mindset miscellaneous

Unlock Your Power by Identifying Your Triggers

We all have triggers, both positive and negative. They can be conscious or subconscious.

The conscious ones are easily identified. These might be things like a specific topic of conversation, a person or group, a song, an odor, or anything else we overtly know that evokes an emotion or makes us react in a certain way.

The biggest challenge with triggers is that most of them are subconscious; we are not aware of them while they are happening.

For example, you are having a conversation and you get mad for no apparent reason. You aren’t aware of what made you feel that way, so you blame the person you’re talking to, when the real reason for your reaction is that the situation triggered a learned reaction in your own brain.

While frustrating, keep in mind that these triggers were created by our brains to help us be efficient with our responses and, ultimately, to keep us safe.

Our brains becomes wired when we’re exposed to something repeatedly. And another way our brains become wired is when we have highly emotional  experiences.

Once the situation—the place, person, or thing—is programmed into the brain with a certain emotion attached to it, this same thing becomes a trigger, meaning the next time you find yourself with that place, person, or thing, it automatically triggers that same emotion.

One example of a trigger is with music.

If you’ve ever listened to a song while experiencing strong emotions, hearing that song will trigger those same emotions in the future. This is why that song you listened to when your heart was broken still makes you ache and why a favorite high school anthem still pumps you up.

However, sometimes our brain creates an association between an emotion and a person, place or thing that is NOT the cause of that emotion. When this happens, the faulty association can do more harm than good. For example, when your parents said “we need to talk” just before you were grounded, in the future when a friend says “we need to talk,” you might immediately become defensive. Because you aren’t aware of the real reason for your response, you may blame your friend.

The key to recognizing and unwinding your triggers is to become aware of your emotions— especially when the emotion does not seem to fit the situation. By becoming aware of triggers, you will start to take the “charge” away. Through recognition and naming, you will be able to choose to react differently.

Here’s how to become more aware:

Ask yourself what tends to trigger you emotionally.

Then, for each item, consider how you react to those triggers and whether the reaction is appropriate or reasonable.

Lastly, for each trigger, ask yourself:

  • How could I react differently? How could I think differently? Feel differently? Act differently?
  • What people trigger me? What do they do or say that triggers me? What do I think as a response? How do I feel or act? Is it reasonable? What could be different?
  • What topics of conversation trigger me? Why? How do I feel or act? What could be different?
  • What places do I go that tend to trigger me? What do I think, feel or act? What could be different?
Here are additional triggers that might be relevant:
  • Having to make a change
  • Challenging yourself or learning something new
  • Being criticized
  • Failing at something
  • When something goes wrong
  • Making a mistake
  • When you make a mistake in front of others
  • Being put on the spot
  • Procrastination
  • When you’re on a deadline or rushed
  • When your reputation is at risk
What other triggers incite you? Let me know


I work with mid-life men and women who want to feel younger through improving their relationship to food, movement and mindfulness.

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