reframing "being triggered" + things that "push your buttons" {healthy relationships}

triggers-healthy-relationships A couple things happened at work yesterday that, on their own, weren't a big deal -- but back-to-back and with my particular brand of baggage (not designer, might I add), were painful experiences. Afterwards, I found myself pushing play on the old tapes: "Crap, here it is again. All my insecurity and inadequacy stuff is being triggered. I hate this." I started to slide into self-pity and doubting my abilities and choices.

PAUSE button, engage!

This is one of those "you teach exactly what you need to learn" things. I know I will never be totally rid of my inadequacy thoughts, because I'm of the belief that doing so would require some special witchcraft I have yet to encounter. But I do believe that I can take certain steps to recognize the tape for what it is and reconnect with myself and what I need in that moment, which will help me to avoid spiraling into full-on crazytown. And that, friends, is what I call (realistic!) progress.

One of the things that helped me yesterday actually came from a recent professional training I attended. The training was on a rather specific and intense topic (sex addiction therapy, anyone?) -- but one of the teachers, a talented therapist with a thick Mississippi accent, made practically all the concepts relatable and valuable for life far beyond this particular area.

He focused a lot on boundaries and communication in healthy relationships, and accountability vs. victim mentality. These two gems really stuck with me:

Be careful with the word "triggered" (and the mindset it carries). 

For example, saying "The way she worded that email really triggered me" is actually passive, and thus, you're giving your power away (victim mentality). Instead, you could take ownership of your feelings and reactions by saying "I got reactive when I read the email she sent." If you're not in the therapy/coaching world, you may not use the actual word "trigger" very often, but you might still create a story around certain situations with that passive mentality: i.e.  "look at what happened to me that made me feel this way." It really helped me today to use that frame of "I'm noticing I'm getting reactive to what just happened and feeling sadness and shame." Those are my  feelings, and even though they may have been precipitated by an event,

Similarly, notice what it feels like to say "He/she is really pushing my buttons."

(Chances are, it doesn't feel too empowering.) The teacher at the training said,  "The only button you have is a belly button, and no one's pushing it." Just like with the point above, giving someone else the power to "push your buttons" ultimately puts you in a helpless place (again, victim mentality)  where you give away your power. Sure, don't deny the feelings that arise when certain things happen, but remember that those are your feelings, they're about your stuff, and no one has the power to make you feel a certain way.

I feel ten times better about what happened yesterday by just reframing my reaction, owning my feelings, and talking about it with someone I trust. I hope these tips also help you next time you're faced with a challenging situation. Until next time -- xo!

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.