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Managing your emotional triggers and behavior

Most of us have experienced situations where something happens that makes us react badly, and changes our mood and disposition for the worst. Almost in an instant, a certain topic or situation quickly evokes a variety of unexpected negative feelings and emotions in you.

Have you ever noticed how we can be happy one minute, speaking with someone or doing something that we enjoy, and the next minute we not happy? It went from a pleasant to an unpleasant experience in a flash, before we can even fully understand what just happened.

All of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, we went from being happy and full of life, to feeling beat up, angry and upset. There's so much going on in that moment that we may not always recognize that our unhealthy reaction has to do with an internal emotional trigger that just set us off. Boom! The bomb went off! Has something like this ever happen to you?

What happened?
Something or someone set off one of our emotional triggers, and the emotional explosion inside of us was too much for us to handle at that moment. We lost our self control, and quickly became shocked and beside ourselves, with a cocktail mix of feelings inside.

What is an emotional trigger?
Emotional trigger is a response or reaction to something that comes from within a person. An emotional trigger is any topic or situation that makes us feel uncomfortable and stressed out.

A trigger can be something that just happened, a reminder of a past trauma, or it could be something that is irritating, hurting or bothering you. Almost anything including a smell, a sound, or something you see, can be a stimulus that triggers bad feelings and trauma, like PTSD. A trigger can even cause someone to experience vivid flashbacks that can make a person feel overwhelmed, experience sadness, anxiety, or a have a panic attack, for example.

Triggers can take many forms and reveal themselves at any time. Finding the source can be difficult to in some cases, and in other cases, the source of the trigger is very easy to identify, and even predict.

What causes an emotional trigger?
There are all kinds of reasons that a trigger can make someone have a mild, or explosive negative reaction. Even something very small, can make us feel like it's a lot, maybe overwhelming, causing us to overreact to a small situation, and blow it way out of proportion. Our reactions don't always match the situation or what has happened.

Almost anything can cause an emotional trigger to go off. It all depends on the person and their state of mind at that particular moment. It can be a bad memory, money, relationships, or a deep-rooted emotion that causes the trigger to activate. There are people who are emotional ticking time bombs, waiting to go off for any reason, but their emotional state of mind is not always visible or obvious until they become dysfunctional.

Many people have deep rooted emotional baggage that they've accumulated since early childhood. The long list of reasons why a person has these triggers can include hurt, resentment, anger, or having been misunderstood, loneliness, abuse, being traumatized, etc.

A trigger going off may have to do with an experience or event, that reminds them of something from their past, and they immediately feel the same feelings that they had felt in the past. It could be either pleasant or unpleasant.

Emotional Triggers and Strong Emotional Response
We can't always stop someone from saying or doing something bad or inappropriate, but we can choose how we respond, react, and behave. It's how we handle ourselves that will ultimately make the difference in any situation.

With that being said, an offhand offensive comment may produce strong emotions in some people and no emotional response in others. The response can vary widely, ranging from nothing to extreme violence. The reactions we choose mostly depend on our state of mind and the dynamics of the situation.

Although an emotional trigger can have a positive reaction, the majority of the time, the focus is on negative reactions, as they tend to cause problems. Anger, depression, and self-sabotage are a few common reactions to an emotional trigger.

What is self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage is when we take steps to prevent ourselves from reaching our goals and reaching our full potential. It's also when we do things to mentally and physically hurt ourselves. This negative behavior can affect nearly every aspect of our lives, and can vary from something mild that happens on occasion, to something that's chronic and quite disturbing.

How to manage your emotional triggers
Take time to think about what bothers you, and what triggers set you off. Notice any strong emotional feelings that you might experience. Learn which reactions you have, and what triggers those reactions. It's important to identify the actual emotional trigger so that you can implement steps to help you take control of your reactions and how you choose to respond. It is how you choose to interpret and internalize things and people's behavior that matters.

If you're unable to identify your triggers and control your reactions, you may want to consult a therapist who can help you.

Be aware of external causes
It's your responsibility to be aware of your surroundings and remain alert when you're with one or more people in any event setting. Make sure that you're not saying or doing anything inappropriate, and look out for others that may. You can learn how to better manage those types of situations.

The blame game
While it's good to identify the root causes of your triggers, it's not useful to blame others, or an event for your reactions. Again, we are talking about your behavior, how you reacted to the trigger, not what caused it. It's important to make a clear distinction between the cause and effect. You probably didn't cause the problem, but it's how you're affected and how you choose respond and behave that really matters.

It's important to accept full responsibility when you react badly to a situation or a person's actions. Some people will just accept that it's their reaction that needs to be fixed, while others will get upset and carry on, blaming everyone and everything that it's not their fault. They probably won't be able to resolve their own issues until they accept responsibility for their reactions, regardless of what provoked it. Know that you're never going to be able to control every situation, every person's behavior, so it's how you react that going to determine the outcome. Think how different it would be if you just didn't care, or even cared as much. The entire situation drastically changes because you were able to handle it without losing self control.

Actually, when you get down to the core of the problem, it's your beliefs about a situation that can set off emotional triggers that influence your behavior. Quite often, you have an opportunity to create a better situation, but it's your choice whether you let yourself get out of control.

Lucky for you, there are techniques that you can use to help you improve your reactions and behaviors, when someone or something challenges and stimulates your emotional triggers to go off.


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