Triggers – Bad or Good?

Disclaimer: If you have many triggers you might be triggered. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Triggers in Life

In his book “TRiGGERS”, David Richo states on the cover “How we can stop reacting and start healing”. The implication of this statement is that the reactions to triggers are hurtful. If you don’t start healing you will continue to harm yourself and probably those around you.

Peter Hollins in his book “Psychological Triggers” says that “…you must understand, avoid and defeat the causes of your irrational and self-defeating behaviours”.

Conclusion: Triggers are bad

When we are triggered we invariably act as if it is the only priority and not because it is right. Certainly not for our happiness. Have you ever witnessed road rage? It looks like a switch was flipped outside of the consciousness of what now appears to be a crazy guy. Everything becomes irrational and out of control. When the recipient of this rage reacts similarly, often someone is seriously injured or killed

If you have read any war stories, military and other intelligence chiefs’ autobiographies, spy novels or true stories on the subject you will know that triggers are used to activate sleeper cells, spies and terrorists.

Conclusion: Triggers are bad.

Why am I discussing this? Because I have over decades been at the receiving end of unnecessary, unwarranted, hurtful, dangerous, irrational attacks by people who have been triggered. Mostly they are triggered by a word, a phrase, or a sentence and respond irrationally without hearing or reading everything which I say or write. It can be difficult to deal with. I have seen similar attacks that destroy families.

I usually recognise what is happening and avoid, evade and mollify the person and the situation. I am aware that what they do is prompted by hidden influences behind their thoughts, behaviours and actions and mostly beyond their control. I am grateful that I have so far managed not to kill anyone who has attacked me thus.

Be responsible for your triggers

I like this recent post on Vleisbroek*.

Simply put – you have to recognise your triggers and manage your reactions. Your friends might be empathetic and supportive but you must take action. Read those and other books.

Image by Armin Lotfi – unsplash

A Trigger in psychology is “…a stimulus (smell, sound, sight) that triggers feelings of trauma. Often described as PTSD. It is something that sends you back to the event of original trauma”. Herein lies a deep tragedy. A child who was repeatedly abused by an uncle who wore a certain after-shave will have those horrible memories triggered by that fragrance. The stimulus could be a sound, words or an image which stimulates anger, fear or aggression. It feels desperately out of control

Conclusion: Triggers are bad.

For academic clarity, this is what Dr Karen D Sullivan, a neuropsychologist says. ”When we experience a trigger, our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) kicks off a complex process of self-protection that readies us for three possible actions: fight, flight or freeze. Our adrenaline spikes, and stress hormones like cortisol course throughout our bodies and brain. Once these stress hormones are released, anxiety soars, and we often lose touch with our healthy coping skills and succumb to reactions like lashing out or running away”.

Take personal responsibility

Don’t expect the world to walk on eggs around you. Get help. Get well. Dr Sullivan advises 5 steps. 1) Learn your stress signature. 2) Calm the body. 3) Label emotions without judgement. 4) Do not give in to avoidance. 5) Correct your thinking about the trauma

Conclusion: Triggers are bad, but you can learn to fix them and manage them so that you can cause less harm and live a better life. I hope that you will. If you do, please share your story with us so that other readers might benefit.

More next week.

*For readers not familiar with Afrikaans. Vleisbroek (Meat pants) is used for fun simply because it rhymes with Facebook.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.

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