Feeling triggered in your relationship? Here are 5 steps to deal with it
Check out five useful steps to help you manage and overcome those emotional triggers, fostering greater understanding and stability in your relationship.
In the complex dynamics of human relationships, it's common for people to be upset by certain statements, actions or behaviours of their loved ones. Strong emotions can be triggered by these triggers, which often arise from unpleasant memories, insecurities or unfulfilled expectations. It's important to understand that being triggered doesn't have to be a permanent state; rather, it can serve as a springboard to greater self-awareness and stronger relationships.
"When we are triggered, we are experiencing an involuntary response to a past experience in the present moment. We feel big bursts of emotion (usually anger, stress, or overwhelm) that don't seemingly fit the present experience. It's normal to experience triggers even if you feel you have healed and have come to terms with your past," says Dr. Efi, clinical psychologist and Lindsay O’Brien, relationship coach in their recent Instagram post. They further shared five useful steps that can help you deal with triggers in a relationship. (Also read: Reasons why we feel triggered in a relationship )
Steps to deal with triggers in relationships
To stop being emotionally reactive, it is important to practice pausing for a moment before you react. Do this when you feel an intense emotional sensation - this is your warning sign.
2. Calm your nervous system
Release those feelings by having a good cry, taking deep breaths, noticing the sensations in your body and getting curious about them. Here's a technique that you can practice to regulate your nervous system when dealing with triggers. Start by noticing where this feeling is in your body. Most people feel it in the chest. You can also close your eyes to help you focus. Now place your hand where the feeling is and just allow it to be there. You don't have to like it or want it, just allow it. Allow your breath to flow into and around it as if you were opening the space around it. Breathe into the feeling and send some warm loving kindness into that area. Not to get rid of the feeling, just to open up around it.
3. Break down what happened
Talk yourself through the facts of what happened step by step. For example, "I said this, then he said that, then I responded like this etc.."
4. Reflect on how you interpreted what happened
What are the stories you're telling yourself about your partner? What assumptions did you make? Write these down on a paper.
5. Talk to your partner about your assumptions
Talk to your partner about the assumptions you have made and give them a chance to clarify things. Let them reassure you because that is where the healing in these conflicts happens. This is also how you create intimacy in a relationship: you share what you think, you share what you feel and you give your partner the opportunity to clarify things, and this brings you closer.
"Behind each one were many triggered moments and uncomfortable conversations! Sometimes those triggers hit you like a ton of bricks, like when you feel criticized, see your partner express anger, witness their distress, or perceive you’re being pressured. Being triggered means you’re experiencing the past in the present, with intense emotion. You may have found a great partner with shared values, but those triggers make you feel like want to run away and give up on love completely. It feels like you never made any progress at all on your healing journey from past relationships that perhaps were toxic in some way. But experiencing triggers is normal and natural because we all have a past. The good news is there are ways to manage your emotional triggers, and they are opportunities to understand each other better and connect more deeply. That’s how healthy relationships are formed," concluded Dr. Efi and Lindsay O’Brien.