Do you have a particular word or group of words that trigger a negative emotional response when someone says them to you?
Think of your trigger words as a way people ‘push your buttons’.
How we react to our trigger words can have a huge impact on our relationships and on how we feel about ourselves.
Let’s look at some of the ways we can get on top of our trigger words so that they don’t get on top of us.
For the purpose of this particular post, we’ll be looking at general words and conversations – not swearing during an argument or horrible things like racial slurs.
So let’s get started…
Know your trigger words
If you know your triggers going in, it’s going to be easier to keep a lid on things when someone comes along pushing your buttons and triggering all your triggers!
Our triggers can often be single words or phrases.
Words to watch out for might be something like this – Lazy, fat, stupid, selfish, dumb, not good enough, you can do better, I told you so, I knew you would screw it up or I’m disappointed in you.
Obviously these are just a few. It goes without saying, our trigger words cover a pretty diverse range.
More than likely once you give this a bit of thought, you’ll know without too much digging (don’t be surprised if an example springs to mind straight away!) what your trigger words are.
Know how certain trigger words make you feel
It’s one thing to know your trigger words but you also need to fully understand how they make you feel.
It’s also helps to know why they make you feel the way they do. More on this later…
If we know our trigger words and why they upset us in the first please, we can bounce back a lot easier. If we have no idea what triggers negative emotions, it’s going to be harder dealing with feelings when we don’t understand where they are coming from.
Have you ever had that feeling of being angry or sad but not fully understanding why?
You need to be aware of how your trigger words make you feel, so that you can get a handle on them.
Pick one trigger word for this exercise. Now think about how it makes you feel when a person directs those words towards you.
Do you feel sad, hurt, angry, devastated, or annoyed? Feel free to pick your own word.
Then ask yourself why it makes you feel that way?
Be aware that some trigger words can be time machines
Some trigger words can be time machines (and not in a cool sci-fi adventure way).
Triggers words can send us hurtling back in time. Trigger words can send us back to moments in our past that were hurtful and upsetting, dragging out old insecurities, just for good measure.
Suddenly we’re twelve years old again, reliving something we thought we had long forgotten. Even worse, trigger words can bring up memories and feelings we thought we had closure on.
This is one of the reasons it’s vitally important to know how to effectively deal with our trigger words, so we are not dwelling (or wallowing) in the past for too long.
When trigger words send us back in time, it’s important to get ourselves back in the moment to deal with our current feelings, instead of dwelling on our old ones.
Know your emotional personality
I’m an emotional person. I can at times be a little over-sensitive.
I’m not apologizing for that or saying that it’s a bad thing. Quite the opposite actually, it makes me who I am and that’s a good thing!
I know certain things upset me.
Let me step away from words just for the moment to give you an example. I know I can be very distressed by certain images, for instance animals being hurt or terrible things happening to women and children. Because of this, I censor what I expose myself to. I won’t watch certain movies or read certain websites because I know they will upset me.
This isn’t about being ignorant and trying to ignore what is happening in the world. I know that once I see something, it can’t be unseen. A violent part of a movie might be watched by someone else and forgotten minutes later, but for me I keep the picture in my mind (and sometimes it stays there for a long time unless I purposely work to get rid of it).
In other words, I don’t go seeking out triggers.
The same can be said for people who instigate triggers.
Spending your time with people who share your values and beliefs (or at least some of them) will mean a lot less button pushing going on. This might influence who your friends are, where you work, how close you are to your family and how much time you spend with them (not to mention what you talk about), who you date and lots of other stuff.
The more you are in tune with who you are, the less people can push your buttons.
Understand it might be about who is saying the words
Our reaction and responses to trigger words can be all about who is doing the button pushing.
A work colleague might use a trigger word and it just rolls off our back, barely affecting us at all.
Someone we love (a parent for example) says the same thing and we feel hurt and upset.
Often certain people represent a particular trigger word.
Without realizing, we attach the wording to the person. If you have ever heard a person say something like – Dad always told me I was such and such – you can guarantee there is a trigger word in there somewhere.
Understand that the person saying the words might have no idea they upset you
Whilst we can sometimes feel hurt by someone using a trigger word, it’s important to point out that the person on the sending end may have no idea whatsoever that it upsets you.
I know that seems hard to believe, particularly when we’re feeling vulnerable and we’re convinced that the person said whatever it is they said to hurt us.
Try to let go of the idea that they are doing it to hurt you. In a lot of cases, people are completely unaware of the repercussions of their words.
Tell the person how you feel
In line with the previous point, people may not be aware that they are hurting your feelings – so it’s time to tell them how you feel.
It’s time to have a conversation.
It’s important that this is a civil conversation and NOT a shouting match, because no good ever comes out of those!
If you can’t get your point across without getting upset in that particular moment, then calm down and wait.
This is where you need to tell the other person in a calm, confident manner that it upsets you when they say such and such. You could mention how it makes you feel but most importantly ask them to stop. Again this should be done in a calm, polite manner. Don’t drag this process out for too long either. Sometimes going into too much detail makes things worse, because when we are upset we bring up old hurts and grievances that get us off our main topic (and usually just cause more trouble).
Ask yourself ‘so?’
Say someone you love calls you selfish.
You have no idea why they would say that and you don’t think it was deserved and yes selfish, just happens to be one of your trigger words.
Here’s a question for you – So what?
So what if they think you are selfish?
All it could mean is that you might not have done something the other person expected of you. You may not have met their expectations or simply done something in line with your values instead of theirs.
We need to stop thinking of trigger words as FACT.
Having someone tell you that you are selfish – doesn’t actually mean that you are!
If you have done nothing wrong, then it’s their issue to work through and not yours.
People are entitled to think what they like (let’s face it, they will anyway) and you are entitled not to take their opinion on board.
Be responsible for your feelings and let people deal with their own, which leads into my next point.
Stop pushing your own buttons
The truth about our emotional triggers is that sometimes they hit us hard because they are the same words we are saying to ourselves.
If we are already feeling vulnerable or insecure, trigger words feel like an extra kick when we’re down. If you are already feeling disappointed in yourself and someone tells you what a disappointment you are, it might send you into emotional overdrive.
Make sure you are not calling yourself your own trigger words.
This one is a game-changer. It’s vitally important. If you stop calling yourself names and using your own trigger words against you, when someone else says the same thing it won’t have the same effect.
Know your own worth
This is the grand-daddy of them all.
If you feel strong within yourself, accept and love yourself for who you are and know your own worth, trigger words won’t have a big effect on you. Even if trigger words do affect you, you’ll be able to bounce back quickly.
When you validate yourself from within, you are not at the mercy of every criticism from an outside source.
Remove the trigger
How do we go about this exactly? We change our reaction to the trigger. Change your emotional reaction to something and it significantly loses it power. When you lessen your emotional reaction you no longer have a trigger.
We do that by knowing our own worth, not taking on everyone else’s opinions and being responsible for our own feelings and emotions.
We remove triggers by believing in ourselves.
To get off the trigger roller coaster, get honest and about your triggers then focus on changing your reaction to them.
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