“Oh, that triggered me!” Does that sound along the lines of something you’ve said before? If so, you’re in the right place. I love teaching people ways to shift their philosophy when others cross potentially unknown boundaries. To start, I want to explain what a trigger is. A trigger is an old memory or event brought up in your mind through a current event that reveals unhealed trauma. When someone acts similarly, or an experience occurs that brings up feelings of fear, guilt, anger, or shame, we can go into a trauma response and act uncharacteristically to protect ourselves from that past remembered but not healed, scary event. Unfortunately, many people use these triggers to justify their destructive behaviors or not deal with their life situations. And many times, you can be entirely unaware of your triggers and where they come from until they kick in! Knowing your personality type, triggers, and how to take your next steps is incredibly important for you to be able to heal and release these emotions.
So, where to begin? The Enneagram Test is one of the best ways to learn about yourself, your emotions, and how you react. This online test is a model of the human psyche, taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types – explaining how you interpret the world and manage your emotions. It takes less than an hour and will group you into one of 9 types; the Perfectionist, the Giver, the Achiever, the Individualist, the Investigator, the Skeptic, the Enthusiast, the Challenger, and the Peacemaker. Studies show this process has been around for thousands of years, since roughly Babylonian times, mainly as a religious study but then switching over with the dawn of philosophy as a way to understand one’s mind. Your Enneagram can also help you understand why your core values and morals are what they are and how you interact with others’ morals/ values. For example, the Giver and the Investigator may process grief very differently. Additionally, the Peacemaker and the Challenger will look at an argument differently. This understanding is a HUGE stepping stone in terms of your relationships with important people in your life. If you and your partner are on opposite sides of the Enneagram, you may ideally agree or argue explosively. Still, if you both know and understand how to communicate, it may make the difference between saving your relationship or not. The same goes for your parents, children, and friends. Understanding yourself is the first step, but if you can decipher the people around you, you can begin to work on people, ideas, and communication patterns to optimize your life.
Another way to understand and process your triggers is to accept and release them. In those moments, it is crucial to know if the person in front of you is the one causing problems or if they’re revealing something to you. If it is NOT the person in front of you but simply their actions, tone of voice, cologne, whatever it may be, you must internally thank that person and ensure you don’t hold this fear, anger, or shame against them. Then your next steps are to determine the level of importance of this triggering individual. It is essential to communicate about the situation if they are a keeper – close family, friend, or partner. Carve out the time, when you are calm, to have tough conversations where you talk about your past and the reasons behind your fear. You must clearly understand the boundaries you’d like to set and the values behind them. Maybe write this all out so you can read or reference it to help keep you on track. Make sure this person understands where this communication stems from and the steps you’d like to take to heal with them. Let them know you recognize they are not doing this to you, but you need some assistance as you heal this and ask for the behavior to stop. They may not even realize what they have done or how their actions affected you! Hold lots of space for these moments of healing. After that, you must ensure they respect that boundary or value you have set for them.
Now, if you’re triggered by a stranger or someone that will not respect your past, triggers, or boundaries, then you have to make it very clear (to yourself) that they are no longer welcome in your life. This doesn’t have to be a rude or hard conversation to have. Sometimes, it isn’t even a conversation! It is simply the decision to protect your space and not engage with certain people or situations any longer.
Boundaries are hard. Learning to set and healthily hold boundaries is even more challenging (especially for the people-pleasing and fawn responders) – learn more about the fawn response HERE. But, you can do it!! Start with creating a map of your life and what you’ve been through. This action is a beautiful way to track what types of things may set off negative emotions for you and how you can avoid those moments. You cannot heal what you do not understand, so to start, every time you catch yourself in a scary moment, write down what happened and what emotion it stirred up for you. Patterns begin to evolve; over time, you will see the origins of your anger, fear, guilt, and whatever feelings you have recognized. These notes will lead you to your baseline trigger emotion, and you can begin to work and heal that specifically. Another way to ensure you’re taking the proper steps is to find an accountability partner – someone who knows you/ your story well and is on their healing journey or has already done the work. I would love to be this person for you. Let’s set up a coaching session. If you’re going to work through this on your own but need some guidance, I created Life Dream Today to walk you through this process (and others) of creating the life you have desired, where you feel safe.