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Today's Family Magazine

Why your triggers are a gift

By Rebecca Fellenbaum

You know when you are triggered. That slow creep of tension cloaks your body, grabs at your insides, and whoosh, sends that rage out sideways.  Maybe you're a yeller or a stomp-out-of-the-roomer.  You've heard about deep breathing, self-care, asking for help, and other beautiful strategies for preventing and managing triggers.  Once the trigger state is over, you may call a friend to vent or do some online shopping to calm down. 

What if, in addition to those tools to manage the moment, you also looked at your triggers as a gift?  Triggers are unconscious beliefs that are served up on a silver platter for you to get to know and examine.  They often run our lives without our awareness.  When we experience triggers, we have an opportunity to heal them. 

Triggers are a doorway into hidden beliefs we have about ourselves.  When we get triggered by our kids’ tantrums, our partner leaving the dishes on the side of the sink, or our boss's email with the subject line, “Can we talk?,” we get upset.  We may blame or get angry at the perpetrator or ourselves.  We may vent to a friend and feel validated when they agree that we don’t deserve to be treated that way.  But that feeling of validation is just a bandage on the deep-seated root cause of the trigger. 

This is important because our triggers run our lives and we don’t even know it.  We see the world through our own beliefs, and many of those beliefs are unconscious.  We project our unconscious beliefs onto others.  What does this look like?  If you have an unconscious belief that you are not important, your partner leaving their dishes next to the sink reminds you that they don’t think you’re important.  You imagine them thinking, oh she’ll put them in the dishwasher, which leaves you feeling worthless. 

The belief of not being important is OURS and this trigger brings it to the surface for us to examine.  If we didn’t have that belief, that action might not have triggered us. 

When you feel that trigger — the left dishes, the screaming child, or whatever is triggering you — ask yourself what this trigger could reveal.  Feel the emotion that comes with the trigger.  It often feels like anger, but ask yourself, what is underneath this anger?  Keep digging until you feel the root emotion.  This may look like going from angry, to frustrated, to annoyed, to alone, to feeling undervalued to feeling unimportant.  Feel the root emotion. Then ask yourself, is there truth to this? In this case, am I unimportant today?  Then ask yourself, have you felt unimportant before?  Sit quietly and ask yourself, what part of you feels unimportant?  Ask yourself, what does this part of me want me to know?

When we communicate with the part of us that was triggered, we bring it into consciousness and it may morph or change.  One way we update these upset parts is to let it know who we are today.  Speaking aloud or in our mind, we dialogue with ourselves and let these upset parts know our current age, a bit about our life, and even what day and year it is.  The triggered part is often very young and needs to be re-educated.  These parts are energy and energy can transform.  This can happen very quickly.  Doing this work can go a long way to starting to live in a healthier, more conscious way and to be less triggered by events in our lives.

Rebecca Fellenbaum is a certified life coach, blogger, and Cleveland area mom who helps parents enjoy this time in their lives.  You can find her at