How I Diffuse Relationship Triggers


We all have negative emotional triggers –– things we see, hear, smell, touch, or taste that take us back to a memory, a fear, or point of contention or anxiety. And these days, being triggered has become fodder for social media; we’re all talking about being triggered, but who among us talks about becoming “un-triggered?”

Unhealed Trauma

Triggers are a sign of unhealed trauma –– events in our lives that we have yet to work through in a way that is healing to the spirit and the body. The process of healing is not something that happens automatically, over time. Healing is an intentional process that best occurs with the assistance of a mental health professional, and a coach. Think of it this way: when your car breaks down, you wouldn’t dare try to fix it yourself. And once you’ve experienced a breakdown, you’re more likely to get regular diagnostic testing, and even ask the people at Auto Zone how to change your windshield wipers and your oil.

In this analogy, the breakdown is the trauma, diagnostic testing is the therapist, and Auto Zone is the coach. It takes a village to keep anything running smoothly, and that includes your mental and physical health and well-being.

Letting Go

Unhealed trauma is a sign of having never let go of the events and people that hurt you. Letting go is not the equivalent of convincing yourself that you no longer care. “I don’t give a fuck” is a defensive mechanism, and a weak one at that. The art of letting go begins with acknowledgment of the trauma, and self-awareness of the emotional affects of that trauma. To reach this sort of self-awareness, it may be helpful to ask the people closest to you what they know about you. Listen, do not become defensive, and take notes. An outside perspective of yourself from the people who love you the most is a valuable opportunity for growth. Along with acknowledgment and self-awareness, there must be true and total acceptance. The past has passed and cannot be changed. The present moment is but a flash, and is exactly how it should be. The future is a complete unknown, with much of it being out of our control.

The best you can do is work diligently on yourself, set a series of goals that will bring you closer to your purpose, your higher self, and your best life, crush those goals, and repeat.

Diffusing Relationship Triggers

Any relationship, whether platonic, romantic, or familial, is bound to have emotional triggers. It is our most intimate relationships that have the most profound affect on our emotional well-being, and this is why we usually find the most joy and pain in those places. For this reason, we have to be more conscious of our triggers, the way we respond to them, and how those responses affect our relationships.

What I have found helpful is to stop using emotional triggers as an excuse to act out, and instead, use them as a moment of growth, discovery, and bonding. How I’ve managed to achieve this is by announcing my triggers as they occur. For instance, “Wow, that was really triggering for me. I’m gonna need a minute.”

At that point, I take a few steps back from the situation to assess how I’m feeling, why I’m feeling that way, and how I initially wanted to react to that trigger. Then, I express this to the person who has triggered me by saying something like, “What you just said made me really angry. It brings me back to the time my ex put me down in front of his family, and my first thought is to set your fucking house on fire.”

What I do next is the most amazing process, and I wish I’d started doing it sooner. I ask the other person (let’s say, my partner) how he would feel if I negatively acted on my trigger, and how it would affect our relationship. I ask why he loves me and why he’s in my life, and then, I tell him why I love him and why I’m in his life. Doing this with my partner has been incredibly healing. It not only diffuses the trigger moment, but it fortifies our relationship and commitment to eachother. And, so far, it has worked as a deterrent for future triggers, as I remember all the wonderful reasons we’re together. By doing this, we are able to acknowledge our unhealed traumas, and work together on the letting go. And it feels good.

This is a process that can and should be utilized in any important, emotionally intimate relationship we have.