Sometimes the smallest stimulus can irritate us and send us into a dizzying cycle of reactive, drama-filled behavior. We call a stimulus that impacts behavior a “trigger.”
Triggers can be both positive and negative. An example of a positive trigger is smiling back at a smiling baby. However, it is the negative triggers that we need to become aware of that can cause us to “go reactive.”
A fan yelling at a basketball game can trigger negative recollections of your dad shouting at your high school games. Suddenly you’re joining the crowd and yelling at the volunteer who is refereeing your child’s game–and regret it later.
The triggers that you most want to notice are those that produce an unwanted and ineffective reaction. Reactive triggers steer you away from healthy and productive outcomes. It’s no surprise that when triggered, stress and anger increase the distance from the Creator in you that you want to cultivate.
Without understanding the environment that provokes your triggers, you may become a Victim to those triggers and doomed to repeat them over and over without choosing more resilient ways of responding.
Again–environments that provoke your triggers are not inherently bad or good. What matters is your response to them. Yelling at a basketball game is part of the game. How you respond to the yelling is your choice.
If you choose to respond under the influence of the triggers, you are at risk of depleting your energy and escalating your reactive behavior. If you become aware that you are triggered, you can choose to modify the pattern.
We are challenging you to take inventory of your reactive triggers so that you can observe yourself in action. If you are alert to the moment, then you have a greater chance to choose a more resourceful response.
Each role has different situations that tend to flip the trigger. When in a Persecuting role, it might be a co-worker who is whining or doesn’t complete their job on time that triggers you. The “whining” sets you off.
For a Rescuer, it might be feeling uncomfortable with a conflict between two other co-workers. You may want to jump in and be helpful when it’s not their business.
When in a Victim stance, you might get triggered by feeling that something is unfair or that you were slighted or discounted.
Reactive triggers are not always caused by other people. They may be part of the environment or physical space, such as a stuffy room or noisy background. They may be part of the situation, such as time constraints or difficult tasks.
The other question to consider is how do you act when you are triggered? What is your “go to behavior?”
Each of us adopt behaviors that respond to our reactive triggers. These are personal and often vary from one situation to the next. Some examples of different reactive behaviors can range from switching to a more aggressive approach or going silent and withdrawing. A reactive behavior might be a change in pace. Some people speed up when triggered and others stall or procrastinate.
Triggers are part of the human experience. Our purpose in writing about triggers is to invite you to reflect on your own patterns: what triggers you and how you react. Once you can see them, you have a better chance of selecting new habits that generate the empowered life you want to create.