Why do I feel emotionally triggered so often ?

Why do I feel emotionally triggered so often ?

Triggers: Short circuit in the mind

You are passing by on a street on a lazy afternoon, singing happily to yourself, when you smell the aroma of freshly baked cookies. This smell of roasted chocolate, cashew, and something warm that you cannot pin down make you feel cozy. You absorb this delicious medley and suddenly there is a way of Deep and undefinable sadness that washes over you.

You go to the mall with your spouse. As always, he overspends and you tell him that there is no need to buy so much.  But he doesn’t listen. As you leave, the spouse tries to tell you, as to how you are always dictating him. You become upset and close to tears. When did the simple suggestion turn into an angry tirade?

Running through the diverse experiences, but having the same emotions, as if you were defending yourself against some sharp onslaught of emotions.

The emotions that hijack your senses and moods are called triggers.  Something occurs, you react, and then you automatically make-up reason to justify your reaction.

Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, circumstances, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessively emotional reaction within us. It is a nice topic that makes us feel uncomfortable. They reveal to us, those aspects in our life which we might be frustrated and unsatisfied with. Our emotional problems are closely linked to how we think about ourselves, others, and the world and how we act therefore.  Our emotional triggers may be reminders of our past wounds that haven’t healed.  They maybe threads of past stories or relationships that are still left hanging.  They make us feel stuck, psychologically threatened, and often act in dysfunctional behavior patterns. These are like our hot buttons and we often display a “fight or flight” reaction to these threats. Examples like, feeling insulted at small incidents a sudden gush of anger and irritation, having headaches often.

 Kind of triggers

Triggers can take many forms. They may be a physical location, for instance, a place, which evokes strong feelings that are tied to an incident. A person could also be triggered, by internal processes such as stress. Sometimes triggers are predictable and sometimes they are subtle, such as repulsion to a certain perfume. But most times we are cognitively not aware, that is outbursts are related to a particularly unpleasant memory. 

 More often than not, the brunt is borne by people, who have no idea of the original trigger.   The entire build-up from being triggered to acting out occurs very swiftly. Many times it leaves us wondering as to why did we overreact?

 Why do we get triggered?

 How does an incident, which happened years ago carry a charge so much time later? A charge which we don’t even seem to be aware of? What causes people to react so differently, to the same situation? There are several reasons:

 Contradictory beliefs and values

 When we align ourselves, to a certain way of thinking, we find it difficult to be tolerant of others’ beliefs. That’s because we feel a certain comfort in our mental models. When they are challenged, we feel attacked and vulnerable. We feel somebody’s questioning our identity. 

 Previous trauma

When you have experienced any kind of trauma, and haven’t integrated it into your system, a residual charge of that event remains in our body. We may have suppressed strong feelings, which arose that time and his feelings remain locked in our system, and come out at unexpected moments. When we hear, touch, or smell something, that reminds us of that experience, strong reaction tumbles out.  For example, an adult who never fit in as a kid may feel triggered, when seeing groups of people, having fun.

 Safeguarding the ego

The ego is an inherent self-build proof of Identity, that we carry around like a badge of honor. Depending on how much we identify with it, we get triggered, when it is hurt or challenged by others. As a result, we argue, sabotage, belittle, backstab, insult, and even assault people who pose a threat to its survival.

 Suppressing feelings

If we suppress our original feelings, because of any fear, they’re likely to burst out unwittingly at the push of any unconscious button.  We sometimes suppress our feelings, because they are very painful. For example, if I am angry with my spouse, I might pretend that things aren’t really so bad and suppress my feelings.  So I might withdraw physically or emotionally from the situation. But feelings can’t be bottled up for long. I will always have a tendency to overreact at my spouse in other situations.

 Perceived inadequacy

Triggers are often linked, to a perceived inadequacy about oneself. For example, being bullied in childhood or some kind of unease with the physical attributes, for which I have been judged. These situations can act as triggers, at a later stage because they make me feel insecure. This can lead to over reaction in certain situations. 

What triggers reveal?

Our triggers are indicators to our pain body,  the hurt in a child that we continue to carry, within ourselves, even after growing up. We often carry an unhealed negative belief, about ourselves that is triggered by external stimuli. Once we get to the origin of this belief, we can overcome our triggers. But how do we get to these deep layers inside us to excavate the reasons for our hot buttons and triggers?

Most of our emotional triggers, come from perfectionism. We feel ashamed to admit, that we are angry because a colleague got a promotion , or we feel jealous on the success of a best friend , while we are still struggling with being accepted. 

Embrace vulnerability

While trying to understand, which is the topic, that brings unpleasant feelings in us, we should put shame aside. We should try to ask what is it about this person’s experience that makes me so angry? If we allow ourselves to ask this, we begin to spot our emotional triggers, so we can see them and understand them. 

Discipline self-work

Engaging in introspection, being aware of our feelings, noticing our actions, looking within ourselves for answers rather than blaming external factors is the key to disarming the triggers.

Identifying triggers

Identifying your triggers is the first crucial step, in bringing them to the forefront. They can be dissolved through recognition and acceptance. What about a certain topic always raises your hackles, keeps you on the edge, and leaves you bristling for some time? Acknowledging and accepting our feelings, no matter how negative and developing the capacity to tolerate intense emotions is important. Some of the common things are Feeling

  1. Humiliate
  2. Rejected
  3. Invalidated
  4. Helpless
  5. Small
  6. Unloved

Understanding our own triggers makes us more aware of our mental health. When we are more aware we begin to take responsibility for the way we manage our emotions and the quality of life. We are not at the mercy of emotions and we can process them appropriately.

Pay attention to your body reactions

To understand whether we are feeling triggered, the best place to look for is in a body. Common symptoms of being triggered by emotions are trembling, a racing heart, choking or trouble to breathe, hot flashes, dizziness, nausea, chest discomfort, a feeling of detachment, sweating followed by a full-blown attack of intense emotions such as hatred, disgust, anger, fear, Terror, grief resulting in a self-protective behavior such as shouting arguing, insulting, hiding, crying or an emotional outburst.

Notice any tensing of muscles, fingers, or increased heart rate. Does your breathing accelerate? Does your face turn hot? Physical ailments like acidity and skin allergies I usually connected to fear and anger. 

Notice your thoughts

Look for your thoughts with extreme viewpoints and try to understand the story behind these beliefs, such as extremely nice/evil or bad/good. What triggered the emotion? Sometimes you will discover a single object, word, the smell that can trigger you. At other times, certain beliefs, viewpoints or the environment can trigger you . Writing down the struggles will help you to clear them in your mind so that you remain aware of them in the future. 

How to handle triggers?

Once you are able to identify your hot buttons, a few exercises can help you in dissipating the impact of triggers. A combination of regular meditation nature walks, healing, and alternative therapies can help you in overcoming these. Once you have identified your patterns, here are some techniques that can help you in overcoming the triggers.


Being emotionally triggered always goes back, to not having one or more of one’s deep needs or desire’s fulfilled. It could also be a negative or painful experience in the past. However, we should understand that it’s not the past event that causes us misery, but what we say to ourselves because of past events, which causes the triggers.


Remove your attention from the person or situation and focus on your breath. It will help settle you and view your reaction in a detached manner as is viewing yourself from afar. If your attention goes to the person, try to bring your focus back to your breath.


Excuse yourself temporarily from the situation by moving away and return when you are feeling more centered and calm. Accept your feelings but don’t act. Trying to control your feelings, will only enhance the triggers, however, you can delay your emotions. If you feeling angry at someone, instead of exploding on them, hold those feelings aside and unleash later in a much healthy way. You might choose to express this anger by screaming in your room or punching a pillow or throwing darts. There is a fine line between consciously delaying your emotions and unconsciously suppressing them.

Always remember, that instead of firing in the dark in being a Hostage to our own self we can learn to defuse the triggers, see the light and set ourselves free.