what's wrong.

It is crucial to remember that we are capable of dealing with our worries and anxieties. Adopting a positive approach towards our worries demonstrates our understanding of the situation and our ability to handle it. This positive approach can help us calm our worries and reduce our anxieties. It helps us to realize that we are stronger than we think and capable of overcoming our challenges.

Therefore, it is essential to focus on the truth of our capabilities instead of doubting ourselves. Instead of being trapped in a negative cycle, we can choose to approach our worries positively and take control of the situation. This way, we can create a positive atmosphere and foster a sense of calmness within ourselves.


Solutions and exercises

I'll summarise the major elements below to help you understand what I've stated and to clearly demonstrate what you can do to support yourself when triggered. It is difficult to determine what may be of particular assistance to you. Go through these suggestions, and if you find yourself having a negative response to any one point, you should begin there and spend some time considering how that point fits into the wider picture.

When Triggered: Navigating Emotional Turbulence

  • Shift Your Viewpoint: Embrace alternative perspectives. Challenge your assumptions and consider every angle. Remember, there’s always another side, vastly different from your own.

  • Acknowledge Your Emotions: Recognize what you're feeling without denial. Acceptance is the first step toward understanding and managing your emotions effectively.

  • Prioritize Mental Wellness: Focus on aspects within your control, like your breathing. Release the urge to control external circumstances. Your actions and behaviors are your responsibility.

  • Create Distance: Separate yourself from the trigger. Pause before reacting; wait until your mind is calm.


  • Focus on Desired Feelings: Concentrate on how you want to feel, and actively work towards achieving that state, irrespective of external situations.


  • Choose Your Battles Wisely: Aim to win by engaging in the right battles at the right time, and in the right manner.


  • Adopt Adult Responses: Avoid child-like reactions that compound problems. Ask yourself, “How would a mature, respectable adult handle this?” and emulate that behavior.

  • Embrace Playfulness: Lighten up. A playful mindset eases stress and fosters a positive environment.


  • Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Forgive and permit yourself to learn and grow from mistakes. Self-criticism is counterproductive.


  • Cultivate Gratitude: Let go of entitlement. Embrace gratitude for what you have, which diminishes the urge to resist or oppose.


  • Define Long-Term Goals: Clarify what you want in life. Strive for goals that promise a fulfilling and joyful existence.


  • Reflect and Act: When triggered, think about how you'd ideally like to act. Use this reflection to guide your response.


  • Learn to Let Go: Train yourself to relax and not sweat the small stuff. Embrace the art of letting things slide.


  • Self improvement before Others: Focus on bettering yourself first, which empowers you to influence your feelings.


  • Live by Your Values: Reflect on your values, morals, and how you wish to be treated. Ensure you embody the standards you set for others.


  • Regular Emotional Check-Ins: Frequently ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” Observe without judgment to discern patterns in your emotional landscape.


  • Heed Your Inner Voice: Pay attention to your intuition. Often, it guides you towards beneficial changes, especially those outside your comfort zone.

  • Seek Answers Within: Most solutions lie within you. Kindness and care in self-reflection can reveal what’s needed for self-help, often more effectively than external sources.


Incorporating these steps into your life enhances self-awareness and emotional resilience. Every person I've counseled has found profound insights by looking inward. Your inner voice is a powerful guide; listen to it with an open heart and mind.


In this article, I am not claiming that this is the ideal way to perceive things; it is only one method, and even then, it is not the whole picture, but rather an introduction to this way of seeing. I hope you found it intriguing, and if nothing else, I hope it made you think and feel a little more.

I hope you've liked my first foray into writing and sharing my thoughts. I'll start writing the next post soon; this one took a long time to get to this point, so I'm thinking the next one will be a piece of cake. Thank you for taking the time to read this; I hope you found it useful.

Steve D

bottom of page