Emotional triggers are something we all face on the daily. No sense in denying it. What we can try to do – one step/breath/mindful moment at a time, is to make those suckers kneel down and beg us for mercy and, eventually, leave our realm for good.
Step 1: Define
There are two main components to each trigger. Some universal rules may apply, however, each individual carries their own, personal set of things that flip that “on” switch in their minds and bodies, causing an emotional response. A past trauma often comes along for the ride.
The key idea here is to identify what triggers you. Mastering this skill requires a deep soul-searching mission that you will need to navigate yourself. Aids are available, but get ready for a steep and not-so-cozy up-climb.
Turn your awareness level on high mode and watch out for the most common physical responses to an emotional trigger, such as sweating, nausea, problems with indigestion, shortness of breath or a lump in your throat that you just can’t shake.
What lies beneath? What brought it on? Is it debilitating? Can you control it in any way?
All good questions. And a great start!
Step 2: Recognize
In his book, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain, Antonio Damasio says that, “at any moment, your rate of breathing, blood flow, tension in your muscles and constriction in your gut represents a pattern you can identify as a feeling. The sooner you recognize that you are breathing quickly or not at all, that certain muscles in your body tightened, or that you feel pressure in your gut or heart, stop and ask yourself what you are feeling and why.”
What is fabulous here is that, no matter what type of turbulence we may be experiencing at a particular moment, we can take some level of charge by tapping into our emotional intelligence reservoir.
Mindful and persistent practice should enable us to hit the pause button at the very onset of the physical manifestation brought on by a trigger. Once there, we can give our body and mind a chance to regroup by taking in several deep breaths – in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is a response and a conscious soul band-aid that can go a long way in mending a deeper sore spot.
Step 3: Accept
A life void of emotional triggers is not realistic. Think of it this way: if it’s all about balance, how can we expect that we can experience good emotions, without the acceptance of there being not-so-pleasant ones as well?
The goal, rather, is to equip ourselves with mindfully-crafted skills that will help us maneuver through life’s winding, bumpy and uncertain roads – one self-protective step at a time.