By: Megan Montague LMFT
“I’m so triggered!” has become a common expression these days, but what does it mean actually to be triggered? Being triggered essentially means that something in the present brings up similar feelings about something that’s happened in the past. How do you know when you’ve been triggered? A good indicator of being triggered is when your response to something feels larger or more intense than what is happening. An excellent example of this can be seen in the case of a woman who becomes instantly furious when she’s trying to tell her significant other about her day and feels that she isn’t being listened to. With some time and reflection, the woman realizes that she got so upset with her significant other that she rarely felt heard as a child. This interaction brought up feelings of anger towards her parents for not listening to her in the past.
Every person alive has triggers which are simply indicators of something from the past that need a little time and attention to be healed. Often, when we’re triggered, we find ourselves mainly overreacting to situations that can take a toll on our relationships and not feel good ourselves while we’re in it. So what do you do if you think you’re being triggered? The first thing to do is treat yourself with compassion and not judge yourself for feelings. Next, take some time to reflect on how you’re feeling and ask yourself, “Does what I’m feeling now remind me of anything from my past?“ We can often figure out these things on our own, and sometimes we need a bit of help from a therapist or someone we trust. With a little bit of time and attention, we can come to identify and understand our triggers better, causing them to be far less scary and uncomfortable.