Emotional Triggers

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An emotional trigger is anything that arouses intense emotions. Internal thoughts and feelings or external events, words and objects may arouse emotions. Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter wrote that “a trigger is any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions” (2015).

Our biological construction evolved to take in information from environments and react. This is a survival mechanism. All living things attune to environmental elements and react to absorb nutrients or protect against dangers.

Key Definition

Emotional Triggers are anything from our inner environment or outer environment that elicit an emotional response. A feeling, a smell, a person all can set in motion a reaction that knocks us off a planned course.

Goals and Triggers

Our emotionally significant triggers interfere with goals. We make plans, however, an event strikes our emotional being, knocking us off a planned course. Goldsmith and Reiter remarked that “what makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course” (2015, kindle location 433). A tool box of emotional regulation techniques will help us reign in unruly emotions that interfere with successful goal attainment. We can identify a trigger, understand the inappropriateness of our arousal, soothe the reaction, and remain steady in our purpose.

This process of regulation helps us maintain emotional stability.

Emotional Triggers and Trauma

Typically, we associate emotional triggers with past trauma or emotionally significant events. Basically, events in the present cause emotional arousal associated with trauma and emotionally significant events stored in memory. These arousals often are not appropriate for the current situation but match the traumatic event from our past. Eckart refers to these emotionally sensitive areas as a pain body. Basically, a sore spot that hurts when poked, reminding of a hurtful past.

Regulating inappropriate emotional reactions begins with recognizing our own personal list of emotional triggers.

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Goldsmith, Marshall; Reiter, Mark (2015). Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be

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