Why It’s So Important to Identify Triggers

Why should you identify your triggers?

Triggers are those people, places, or situations that, while not inherently upsetting, evoke, or trigger, a deeply emotional and often negative response in you, such as anger, strong annoyance, or deep frustration. You may “act out” when you feel triggered in these moments, whether by yelling or saying something sarcastic, going silent and seething, or getting confused or flustered. 

Sometimes, as with post traumatic stress disorder, a trigger, even a smell or sound, can even cause flashbacks, intense pain, sadness or panic. The triggers I mean aren’t as severe as these examples, but are instead the more subtle triggers of regular life. It is important to recognize these triggers for two main reasons: 

  1. In the moment where your trigger is pulled, that recognition can help you maintain or quickly regain your balance and composure so that you can move forward and make a choice you feel good about.
  2. Recognizing triggers can prevent you from putting undue blame on others for your feelings in the moment. 

In addition, when something triggers you, it can give you insight into your values, values that may have developed out of previous pain or discomfort. When you know where the triggers originate, you can begin to figure out how to get what you need and achieve what you want to achieve at work. (And, of course, if you realize that the feelings you are having aren’t caused by something in you, but by a situation that is harmful to you, then it’s important for you to know that difference).

As you go through your week, try observing any moments when you have a strong negative response to a person or situation, make a note of them, and take some time later to think about why these moments were triggering for you. It’s another way to learn about ourselves, to find compassion for ourselves, and to in turn develop more compassion for others. To learn more, take a look at my previous post from 2017 on how to manage triggers.

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