Today I want to talk about two ways of dealing with your triggers: the “external” way and the “internal” way. But, before I do that, what is a trigger?
A trigger is a stimulus, such as something someone else says or does, that subconsciously activates an unpleasant or traumatic memory in your brain, and therefore generates an unwanted emotional or physiological reaction that you can’t fully control. These reactions can range from something relatively mild to a full-on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) flashback. The latter would probably require the help of a trained professional.
It can be very useful therefore to try to become aware of what your triggers are. This can be done by paying attention in your daily life to the following: “What was happening right before I started feeling an unpleasant emotional reaction?”. Or, in other words, “What did I see/hear/sense/think that might have triggered this unpleasant emotion?”.
For example, one of my triggers that I experienced almost two months ago is when Argentina won the football World Cup and my girlfriend invited me to go outside to celebrate with everyone else. So, we went to one of the main streets of the city I live in, where people were already celebrating. However, as soon as we got there I noticed that the large crowds and the very loud noises were making me feel very uncomfortable, to the point that I wanted to leave that place as soon as possible (though I was still very happy that Argentina had won the World Cup).
So, I know in my case that being among large crowds (in relatively tight spaces) is a trigger for me, as well as being in a place with very loud noises. Those two triggers, when combined together, make me feel even more uncomfortable/upset/stressed. We could say that my nervous system goes into “survival mode”.
Now, once we know what some of our triggers are, there are two main ways we can deal with them: the “external” way and the “internal” way.
The external way is basically to try to avoid them and/or to not expose ourselves to them. In other words, using the example above, if I know that I feel uncomfortable being among large crowds, I can simply try to avoid them to the best of my ability. I call it the “external” way because we are trying to exert some control over our external environment so as not to “run into” those stimuli that would trigger those unpleasant emotional reactions.
The internal way, on the other hand, is to work on our internal reactions to the triggers. This is, for example, where we can use EFT to come up with specific events where the trigger is at play, and then tap on how they make us feel now so as to diminish and release the unpleasant emotional reactions they evoke.
They could be recent or future specific events (a recent time when I found myself among a large crowd, or the next time I anticipate I might encounter one), or past events that we suspect might have caused that stimulus to become a trigger for us in the first place. For example, maybe my aversion to large crowds originated when I was a kid, and I became briefly separated from my parents while we were walking a very busy street, and that made me feel really scared at the time.
Both the internal and the external way of dealing with triggers involve work. It can take work and effort to try to “control our environment enough” so that we don’t run into one of our triggers (this would be the external way of dealing with them). And it can also take work to diminish and/or clear our triggers with EFT.
Some triggers are easier to avoid than others. For example, in my life nowadays I don’t have to encounter crowds and/or loud noises very often (thank God). So I can simply decide to avoid them. However, if I lived in a very crowded city and had to take the subway everyday to get to work, then I might find it worthwhile to invest the time and effort to apply EFT on these triggers (meaning, my emotional reactions to crowds and/or loud noises), so as to increase my “emotional freedom” around them.
Therefore, when it comes to some of our triggers, we might decide to avoid our exposure to them (by using the “external” way), and other triggers we might decide it’s best to work on them with EFT (or another similar modality) through the “internal” way.
Keep in mind though that if you suspect that a trigger or a memory might be too emotionally intense and/or traumatic to work on your own, it might be a good idea to enlist the aid of a certified trauma informed practitioner, such as myself, to help you with that. The same applies if you feel like it might be too hard to keep track of all the different memories and aspects at play. Feel free to get in touch with me, even if only to ask me for some free advice or guidance on how to tap on something by yourself.