Ep #22: Handling Triggers | Becoming You Again Podcast
Triggers after divorce are a common occurrence and yet they usually show up in those unexpected, inconvenient moments. The hard part is when you do experience a trigger it usually means your whole day is ruined because of the emotional toll you experience. The sadness, anxiety, anger or other negative emotion you're feeling doesn't just go away. It sticks with you feeling heavy, overwhelming and leaving you feeling debilitated.
Listen in as I teach you some simple ways to handle the triggers when they pop into your life so you don't go into the emotional death spiral ruining your day. Instead, you'll know what to do when a trigger shows up and how to neutralize it before it becomes a problem.
What you'll learn from this episode:
Understanding why you feel triggered.
Separating the facts from the story.
The fundamental two step process to living a trigger-free life.
List to the full episode:
If you find yourself spending the entire day crying because of something you saw or heard; if you end up spinning in anger spiked with anxiety about the future after an interaction with your ex; if you notice that more and more things are triggering you, then you need to come work with me one-on-one. Living your life in fear of triggers and not knowing what to do when they show up is no way to live. I'll teach you step by step how to overcome this and live a better, happier, trigger-free life. Schedule your free consult by clicking here and let's get you started on the trigger-free path today.
Featured on this episode:
Interested in the Divorce Betrayal Transformation? Learn more here.
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Want to know first hand how Karin can help you with your specific problems and create an even better life than when you were married? Click here to schedule a free consult.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome back to Becoming You Again. I’m your host Karin Nelson. I’m a certified divorce confidence coach and this is the podcast where I teach you how to reconnect with yourself, create emotional resiliency and live a truly independent life, so you can have an even better life than when you were married.
Hi my friends. If you are new to the podcast, welcome. I’m so glad that you’re here, and if you’ve been listening for a while – hello, I’m again glad that you’re back and enjoying what you’re learning on the podcast. For those of you who are new let me just do a quick intro of myself if you’re starting from today’s episode and haven’t gone back to listen from the beginning. I’m Karin Nelson. I’m a divorce confidence coach. I have two amazing kids, a 20-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son. I have an amazing boyfriend who has two kids who I’ve been with for 4 years now. I got divorced after 20 years of marriage and after healing from my divorce and really learning to love myself and feel confident in this new life I found myself in, I knew that I wanted to help other women be able to do the same and so that’s what I do. That’s why I started this podcast – to help all of you as you transition from married life to divorced life.
Alright so now onto today’s topic. Today I’m going to be taking about handling triggers. I want to just mention that triggers can be a very touchy, delicate subject. I am going to be teaching you some concepts that can help you when it comes to handling these triggers but if you are dealing with very traumatic past experiences like physical or sexual abuse or any other forms of deep trauma please know that it is good and important that you seek guidance with a therapist to help guide you through this trauma and the triggers that are coming up for you.
But I also want to add that the concepts I’m teaching you can work hand in hand with therapy as well. And for those of you who don’t have the deep seated trauma or if you’ve already been through the trauma therapy that you need and are still finding yourself in a place where you’re emotionally doing okay but you notice certain things coming up that are triggering you, then this episode will be able to help you handle those triggers.
What I’m talking about today in terms of triggers is when you see something or hear something or think something and then you have a strong emotional reaction usually in the form of a negative emotion. This is how most of would define a trigger, right?
So I want to kind of break down what’s really going on here so that you can better understand why you’re feeling triggered as often as you are after divorce, and then I’m going to give you some ways that you can better handle it when triggers show up which for most of us is in the unexpected, right. My hope is that with this information you’ll be able to live your life with more confidence that you won’t be sent down an emotional death spiral when a trigger shows up, and that you’ll know you can handle the negative emotion that shows up in your life.
A lot of us live our lives in fear of being triggered and that’s just not a great way to live, right? So I’m going to help you understand why it’s happening and what you can do to step out of the fear and really allow yourself to live your life with confidence even when a negative emotion shows up.
I want to use this example. Let’s say it’s a few months after your divorce is final and you open up FB on your phone and the first thing that pops up is a FB memory from 6 years ago and there are all of these pictures and posts and comments from an anniversary trip you took with your ex. And everything is happy. And everything was different at that time. And you see these pictures and you feel triggered and you feel a strong emotional response of sadness and maybe regret or angry or hatred even. And then you feel like your day is just ruined because now you feel this way and your head is spinning in the memories and you’re asking why did this have to happen and you just really can’t pull yourself out of that emotional heaviness of sadness and so you feel like your day is completely ruined. And you blame it all on the triggers. We all do this.
Now I want you to also remember that this is just one example that I am using of a trigger happening. But this could happen in so many different ways – it could be something your ex says to you, it could be him “pushing your buttons”, it could be a place you go to or a song that you hear or even a tone of voice that your ex uses when you’re speaking with him, or just seeing something or a memory pops into your head. It could be so many different things that cause the trigger, but I’m going to use this example that I just gave about the picture on Facebook and then you can apply what I talk about an teaching you today for whatever specific situation you have.
So let me break down what’s really happening in very factual terms so that you can see the facts of the situation and how the trigger is showing up. In this example that I gave the facts are you open FB and see some pictures. Those are the facts. I think it’s really important that you understand the difference between facts and thoughts when it comes to triggers because if we’re talking about straight facts, those facts are pretty basic. There is no real emotion behind any of it. It’s boring. It’s even bland. You opened up Facebook and soft pictures. Okay. Boring. Move on. Next. So I want you to understand that it’s not the pictures that are actually causing you to feel a negative emotional response. It is your brain giving you the meaning of a happier time. I like that is no longer a part of you. A meaning of loss. It’s like that meaning acts as the actual trigger to evoke the strong negative emotional response.
Like I want you to picture an actual gun and the trigger of that gun being polled. Before the trigger is being pulled nothing is really happening with the gun, right? It’s boring. It’s neutral. It’s just there. But once the trigger is pulled there is a response that happens in the mechanism of the gun that creates the response of a bullet being pushed out of the barrel of the gun. That’s what’s happening in your brain when you are being triggered. You’re having thoughts, or you’re telling yourself a story or giving the facts meaning in some way and that is acting as trigger, right? It’s like those thoughts are the trigger that has now been pulled and sets the mechanism of the emotional response that is happening in your body.
So to go back to the example, you see the pictures, you have the thought trigger that goes off in your head where all of the thoughts are swirling around and you immediately feel the negative emotional response in your body. And sometimes when we haven’t learned how to process through our emotions or we haven’t learned to manage our minds then we continue to trigger ourselves with more stories, and more memories, and more thoughts that trigger us and build up the heavy negative emotional response inside of us leaving us having a bad day – feeling like we can’t handle the emotions. Feeling terrible and having and not really knowing how to step out of the cycle.
But now that we know what is really happening when we are triggered; breaking it down to our brain telling us a story or giving us meaning to something and then we feel the negative feeling because of that story. Now we can work on being able to better handle the triggers when they show up.
The first step is your own awareness of what’s really going on. Knowing and owning that it’s not actually the pictures popping up on FB that is causing your pain. And it’s not actually your ex saying words to you, or him pushing your buttons, or his tone of voice or a song you heard on the radio. Those things aren’t making you feel sad. They aren’t making you feel angry, or anxious, or frustrated or whatever the negative emotion is that you are feeling in your body and that it’s actually the meaning that you’re giving to those things that is creating what you’re feeling when you feel triggered.
This awareness is a really important first step because without it, you’ll continue to put the cause of how you feel on things outside of you and when you do that it means you need those things to change or to stop or to be different so that you can stop being triggered – so that you can stop feeling terrible – so that you can finally feel better. And it’s just not true. NONE of that is true. You can stop or lessen the impact of the triggers and your negative emotional response if you want to. I want you to hear me clearly when I say this. When you do this. When you recognize the awareness that puts all of the power of living your life the way you want to back in your hands. And that is a beautiful, powerful place to be. So awareness that it’s your own brain acting as the trigger is step one.
Step two is deciding what meaning you’re going to give to the certain situations. Now this takes practice. It’s not going to happen overnight most times. There are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the next time a “trigger” shows up.
The first thing you can do is decide beforehand what meaning you’re going to give it, if and when this happens again. And most of the time it probably will happen again. So this is an act of being willing to manage your mind. It means you’re going to be willing to redirect your brain in moments so that the emotional response isn’t as heavy or as strong. And in most cases is even a completely different emotional response. Or a neutral emotional response. Something that is more just calm, not triggering.
You decide beforehand by writing out some possible choices and practice thinking and saying those thoughts. Think of possible choices that may help you redirect your brain to focus on a new meaning.
So let us go back to our example. We open up Facebook. We see some pictures. We have this trigger go off in our head of all of the memories and all of the good times and all of the things that we lost and immediately if you can just be aware, like okay this is my brain creating this sadness in my body and you can change the meaning right there.
Some possible options might be: This is no big deal. It’s okay that I’m thinking and feeling this way. Or with that particular specific example that I gave you could decide I’m going to treasure this memory as beautiful and good.
There’s so many different options of different meanings that you could give these things when they show up in your life and it really is dependent on you and that is beauty of this is you get to decide for yourself what meaning you’re going to intentionally choose for the next time this might happen in your life.
For me, sometimes the easiest place to start is to tell myself, I’m feeling this anxiety because of sentences in my brain. That immediately takes my mind off of the story my that brain wants me to spin in and all those memories and all of the things that are going down the rabbit hole of that story that is happening. That immediately also lessens the emotional response that I’m having. And again it puts me back in control of my own mental and emotional life in those moments where it can be really easy to feel very out of control.
So I really want you to take this into your own hands and take back control over your own emotional and mental life in this way when it comes to triggers. Your homework, yes I’m giving you homework. If don’t like homework and you don’t want to think about it in that way then just think about it as an exercise that you can do on your own. But it is to write down 5 possible different thoughts that you can intentionally think when triggers are going to show up in your life, whatever situation it is. Remember it is not the situation that is causing you to feel that way. It‘s whatever is happening in your head. It’s the meaning that you are giving it. So what could you think instead intentionally and decide and then start becoming aware of your thoughts when these situations come up and practicing these new intentional thoughts. These new intentional stories that you are going to tell yourself so that you can lessen the emotional toll you feel when the trigger happening in your brain.
I hope this helps when it comes to handling triggers moving forward. I promise you that if this is something that you want to go deeper on because of course this is just a very surface level handling of triggers. Right? We can go deeper with this work and it takes practice and time and often times we just need someone outside of us who can hold of the mirror and say this is what is happening and how do you want to handle it moving forward and then coming up with ideas and practicing and implementing as you move forward. That is what is so great about having a coach is you can have the person right there to hold your hand and walk you through each time the trigger shows up so that you know how to handle it next time and get better and better and better with it. So if that is something that you want to work through, of course set up your free consult with me. Click the link in the description and let’s get to work on this. I promise you that if you just do what I told you and what I have taught you in this podcast episode you will change your emotional response. You will be able to show up differently when triggers happen in your life. But if you want to go deeper and you really want to take this to the next level, coaching is the way to do it.
Alright my friends that is it for today and I will be back next week.
If you like what you heard on today’s podcast and you want to know more about working 1:1 with me, you can go to www.karinnelsoncoaching.com and schedule your free consult to find out more. That’s www dot Karin nelson coaching dot com.
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