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The Power of Self-Awareness: Uncovering Your Triggers and Embracing Empowerment‍

Understanding Triggers and Self-Awareness

We all know what it feels like to be triggered, right? That reaction we get to a certain sound, smell, person, a word, a place….you get it. We tend to speak about the negative triggers, but we also get positive ones, too! Like the sound of a loved one’s laugh, the smell of morning coffee, or the memory of toes in the sand of your favorite beach as the waves roll in gently.

Triggers are the emotional responses we experience when certain events or situations remind us of past experiences. These triggers can have a profound impact on our emotions and behavior, and when they are negative, especially if linked to trauma, they often cause us to react in ways that may not align with our true selves. Developing self-awareness is crucial in understanding and managing these triggers effectively.

The Impact of Triggers on Our Emotions and Behavior

Triggers have a significant impact on our emotions and behavior. Our emotions can range from anger and frustration to sadness and fear when we are triggered, and then our nervous systems can get hijacked and we go into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response. The release of stress hormones prepares us for danger, which can lead to heightened emotions, irrational thinking, impulsive action or shut-down, and when there is no real danger or when we get chronically triggered we may have a body, mind and spirit that feels dysregulated, exhausted, overwhelmed, and hypervigilant. By developing self-awareness, we can recognize these triggers as they arise and learn techniques to help gain mastery of our emotional responses.

For example, someone who has experienced a traumatic event involving loud noises may be triggered by fireworks or sudden loud sounds. This trigger can cause them to panic, experience anxiety, or even become aggressive. Understanding these triggers can help us to respond in a more rational and controlled manner. Other triggers may not have such an extreme effect, in fact we are impacted every day by all we take in from the environment and from our internal worlds.

We all shift emotional experiences quite often. Every movie, every song we listen to, every perfume that reminds us of somebody, every interaction, every news story impacts us. When we watch a scary movie we feel afraid; if we watch something romantic, we feel touched or we feel loved, and we feel inspired when we hear an acceptance speech or calm when we listen to a peaceful meditation; if we watch a sad movie, we cry. Obviously, our personal experiences are unique so our personal associations and memories around any of these can be impacted.

How to Identify Your Triggers

Identifying your triggers is the first step in managing them effectively. Sometimes we don’t seem to know what provoked us or why we were triggered. Start by reflecting on past experiences or situations that have caused intense emotional reactions. Pay attention to the patterns and commonalities between these events. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What situations or events consistently evoke strong emotional responses?

  • Do certain people or places trigger negative emotions?

  • Are there specific topics or conversations that make you feel uncomfortable or defensive?

Keeping a journal can also be helpful in identifying triggers. Write down your emotional reactions and the events that preceded them. I also recommend you identify all the situations and experiences that trigger your joy, love, safety, and inspiration in you. Over time, you may start to notice recurring patterns and themes. There are reasons, sometimes hidden from us and our immediate awareness that create these reactions. By allowing yourself time and space to wonder and discover the clues from your conscious and unconscious mind, you can then better understand and address your reactions.

Techniques for Dealing with Triggers

Once you have identified your triggers, it's important to develop strategies for emotional mastery. Remember that feelings are information and do need to be acknowledged. You also can develop the skills to shift emotional experience as you need to. Here are a few techniques that can help:

  • Deep Breathing: When you feel triggered, take slow, deep breaths to calm your nervous system. Focus on your breath and visualize the tension leaving your body with each longer exhale.

  • Grounding Techniques: Engage your senses to bring yourself back to the present moment. Look around and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

  • Cognitive Reframing: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive and empowering ones. Instead of catastrophizing a situation, remind yourself that you have the ability to handle it calmly and effectively. Shifting away from black-and-white thinking (always/never) or noticing yourself maximizing the negatives can help shift the intensity.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This one is especially helpful for anger but can really help the body release any emotion stored in the body. Clench your fists, your face, your arms, legs, your whole body, and then hold briefly squeezing tightly. Then release with your breath. Then start at the top of your head tightening and releasing as you go down through your face torso arms hands legs down to your feet, tightening and releasing as you go. Practice this anytime you feel really intense feelings or tension in the body.

  • Emotional Shifting Exercise: I have shared this brief exercise with my patients and clients over the last 28 years and it’s a powerful way to shift your emotional experience.Try it and let me know how it goes for you.

The Importance of Self-Care in Managing Triggers

Self-care plays a vital role in managing triggers and maintaining emotional well-being. When we neglect our self-care, we become more susceptible to being triggered and experiencing intense emotional responses. Taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and mentally can help us build resilience and reduce the impact of triggers.

Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature, can help regulate our emotions and reduce stress. It's also important to establish healthy boundaries and prioritize self-care in our daily routine. This may involve saying no to activities or commitments that drain our energy and practicing self-compassion.

Empowering Yourself Through Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is a powerful tool for personal empowerment. By understanding our triggers and emotional responses, we can take ownership of our reactions and make conscious choices that align with our values and goals. Instead of being controlled by our triggers, we can learn to navigate them with grace and resilience.

Embracing self-awareness allows us to break free from old patterns and beliefs that no longer serve us. It opens the door to personal growth and development, as we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our triggers. With self-awareness, we can choose to respond to triggers in a way that promotes growth and empowers us to become the best version of ourselves. What we don’t know or remember will reveal itself, sometimes in our patterns, our health, our stories of ourselves, and our automatic responses.

Seeking Support and Professional Help

While self-awareness is a powerful tool, seeking support from others is equally important. Surrounding ourselves with a supportive network of friends, family, or professionals can provide valuable insights and guidance in managing triggers. They can offer different perspectives, share coping strategies, and provide a safe space for us to express our emotions.

In some cases, seeking professional help may be necessary. Therapists, counselors, or coaches can provide specialized tools and techniques to help you understand what’s happening, and offer tools and techniques to navigate your triggers and a process to heal from past trauma. They can guide you through the process of self-discovery and empower you to embrace triggers as opportunities for growth and transformation. Those who work directly with the body can also be helpful, such as somatic therapists, Reiki practitioners, or yoga instructors specializing in trauma.

Creating a Trigger Management Plan

To effectively manage triggers, it's helpful to create a trigger management plan. This plan can include techniques and strategies that work best for you, based on your self-awareness and understanding of your triggers. Here are some steps to consider when creating your plan:

  • Identify Triggers: List down your triggers and the situations or events that evoke strong emotional responses.

  • Implement Coping Strategies: Develop a toolbox of coping strategies that work best for you. This can include deep breathing, grounding techniques, cognitive reframing, or engaging in self-care activities.

  • Seek Support: Identify individuals or professionals you can turn to for support and guidance. Build a network of people who understand your triggers and can provide a safe space for you to process your emotions.

  • Practice Self-Care: Make self-care a priority in your daily routine. Set aside time for activities that bring you joy, reduce stress, and promote emotional well-being.

Conclusion: Embracing Empowerment Through Self-Awareness

In conclusion, developing self-awareness is crucial in understanding and managing triggers effectively. By identifying our triggers, implementing coping strategies, and practicing self-care, we can navigate our triggers with grace and resilience. Seeking support from others and creating a trigger management plan can further empower us in our journey of personal growth and development.

Embrace the power of self-awareness and uncover your triggers. By doing so, you can transform your triggers from obstacles into opportunities for empowerment and personal transformation. Remember, you have the strength and resilience to overcome any trigger that comes your way. Embrace your triggers and embrace your true power.

Start your journey of self-awareness today and explore the power of embracing your triggers. Seek support from a professional therapist or counselor who can guide you through this transformative process. Take the first step towards empowerment and personal growth. You deserve it.

Self-Trust Meditation: Connecting With Your Confidence

This meditation will connect you to your confidence, a gentle kindness and compassion for yourself, and empower you to trust your inner compass as you navigate the decisions and directions of your life.

All my Best,

Jamie Cromer Grue
Windows to Wisdom ® Founder
LCSW, Board Certified Psychoanalyst,
Certified Chopra Lifestyle Instructor

1 Comment

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