It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent, an employee or a friend.. our buttons and emotional triggers can fire at any time. These triggers set off a chain of associations in our brains that are hard to control. Understanding more about what’s happening inside your brain when you’re being emotionally triggered (or having your buttons pushed) can help you to gain a better sense of control.
This is something that I help many people with as a therapist in California. I’ve learned some great things along the way that I think can help.
You see our brains are built to help us survive. And it’s our survival-tuned brains that help us to vividly remember and feel danger when we run into situations that are similar to those that have hurt us in the past. Our brains interpret these similar situations as being present dangers.
With our memories being strongest for events from the past that are painful, emotional memories are ready to protect you to stop you from getting hurt again.
This is what happens when your buttons are pushed. This is why you respond with strong and oftentimes confusing emotional reactions. Because in some way this behavior reminds you of a past pain.
These ‘buttons’ are designed to protect us from danger and represent our own personal catalog of past fears, and threats. These buttons react quickly and are part of how our brain prioritizes safety over everything. Our brains are able to do this without much thought.
When we’re triggered it’s just our brains’ way of stopping us from re-experiencing pain, and trying to keep us safe. It can be very accurate, but it also has the chance of misfiring.
Afterall you’re not currently experiencing the pain of the past situation your brain is protecting you from. Here are 3 things you can do to stop your triggers from misfiring.
1. Identifying Your Triggers/Buttons
When you realize that your buttons are being pushed. It’s important to start understanding what being triggered means to you. Identifying these triggers can help you to lower your anxiety and help you focus on the problems at hand. If you need help identifying some of your own triggers click here to learn more about iMan Therapy anxiety & stress counseling!
Here’s an article from the Mayo clinic, where you can learn more about identifying your triggers and buttons.
2. Recognizing when your triggers/buttons are being pushed
If you notice yourself getting triggered, putting more brain power on the issue will ultimately give you more control over your reactions. With practice you’ll get better at realizing when you’re triggered and why. Instead of being controlled by your reactions, you will start to feel more in control.
3. Sort out past trigger and refocus on the present
The past and present often feel like one and the same when you are triggered. But, identifying the past pains that are coming up in the present can help you detangle the past from the present.
Even though past memories are what your brain is using to protect you. Really, it’s the present situation that needs your attention. When your mind starts reeling about what might be happening, try to focus on the present and what the realistic probabilities are. Focus on the facts that will calm your mind and emotions.
Defining your buttons is a powerful starting place to work through fears and anxiety from your past. You get to decide how you understand and react to your experiences, don’t let it be automatic!