Everyone has “triggers.” A trigger is an area of the emotional body that is inflamed, and thus prone to emotional pain and hypersensitivity.
It is similar to experiencing physical inflammations and weak areas. Most of you have experienced physical injuries that require you, for a time, to be much more conscious around the injured area. You might have a sensitive joint, or back pain, or you may have recovered from surgery.
In the case of physical inflammation and injury, the foolish thing to do is to ignore the pain and “push through.” You will only aggravate the injury.
The wise course of action is to become extra-mindful around the injured area, and take intelligent action to rest, nurture, and strengthen the weakened part of the body.
The emotional body is really no different from the physical body. You cannot see it, but you certainly feel it.
You know you have an injured emotional body when something fairly mild or innocuous triggers an intense emotional reaction.
Your spouse makes a comment. You read a post on Facebook. You open a bill. Your parent leaves a message asking you to call. Suddenly, you are in a heightened emotional state. You feel anger, or anxiety, or hopelessness. Nothing has really happened, but your emotions are going through the roof.
Instead of pushing through or suppressing the strong feeling, the wise course of action is as follows: you do not impulsively react to the stimuli. You do everything you can not to fire off the angry email or scream at the customer service representative or snap at your partner. The immediate thing to do is simply calm yourself down. Count ten slow breaths. Go for a walk. Do some physical exercises. Get the emotional spike down to a manageable level.
Once you are calmer, you take note of what just happened, understand that you’ve just located a trigger point, and make a plan to take action to nurture and strengthen this injured area later on, when you are in a safe space.
How can this be done?
The physical body is healed through a combination of rest, and therapeutic exercise.
It is the same with the emotional body.
If the emotional body is injured, you must rest it, and do therapeutic exercise.
The emotional body is exerted in all situations of heightened emotion. This includes emotions you experience taking in news and social media, and watching fictional dramas in movies and on TV. If your emotional body is inflamed, it is wise to reduce these sources of stimuli, so that the emotional body can rest.
If your emotional body is inflamed, you must also exercise caution around people you know to be especially triggering for you. Attempt to limit your exposure to triggering individuals as much as possible, during the “rest” period.
Once you have rested, then you may engage in therapeutic exercise for the emotional body. This takes the form of questioning your belief systems.
If the skeleton, muscles, and nerves are the building blocks of the physical body, your belief systems are the building blocks of your emotional body.
A belief system is simply a body of beliefs about something. It is what you were taught in childhood, and what is reinforced as an adult by the people around you, the media, and the voice inside your own mind.
You might have a belief system around money, for example, that tells you that “Responsible people are frugal,” “Money is hard to come by,” “Rich people are corrupt,” etc.
So — if money is a big trigger for you, sit down and write down all your beliefs about money.
If work is a big trigger for you, write down all your beliefs about work.
If romantic relationships are a big trigger for you, write down all your beliefs about romantic relationships.
One by one, questions these beliefs.
Under your original list, rephrase your statements are beliefs.
For example, if you wrote down “Money is hard to come by,” now write down “I believe money is hard to come by.”
Just writing things down in this way will show you that your beliefs are simply beliefs, not hard facts.
With each belief, ask yourself: “Can I absolutely know that this is true?” Be honest. It’s okay if your answer is “Yes.”
Write down the opposite of the original beliefs. For example, “Money is easy to come by.” Think of situations where this may have been true for you, or other people. Really sit with this. Write down examples.
It’s also important to notice and acknowledge the emotions that arise as you work with these beliefs. Pay attention to beliefs that are very triggering for you, that you have difficulty loosening. Think of these beliefs as injured muscles that are going to really require some extra attention.
The Work of Byron Katie is an excellent tool for inquiring into your belief systems, especially around the people in your life.
These kind of exercises may appear to be time-consuming, but they will ultimately save you a vast amount of time and energy lost in emotional pain and reactivity.
Just as an injured physical body requires physical therapy, and injured emotional body requires emotional therapy.
Work with a therapist can of course be invaluable in these matters. However, any course of therapy that does not address your underlying belief system will be of limited effect. In fact, rehashing trauma over and over again, without addressing the underlying belief system, can sometimes keep an old emotional injury inflamed. There is a fine balance required — of addressing and treating the injury, without simply keeping it inflamed.
Just as you know when an action brings your physical body healing and relief, you will know when an action brings your emotional body healing and relief. There is a sense of relaxed strength around a body that works well.
You will know your emotional body has healed when your triggers no longer trigger you, or perhaps only cause a mild twinge.
Go easy on yourself. Stay conscious. Learn not to “push through.” The sooner you acknowledge your places of vulnerability, the sooner your healing process can begin.