Triggers Are Not Always About Trauma

April 25, 2022

We all know that triggers can cause intense and unexpected reactions, but many people don't realize that not every trigger is related to a traumatic experience. In fact, there are a number of everyday situations and stimuli that can elicit a reaction in someone who has been triggered. Understanding what these triggers are and how to deal with them can be invaluable for both the individual and the organization. In this blog post, Micah explores one such encounter.

I had a tough conversation with my boss last week. She pointed out that my relationship with my colleague needed to improve, that there was a pattern of communication breakdowns. Naturally, I put all the blame on my peer and described myself as trying really hard to get things on track. She wasn’t buying it.

“I see your eyes roll and your back stiffen whenever he is talking. What is it about him that gets under your skin?” Busted. I had thought about this many times but hoped to avoid discussing it with my boss. So, I took a deep breath and said, “He sounds exactly like my older brother and treats me the same way. I feel dismissed and disrespected.”

In the end, it was relief to talk about this. I have an incredibly insightful and helpful boss and she was able to get me to realize that my unconscious association to my brother was causing me to be overly reactive and emotional. I was being triggered and not thinking clearly. I needed to work at separating out my past experiences from my present relationship with my colleague. He is not my brother, and I’m not going to get that happy ending in my work relationship. If I still had issues with my brother, I needed to deal with him directly.

To be clear, I love my brother and we have a good relationship. I have zero traumatic feelings about him. He just has these annoying habits that send me around the bend. I’m working on it now.

I think it would be helpful if we all understood that stuff from our pasts can “trigger” us but not all triggers are filled with trauma. We might actually deal with our crap if we saw it that way.

Micah's story is just one example of how an everyday encounter can be a trigger for someone. It's important to be aware of these situations and understand how to deal with them when they arise. By being aware of potential triggers we can take steps to mitigate their impact. Are there any triggers in your life that you are unaware of?

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