April 2, 2020

Trigger: the Word that is Driving your Therapist Crazy.

“Trigger” has now become commonplace in how explaining how we feel when something negatively affects our emotional health.

I used to regularly use the term trigger in helping my clients process things that were upsetting. I am happy that we have been able to coin this term. However, I have come to see that the word might not be the most productive expression. There might be a better phrase.

When we think of triggers we might associate it with a gun. A trigger can also imply an act of permanence. Once a trigger is released it can feel like there is no other point of action—no way out or way to cope. We have lost control and are unable to move on or reflect on what has occurred.

This pattern reinforces a victim-mentality instead of an attitude of proactivity and can be limiting. It doesn’t allow any room for growth. We have become too trigger happy when trying to understand our emotions.

Instead of using the word trigger, we can say “activate” when we are experiencing these negative emotional responses.

This expresses the same experience when we are feeling uncomfortable about an emotion, but also provides a greater gateway toward healing, and not staying stuck.

When we are activated, we are in a position to do the work necessary to become less activated. We have the choice to take care of ourselves when a situation or person is making us feel less than ideal.

The way each of us is activated is subjective and it does not need to be explained. When something does activate us, we should tune into the feelings themselves instead of the reasons why.

In honoring our emotions, we are doing the work to start feeling better. This is when we can also take action. We are moving the needle toward being less activated. Knowing how to be less reactive is going to help you tremendously in moving on.

What serves you best when you need to rebound from hurt feelings? A walk, time alone, time with the family dog, a text to a friend? Whatever it is, plan on utilizing your emotional resources. Its the only control we truly have while we are working to feel better.

Reminding yourself that you are the one in charge of your emotional health can make things feel less hurtful while positioning yourself toward empowerment.

Making the choice to walk away from what is not serving you is essential and completely doable.

From political discourse to our physical and mental health, there is so much going on in the world right now. Let us try to come from a place of loving compassion for ourselves, and others.

When we use the word activate instead of trigger we are part of the solution rather than the problem.

Don’t forget, like everything else, feeling activated is temporary. It is how we choose to relate and honor these activations that will help us heal.

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