Every one of us has tender places within our emotional make-up where we “lose it” when we are triggered.
An important part of our personal growth is to learn what issues trigger us, which coping behaviors kick in automatically, and how to transform the whole pattern so that it doesn’t alienate others, ruin our reputation, and hurt our health and well-being.
Harvey Goldberg, speaker for Vistage International, defined a trigger as “. . . a stimulus that sets off an immediate and mostly unconscious reaction. It is a focus that is based upon the interpretation of real or imagined danger and perceived or anticipated loss.”
In this article I will explain to you why we get triggered and mention some of the ways this shows up in your life and workplace. In subsequent articles in this series of Mastering Your Triggers, I will discuss the benefits and the downsides of the coping behaviors that we unthinkingly engage in to let off steam or avoid the issue (fight or flight), and finally, I will give you a multitude of ideas and suggestions on what to do to heal the problem at the source and change the automatic negative reactions that polarize others. When you substitute healthy updated beliefs and learn new behaviors, you can bring about the outcomes that you really want.
“Losing it” can show up in different ways, such as: making passive-aggressive remarks, withdrawing, hurling insults, yelling, swearing, throwing objects, saying cutting things to a subordinate (or family member), or engaging in debilitating addictions.
These are some of the typical ways of bleeding off mounting frustrations and relieving the internal pressure. But what is the cost to the people around you?
Your friends, loved ones, or co-workers can get hurt or mystified if you withdraw or go silent to avoid confrontation. They can, and usually do, get traumatized by yelling, swearing, and threats. If your behavior is unpredictable, people may get anxious and on edge because they don’t know what will happen next.
In the workplace, productivity is lowered because employees cannot do their best work when anxious or rattled in a chaotic workplace. Morale goes down, people think about leaving the company to look for new jobs, or they ask to work remotely.
Think about the cost that getting triggered repeatedly has on your self.
Consider these potential consequences to your health and well-being: debilitating guilt; anxiety and depression; high blood pressure; high cortisol levels that lead to insomnia, weight gain, (especially in the stomach area); loss of focus, loss of reputation; divorce; and shortened life span.
I’m sure you know THAT you get triggered from time to time. You might be aware that certain people upset you immensely and you can’t stand to be around them. But do you know what specific issues of yours you are sensitive about and what exactly is getting activated inside you? Most people don’t search inside themselves for answers, they just blame someone else and go out and do the same behaviors again.
Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.
— Publilius Syrus
It is a worthwhile exercise to take time out to make a list of the things you get triggered about. After you write them down randomly, you may see a theme or two and then you can group the items on your list according to the themes. Keep adding to your list as you remember triggers. Email me and I’ll send you the worksheet for your list: email@example.com
I’ll share with you some of my triggers to jog your brain about your own.
I hate it when people talk to me in insulting ways with statements like, “I already TOLD you that!” Or when someone says something devious and I question it or have a problem with it, and they say, “I never said that!” Or if I clearly saw the person engaging in unethical behavior and they say emphatically, “I didn’t DO that.” I guess you could say I have a problem with gaslighting. It reminds me of what Richard Pryor said when his wife caught him in bed with another woman: “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”
Speaking of another woman, the behavior that burned me the most in the past was when my man would lust after other women whenever we went out of the house together. (Of course he did this all the time whether I was with him or not.) It was a constant trigger to me, and needless to say, I won’t be tolerating this rude behavior again.
The issues that get triggered have to do with our emotional needs and our dearly held beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Usually the person who triggers us is the person first in line and behind him/her there are one or more people who used to treat us in similar ways when we were growing up. It caused a wound then, and the current person is scratching that old sore.
In the next article, I will discuss the topic of beliefs and how our dearly held beliefs, and our attachment to them, set us up for getting triggered. I will be publishing a series of articles on Mastering Your Triggers for Success at Work. Ultimately I will compile these into a home study course with a workbook and videos.
Don’t forget to email me for the worksheet for getting to know your triggers and becoming aware of the themes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leadership Development is deeply personal. It involves working with the psyche
and the soul. True leadership springs from an elected state of being.
It requires a fundamental shift of mind and consciousness.
— Bob Anderson
I coach CEOs and business professionals to transform the personal obstacles to peak productivity such as poor habits and behaviors—so you can have more energy, focus and time to do what you love.
I’ve been an executive coach for 8 years and a business and life coach for 20 years. I graduated from Corporate Coach University and have a degree in Human Resource Management from George Fox University.
I help with strategy planning, solving tough challenges, and guiding your inner work. I work in person locally and by video conference globally.