Your Trigger Points From The Past Are Creating Your Issues Now – Let’s Look At Triggering
As a psychic coach, I’ve worked with many people struggling with the impact & effects of “triggering.” You may not be familiar with the term but I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the actual behaviour or process; triggering refers to situations or events that bring up negative emotions, memories, or experiences from the past. Triggers can be anything from a certain smell or sound to a specific person or situation. You may have heard about this happening with people who have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS also called PTSD many people think it should be classed as syndrome not a disorder).
The problem is that triggers can be very distressing, interfering with your ability to function in your daily life. In this blog, I want to share with you how my training in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) can be a valuable tool for managing triggers and helping you move forward.
How Your Triggers Work
First, let’s talk about how triggers work. When you experience a traumatic or stressful event, your brain records not only the event itself but also the emotions and physical sensations associated with it. Later, when you encounter a similar situation, your brain may activate the same emotions and physical sensations as if you were reliving the original event. This is why triggers can be so powerful not to mention overwhelming – your brain is essentially being hijacked by your past experiences. If we take the example of a soldier with PTSS coming back from war, the simple backfiring of a car can trigger their PTSS or it may be a certain smell or even flashing lights as you’d get with gunfire & missile strikes at night.
One of the key principles of NLP is that your thoughts and behaviours are connected and can be changed through language and communication. I can use the right language to help your brain to think differently which in turn will allow a different, more empowering behaviour to follow.
You can be triggered on much smaller things, it isn’t always big events:
1: Brian Cox – Actor
It’s pretty hard not to know who Brian Cox is these days as he seems to be everywhere! However, just in case you are the other person not watching Succession (I’m the other one) then know that he’s an actor from Dundee, born in 1946 into a family where money was tight. His father died when Brian was 10 years old, only for them to discover that his father had not been charging people for food from his store because he felt bad they couldn’t afford to actually pay him for it & as a result Brian’s family were virtually penniless & reliant on family for support.
He recently did a documentary ‘How The Other Half Live’ where he spent time in the USA & Dundee, looking at the wealth divide and how the poor are getting poorer & the rich are getting richer. He visited homeless shelters & food banks to see what life is like for those that use them. Bear in mind Brian Cox is very wealthy now – which he has earned – so he has safety, security, food in the cupboard etc.
During the documentary, Brian started to get angry & upset with his camera crew, he felt they were invading the privacy of these people who were struggling, even though he was part of the team & it was all done with full permission. The reason he was so upset & angry, enough to get them to stop filming briefly, is that being back in that poverty ridden environment was triggering his experiences of being a poor family with all the emotions that go with it; guilt, shame, lack of self-worth, humiliation etc.
Are there things from your past that affect you now?
2: A Young School Boy
In the Oprah Winfrey book ‘What Happened To You’ (a fantastic read whatever field you’re in) there is a case study of a young lad who had a violent father, he was in school & doing really well, when suddenly he started acting out, nobody could understand why, he’d got a great relationship with teachers, he was starting to become more confident & he’d been really well behaved. The co-author of the book Dr Bruce Perry sat in on the class & sure enough this lad started to act out but for no apparent reason. As Dr Perry sat there, he could smell the teacher’s eau d’cologne, which reminded him of his dad and took him back to his childhood. As he sat there smiling at the memory, his brain suddenly made a connection. He took the teacher to one side and asked when he’d started to wear this eau d’cologne & he replied it was a Christmas gift from his daughter so only a matter of months ago. Dr Perry then spoke to the young lad, who was able to acknowledge that the timeframe fit but that he had no idea why he was acting out. After discussing the eau d’cologne, the young lad confirmed that his father had worn the same scent. It transpired that whenever the teacher came close enough for the lad to smell the eau d’cologne, his brain would trigger feeling unsafe, so the ‘flight-freeze-fight’ response kicked in, ready to run from his father & hide or defend himself if his dad was in a violent mood.
The teacher agreed not to wear it at school and normality returned, so can you see how little things can cause a bigger issue?
I didn’t have a traumatic upbringing in the full sense of the word; no abuse, no poverty and the like, I did however have critical parents, now this is not to guilt trip them, they did the best they knew how to do & a critical parent is usually trying to protect you from whatever they went through, whether that’s bullying, not being accepted by others etc, sadly it just doesn’t always get received that way by the child.
I don’t recall thinking ‘if I’m being criticised I’m not loved’ but I’m pretty sure that’s the story my subconcious developed! It was only after I left home at 17 that I stopped feeling criticised or not good enough on a daily basis. That doesn’t sound too awful does it? Well, it’s over 30 years since I left home & it’s still there lurking, not to the same extent as I’ve worked on it, but it’s still there!
Here’s how it worked; Since my 20’s I tended to know my own mind, I learned to be very independant, so I’ve tended to get on and do things, now sometimes that’s fine, other times someone might question what I’ve done, how I’ve done it or why. Straight away I’d get uncomfortable, I’d feel unaccepted, I’d feel my confidence drop. The old me would have panicked, I’d have maybe changed my opinion or re-do something so I’d be ‘perfect’ again. I realised that I got triggered by criticism & conflict but these days I won’t retreat, I’ll standby what I’ve said, done etc, I’ll accept constructive criticism & if it feels right to make changes I will, on the other hand I’d much rather not have a row regardless unless it’s the only avenue, and there’s nearly always another avenue available!
The criticism can come in various ways, it may be directly such as when someone says ‘I would not do it that way’ or ‘why’d you do that’? It can also be social media though so someone may say something about a post or me personally – that took some getting used to I can tell you – or it may be the dreaded ‘inner critic’ judging me about something I’ve said or done, even though nobody has said anything! It may be that I’ve emailed a friend and then get a response that jangles my trigger, because I’ve ‘chosen’ to interpret it as criticism when it is in fact just a different opinion on the time to book a dinner table for or what choice of train time etc.
In the old days, I could not make a decision in case nobody liked it, trying to plan dinner or a night out was hell! A friend would say to me ‘where do you fancy going’? My reply would generally have been along the lines of ‘I’m happy with whatever…’ worried that if I made the wrong choice they’d no longer like me! Thankfully those days are gone and if I do say that it’s because I know the choices and I truly am happy with them all, I will say if I’m not.
These anchor points as I call them are not isolated to your childhood, many different situations can create the anchor point, they can come from any area of your life. Can you see any anchors or trigger points?
Sometimes when we’re around another person we can get triggered which in turn triggers them! Let’s pretend that my partner always needs to be right, if he then criticised me (now I’m triggered) then I didn’t do something his way because mine felt more intuitive for instance, he would now be triggered too! As you can imagine this can be a recipe for disaster! when we’re triggered we enter the ‘fight-flight-freeze’ state which means our body is amped up on adrenaline & the brain is shutting down on thinking critically, we just react, so now we have a vicious circle which is most likely to end in a row or someone being hurt emotionally, sometimes physically too, the response to being triggered can vary widely depending on what and how the trigger was created.
In this scenario we have to hope that both parties are self-aware enough to get help so they can at least stop triggering each other, even if only one of the parties does this it would help things.
How Do I Clear These Triggers?
NLP techniques can help you to reframe your thoughts and emotions around a particular trigger, which can reduce its intensity and impact.
Technique 1: An NLP technique that can be particularly helpful for managing triggers is called the “Swish Pattern.” The Swish Pattern involves creating a mental image of the trigger and then replacing it with a more positive image. Here’s how you can do it:
- Identify the trigger: Start by identifying the specific situation, object, or person that triggers you.
- Create a mental image: Close your eyes and imagine the trigger in as much detail as possible. Notice how you feel and what thoughts come up for you.
- Create a positive image: Now, imagine a positive image that you would like to replace the trigger with. This could be anything – a peaceful scene, a happy memory, or an image that represents safety and security.
- Swish the images: In your mind’s eye, imagine the trigger getting smaller and smaller until it disappears. At the same time, imagine the positive image getting bigger and brighter until it fills your entire field of vision. This should happen quickly, almost like a “swish” motion.
- Repeat: Repeat the swish pattern several times, until you feel a sense of calm and peace when you think about the trigger.
Technique 2: Another NLP technique that can be helpful for managing triggers is called “Anchoring.” Anchoring involves creating a physical or mental cue that helps to bring up positive emotions and feelings. Here’s how you can do it:
- Recall a positive memory: Think of a time when you felt happy, confident, and in control. Really immerse yourself in that memory and try to feel the same emotions and physical sensations you felt at the time.
- Create an anchor: Choose a physical or mental cue that you can associate with that positive feeling. This could be anything from squeezing your fist to saying a certain word to imagining a specific colour.
- Activate the anchor: Whenever you feel triggered or overwhelmed, activate the anchor by squeezing your fist, saying the word, or imagining the colour. This should help to bring up the positive feelings associated with the memory.
- Repeat: Repeat the anchoring process several times until the anchor becomes automatic and you can use it whenever you need it.
Of course, NLP techniques are just one tool in a larger toolkit for managing triggers. It’s important to work with a qualified professional, such as a therapist or coach, to develop a comprehensive plan for managing triggers and addressing any underlying issues.
The Spiritual Side of Triggering
Soul Contracts are an agreement between two or more souls to achieve something such as Soul A helping Soul B (or even Souls B, C & D) achieve compassion or learning to allow other people to follow their path, tolerance etc, being triggered & then allowing it to be dealt with may be part of the mechanism to achieve the Soul Growth Soul B needed.
So here’s a potential scenario, it is just an example of how this works, I’ll use me as the case study:
I was born into a family that for their own reasons used criticism to demonstrate love, being very sensitive this made me shrink inwards to avoid the pain. As I grew physically & spiritually, I took ownership of this & learned to not respond in a negative way to criticism, to not feel it to my core & to not repeat the pattern with those I love. Once this has been achieved, I am able to thank the soul of each parent, as well as any other soul that was party to helping me complete this soul contract. It may be that my partner had a soul contract to be the person who doesn’t criticise me, or the one who makes me aware of this trigger so I can diffuse it. In turn this may make me less judgemental or more compassionate of others. Does that make sense?
It’s not always possible to see the links or the opportunity for growth, this is why journalling is good as it gives a chance for observation, objectivity & growth. I’m a huge believer in looking backwards for understanding but not for beating yourself up or to dwell on the past.
Give these techniques a go and let me know how you get on. I’m happy to have a chat with you if need be so let’s schedule a Zoom call, grab a coffee & chat! You can book a 30 minute free call here via my online calendar.
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