How To Keep Fears, Triggers & Past Traumas From Controlling Your Life

Photo: alones / 
young woman with pink hair and hat, looking away

I’m gonna talk to you about what a trigger is, what a trigger isn’t and how to dismantle and deal with them when they arise.

First of all, I want you to keep in mind that the mind exists to keep you alive not to create and sustain your happiness. Keeping you alive is its number one purpose. 

Often does so in direct contradiction with your happiness.

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Your brain helps you survive by gravitating toward patterns that have kept you alive in the past

The patterns that keep you alive could have made you miserable — but you survived them nonetheless, so, to your mind, it’s a sure thing. Meanwhile, the path to your happiness may be riddled with uncertainty.

All of these things combined can create extreme anxiety for people with an anxious or avoidant attachment style or anyone that has experienced trauma. So people tend to continuously gravitate towards destructive patterns that keep them miserable without the awareness that they are the ones keeping themselves miserable. 

A trigger is simply a reaction to something familiar. Perhaps my partner hit me and now my new partner is trying to kill a fly and every time they lift their hand I feel panicked or uneasy.

Many people aren’t aware of what causes the trigger. They simply have a moment of discomfort and then make an effort to leave the relationship or situation to avoid the fight or flight response. We continue certain patterns and avoid others. 

But avoiding all situations in which you experience triggers could be detrimental to your growth.

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Your triggers don't forget 

Being triggered doesn’t mean you are a fortune teller who is accurately predicting your own demise.

It is simply deja vú and it’s in your best interest to remind yourself that your current situation is a new situation. You are not in the movie Groundhog Day doomed to relive the same relationship disasters for all of eternity. 

A trauma trigger is a psychological stimulus that prompts the involuntary recall of a previous traumatic experience.

The stimulus itself doesn’t need to be frightening. It could be a scent or even something you aren’t aware of consciously. Perhaps the person you’re speaking to rubs their chin a certain way and it reminds you of an ex who constantly cheated on you.

You don’t completely understand why you feel so much distrust for your current partner so you conclude it must be your intuition and you’re clearly onto something so you break up with them not realizing that you could have been wrong.

When you are triggered stop. Acknowledge the trigger, acknowledge what caused it, and then think about why it happened. Attempt to communicate to your partner while keeping in mind they didn’t intentionally trigger you and there is a big chance your trigger is irrational. 

RELATED: How To Turn Your Trauma Into Something Meaningful

I am not suggesting that you ignore your intuition and proceed when you feel uncomfortable. I’m suggesting that you be mindful.

That when you are triggered, remember that a trigger isn’t a fortune cookie. It doesn’t always require you to act and discover that when someone rubs their chin it reminds you of being cheated on and creates insecurity in your relationships.

You can shine a light on the trigger and take away its power. I like to make fun of my frivolous triggers.

I tend to communicate with my partner when I’m triggered and then laugh about it or clear it up.

RELATED: What It's Really Like To Live With Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It requires patience to deal with someone fresh from trauma.

I recently met a girl and made plans to see her on Wednesday. A delivery I had been waiting for scheduled the installation for that same Wednesday

I contacted her and asked if we could meet Monday or Tuesday instead, and she became upset, mistaking my scheduling conflict as perpetual flakiness.

I realized as she spoke that it was no longer about me and these minor hiccups. It was a continuation of her previous relationship in which she put in all the effort and it wasn't reciprocated. I had set off the trigger to put her back in the unhappy state she was in with her previous relationship. No amount of communication made a difference.

Her brain wanted her to avoid a continuation of a pattern, so although I offered to still meet her closer to my home, it didn’t matter. 

She saw me as “just like her ex.” Even though we’ve never met.

It serves us to remind ourselves that we aren’t clairvoyant. Our brain simply does the best it can with the information it has and the information it has is insufficient. 

When I shared that I was triggered by someone recently, they immediately became triggered that I was triggered.

Although I attempted to explain that my trigger was simply a momentary reflex and wouldn’t change my emotions and actions, the damage was done and we couldn’t move past it.

These moments tend to add fuel to our past trauma.  In that moment, it is easy to think, "Ah ha! My trigger was based on something! Look how quickly they abandoned me!"

That's how triggers can be self-fulfilling prophecies.

Don’t let your triggers become self-fulfilling prophecies. Rise above your destructive programming and then embrace the discomfort as you rewire your brain in a way that serves you best!

It’s not about finding someone who doesn’t trigger you — it’s about finding someone who you feel safe being triggered.

RELATED: 6 Subtle Triggers That Slowly Wreck Your Mental Health

Erika Jordan is an internationally acclaimed love and relationship expert, NLP practitioner, author, and media personality, and a leader in the field of digital romance and online dating. She shares info about her books, coaching and courses on her website.