There is nothing more infuriating than the feeling that someone is deliberately trying to ruin your day by saying or doing something to trigger you on purpose. Life is hard enough right?!
Maybe you were even in a good mood (for a change) before your friend/coworker/partner decided to bring up an issue that you deliberately asked them to avoid! It seems clear that they are purposely trying to ruin your day!
If you’re feeling triggered and want to reign your emotions back in, here are five things to keep in mind.
- Their behavior is about them, not about you. People have their own needs and insecurities that go into their behavior. They may be trying to trigger you on purpose, but it’s not really about you. We are all responsible for how we act, and a person treating you a particular way is their choice. You didn’t cause it or make it happen. When you really internalize that their behavior is not about you but about the person attacking you, you will not feel so personally assaulted.
- That fact that you got triggered is about you! There’s a reason that the actions or words of the other person bother you so much and it has to do with the person you are. It has to do with your history and past relationships.
When you feel triggered by someone else, it is a great opportunity to ask yourself an important question: “What is familiar about the feeling that I’m having in this situation?”
Your brain is always reflecting on your past experiences and searching for common data. When your present experiences match some pain from the past, your mind will resonate with the emotional experience and intensify your present emotional pain. In this way, a trigger can serve as an opportunity to resolve earlier trauma.
- Practice self-compassion. Getting triggered by another person can be painful, uncomfortable and overwhelming. You didn’t ask for it, but here you are dealing with an intense, uncomfortable feeling that showed up unannounced. This is your chance to practice self love in the form of self-compassion.
In this context, self-compassion is an attitude that relates to how you speak to yourself in your own head. Think of someone who can act as a model of self-compassion for you. Imagine a person who loves you; someone you trust and would believe what they say. Then, picture that they are with you and you are telling them what you are experiencing right now. Picture how this person gazes at you with compassion and understanding as you share your story. Visualize them holding you and rubbing your back. Imagine the words that they might say to you in those moments.
Even this visualization can bring you relief as some of the tension relaxes in your body. Congratulations! Exercises like this one are what it takes to develop your own authentic voice of self-compassion.
- Choose whether or not to share your feelings with the person who triggered you. Ideally, we would live in a world where everyone felt safe sharing their pain, joys and vulnerabilities with others. In this perfect world, you would feel safe to share all your hopes and dreams with everyone in your life.
Spoiler alert, we don’t live in that perfect world. There may be people who trigger you deliberately to cause you pain. Most people are not like this, but if you are in a relationship with someone who hurts you on purpose, you have a few choices in front of you. You can encourage them to get help. Sometimes working with a professional can help a person redirect their emotions such that they stop taking their feelings out on others.
But,if they are not willing to do this, you may need to consider other alternatives ranging from limiting your relationship with them, to cutting them out of your life entirely.
- The good news is that most people in your life are willing and interested to hear your feelings and communicate about your needs. The tricky part happens when the responsibility question is raised. Imagine having a conversation with a friend or loved one about a trigger, and someone says, “whose fault is it that you got triggered?” This is not always easy to clarify. Sometimes you may not agree on everything and that can be OK.
When communicating about sensitive topics, one expert tip is to try your best to use “non violent communication”. This is a technique developed by clinical psychologist Marshall Rosenberg to support communication in which both sides are heard without blaming or shaming the other.
For example, instead of saying, “you triggered me” you might say, “when you said…, I felt triggered.”
Do you see the difference? It is subtle, but it can make a big difference helping to avoid putting the other person on the defensive. People are much more open to listening if they are not afraid that they will be gaslit.
The reality is that it can be difficult to take care of yourself when you believe that someone is triggering you on purpose. Depending on how sensitive you are, it can ruin your day or week. However, there are things that you can do to help yourself deal with your intense emotions and protect yourself from getting hurt in the future.
When you keep in mind that people live from their own perspectives and that their hurtful behavior is about them not you, it can take the sting out of their comments. You can also use the hurt of being triggered as an opportunity to heal your own past hurt and trauma. You will have the opportunity to access self love and compassion in this process.
If you find yourself stuck and frequently asking yourself, “how do I take care of myself when I am being triggered on purpose” you may find it helpful to seek out some therapy. I specialize in helping people who experience frequent triggering in relationships with loved ones, friends and coworkers. I can help you learn to support your own emotional needs as well as communicating your needs effectively to others. To learn more about how I can help you, check out my website schorcounseling.com.