What is a Trigger and How Does it Affect Me?

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When someone says or does something that causes you to respond in an upset, angry or aggressive way, you are being emotionally triggered. Your ego is reacting to/defending against being reminded of a past trauma (that is being stored in your body as energetic density).  

They’re repressed emotions, core wounds that need to heal (perhaps it was some kind of abuse/neglect/loss/specific traumatic event that occurred earlier in life). When an opportunity to heal does present itself (i.e. when your ego senses that uncomfortable feeling surfacing that it wants to avoid), you ‘don’t want to go there;’ you deflect/try to steer conversations away from things that will make you cry or feel upset.

Think of it like a bruise on your body; if someone unintentionally touches it/bumps into it, it hurts, right? You blame them for ‘hurting’ you, but, you were the one with the bruise.

If you didn’t have the bruise (wound) to begin with, the minor contact would not have bothered you.

Your wound, your pain.

“No one is ever hurting you—they’re just reminding you of something painful from your past that you haven’t resolved, and you are using them as the excuse to not feel it.” ~ Panache Desai

Some people spend their whole lives trying to micromanage the entire world away from their pain. It’s exhausting, unreasonable, and more importantly, unachievable.

Here’s the thing:

  • We ALL have triggers.
  • It’s inevitable that someone will trigger you, and it has NOTHING to do with them.
  • It’s inevitable that you will trigger someone, and it has NOTHING to do with you.

Triggers are rooted in fear-based, self-limiting beliefs. They keep you in your comfortable prison & block you from living a freer, more meaningful life.

Q: So what can you do about them?

A: For starters, ground yourself in the present moment.

  1. When you do start to feel triggered, take a step back; observe the sensations in your body. Emotions are just energy in motion—they’re meant to move through you—just acknowledge them by breathing into them. Be the awareness behind them and they will eventually dissipate.
  2. Try noticing your breath: pay attention to each inhale and exhale until you feel calmer.
  3. Don’t take anything personally; understand that you have ZERO control over what anyone else says/thinks/does, EVER.
  4. Understand that the ONLY thing you have control over is your response in any given situation. Speak without offending and listen without defending—try to discern the heart of the message behind the perceived “offense,” because it’s always there.

BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR TRIGGERS because they are showing you exactly where your work is! They are literal roadmaps to what-is-holding-you-back from what you really want in life!

Which sounds better to you: A life filled with fear & sadness, or love & serenity?

I’m not saying it’s easy, I know it can be scary to let yourself feel things you’ve been repressing for who-knows-how-long, but it’s definitely worth it. You’re worth it.


Jennifer Townsend is an Author & Mindfulness Coach from Southern New England


The Gift of Abandonment

black and white childhood children cute
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“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.  If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” ~ Catherine M. Wallace

One of my earliest memories is my mother locking herself, my sister and me in the bathroom of our tiny apartment.  She was talking soothingly and sweetly to us as our father, on the other side of the door, was drunk and in a rage.  He was slamming cabinets and throwing things around, looking for more alcohol.

And I worshipped him.

My mother was raised in an upper class family, a world of  debutante balls and cotillions. One night, her date ditched her at a party where she didn’t know anyone—a tall handsome man found her crying in the corner and offered to take her home.  He was a Vietnam War Vet, a Marine who had earned two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star for Bravery.

And she fell in love with him.  Hard.

But he was not from the same circles as my mother’s family and therefore deemed not good enough by her parents.  (As my grandmother used to say about him, “Even a dog has a pedigree.”)

They never liked him and often made him feel less-than.  To their great dismay, she got pregnant and married him.  She had disgraced the family’s good name.  They never let her forget it either.

So it was with great shame that after five years, she divorced my father and went crawling submissively back to her family.  (I wonder if she would have left him earlier if she’d had their support?)

The three of us moved in with our grandmother (my grandfather had a heart attack and died four months before I was born, which was something else my mother was blamed for).

My father pretty much dropped out of the picture; I was devastated.  Everything took its toll and my mother became a shell of the woman she once was, always lost in thought and just going through the motions when it came to parenting my sister and me.

Consequently, I grew insecure and lost self-esteem which made me an easy target for “him.”

The first time he molested me was on a camping trip.  Our mothers were best friends; I was five, he was 16 or 17.  The grown-ups were impressed that he was “so helpful and attentive” with me and the other kids.  He’d ride me around on his shoulders, give me piggy-back rides…and then come into my tent to fondle me when our parents weren’t paying attention.

He’d say, “Don’t tell anyone about this or your mommy will get very mad and give you a spanking.”  My five-year-old self couldn’t risk my mother being mad at me—she already barely interacted with me as it was.

So I kept quiet.  He was later entrusted to babysit my sister and me at night, when our mothers would go out together.

Now he had full access to us with no adults around for hours at a time.

I remember at night he’d come into the bedroom after we fell asleep.  I never made eye contact with him when he did things to me—I’d just look over at my sleeping three-year-old sister, hoping so hard that she’d wake up because maybe he’d stop, but then at the same time wishing she wouldn’t, because I wanted him to leave her alone.

Still other times, he’d cajole his younger brothers into doing things to me.

I’d like to believe that my mother wasn’t aware of the sexual abuse, because I just can’t fathom not taking action if it were happening to my precious daughter.  But my sister and I both recall a doctor’s appointment, where at least one of us was examined vaginally and our mother was crying while the doctor spoke to her.

I guess I’ll never know, because my mother committed suicide a week after my eighth birthday.  The immediate blessing that resulted from her death was that the abuse stopped, because we never saw that family again.

If there was any advice I could give to parents who rely on other people to babysit their children for whatever reason, it would be this:  As often as you can, stop what you’re doing and look your child in the eyes when they speak to you; it dignifies them.   Encourage them to do the same—lack of eye contact can be a sign of insecurity.

Reassure them that they can tell you anything and you won’t get mad, no matter what.  

And above all, don’t assume that your kids know you love them—tell them.  Hug them. Every single day.  A child that feels confident and secure in their parents’ love is less likely to become a victim of abuse…or keep silent about it.

Jennifer Townsend is an Author & Mindfulness Coach from Southern New England