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Why We Get Triggered Blog

Last week we introduced the trigger log and encouraged you to use it to monitor the emotional reactions you had throughout the day. We talked about how our emotional reactions are simply signals from our brain that our survival may be threatened. This feeling of threat stems from our need to feel safe, loved, and powerful in order to be at our best. (You can revisit our last post here.)

One of the most important takeaways was that the degree to which we feel threatened in any situation is directly related to how easily we believe we can get our needs met. For example, we may be in a situation where we have a big, unexpected expense and we aren’t currently working. It isn’t certain when we’ll have an income, so money feels scarce. Therefore, we will feel much more threatened by this expense now than if it had occurred at another time when we had a sense of financial abundance.

I use the word “abundance” here intentionally because having a sense of scarcity versus a sense of abundance about what we need to survive in this world is one of the key variables that determines your mental well-being.

We feel a sense of scarcity when we don’t feel that it is easy to get an important need met. In our Accelerated Growth Program, one of the most important processes we go through is digging down and discovering what needs we feel are easy to get met, and which ones we feel scarce about. One of the powerful things about doing this exercise in a group is that we immediately notice that different people feel “scarce” about different things. Some people feel unheard, while others feel that it’s easy to speak up when needed. Some people often feel self-doubt, while others are brimming with confidence. Some feel undeserving of love, and others have no problem asking for love when they need it.

Scarcity and Abundance

One way to discover your unmet needs is to think back to what you learned about survival as a child. While this is an in-depth process within our program, you can get a taste of it using the exercise below.

(Before you start, please note that it’s important to take good care of yourself as you are working through this and all self-discovery exercises. If you have an extremely traumatic childhood and thinking about it will cause pain, then there is no need to relive those memories. You can still get the information you need by picking memories that were not as far back in your past or not as traumatic.)

For the three following questions, try to come up with three examples of times you DID trust and three examples of times you did NOT trust. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that things were always one way or another. Even when you mostly felt unloved, there may have been a few times when you felt like you got a little bit of love – and these memories provide you with critical information to help you identify how you learned to survive.

  1. When it comes to safety, go back into your childhood, and ask yourself when you trusted that you were safe, and when you worried that you weren’t safe.
  2. When it comes to love, go back into your childhood, and ask yourself when you trusted that you belonged and when you were worried that you might be rejected.
  3. When it comes to empowerment, go back to when you were young, and ask yourself when you trusted that you had a voice and could make your own choices, and when you felt shut down or controlled.

Notice what patterns emerge. It can be helpful to journal about your exercise results and/or save your observations in a self-development notebook. If you have any questions or would like to share your insights, feel free to send me an e-mail – I’d love to hear!

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