Trigger: cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist:
Trigger: (of an event or situation) cause (someone) to do something
Trigger: to release or activate by means of a trigger
What are we seeing here? Maybe that a trigger CAUSES a reaction but is NOT the root. The trigger is the awareness that something is wrong and then we do something. Do we pull the trigger?
In a gunfight, the trigger is what releases the bullet, what causes the explosion and what can create death (death of an emotional self, death of a physical self, death of relationships, death of an opportunity, death of a dream).
But listen, I’m not blaming you… or me. What I am doing is creating awareness and insight. So, we gotta stop saying “That triggered me” because… unless you did something in response, you were not triggered. You were hurt. You were betrayed. You were abandoned. You were confused. You were vulnerable and not taken care of… But you were not “triggered”.
And, some of us (therapists) will say that one can only be triggered if trauma is/was present. And while all trauma is different because we are different people and all our experiences will affect us differently, it’s also important to call a thing a thing, instead of calling it what it is not.
So let’s get into what IT is… it’s a sensitivity.
Yup, a sensitivity!
You know how much I love writing about how our 5 senses affect our thoughts and emotions. In short, when we experience something and create a memory, it registers in our hippocampus which is part of our limbic system and stores in our amygdala (also our limbic system) and connects to our sensory experiences and recall (also our limbic system). So when something happens to us, FIRST we experience it via our senses, SECOND a recall of past experiences occurs, THIRD we have a feeling and/or thought (various psychological schools of thought agree to disagree here) and THEN… FINALLY… FOURTH… We may be triggered to do something…. Let’s say it again….
We are sensitive to certain experiences and then a range of things occurs in our brains and THEN we do something.
Ok. So what does this mean?
It means you are not triggered, you are sensitive.
Yes, you are sensitive and that’s normal and perfect and ok and you.
Ok. So now what?
Well now it’s time to be introspective (examine yourself) and reflect (examine your past) and determine your sensitivities.
Again, you may not have experienced trauma, you may not have been triggered (read above again). But you may be sensitive to the ways that people talk to you. You may be sensitive to the things you see or how people touch you or…don’t touch you. You may just be sensitive and don't have the historical or cultural room to BE sensitive…but you are!
And now it’s time to do something about it. Not to explain “why you are sensitive” but to examine where your sensitive spots are, so you can decide what you want to do about it.
With all sensitive spots, we protect them. So, how are you protecting (not shutting down, hiding, or denying…. but protecting) your sensitivities.
How do you want to tell people about your sensitivities so you can continue to protect yourself without harming anyone else?
So, while we are advancing the language of mental health, let’s make sure we are using the correct language.