28 Apr Triggered by a Donut | 3 Tips on How to Manage Your Emotional Triggers
“Where are you headed cop? Probably to the Donut shop huh?”
Ahh how many times have I heard this classic yet evergreen joke whilst in my police uniform over my 27 year career. And you might be thinking…does that ever get old?
To me, it was “old” after the first time I heard it. Over the course of my career, I was the subject of a plethora of insults, jabs, personal attacks, spitting, kicking, you name it. But for some reason, the Cop-Donut joke was always the spark to fire up my rage monster within.
For a long time, I gave it little thought. Why was this innocent, rarely malicious joke such a hot button for me? It was only until late in my career that I realized this was an emotional trigger for me. Some call it a “hot button”, a “pet peeve”, something that someone says or does that gets your blood boiling in an instant.
An emotional trigger is anything that sparks an intense emotional reaction, regardless of your current mood. It could be a memory, an experience or event. Or, in my case, it could be a simple and harmless joke.
If you are human, breathing and living in today’s society, then it is safe to assume that you have at least one or more emotional triggers. How can we learn how to deal with our triggers in a positive and productive way?
Here are 3 tips on how to manage your emotional triggers to improve the important emotional intelligence skill of Self-Management:
Recognizing Emotional Triggers
The first step in addressing this issue may sound obvious, but it is not entirely clear to many people what their emotional triggers are. This is a time for self-reflection. Think back to a recent time when something really set you off, it instantly raised your blood pressure, got your “hackles up”. Think about what it was that triggered that response. This takes a bit of effort and work on your part. But if you invest the time and energy, you may be able to uncover some triggers of yours that you were wholly unaware of.
For some of you, it may be when someone lies to you, when someone is passive-aggressive in their response, maybe it is when someone doesn’t lift the toilet seat. Whatever the trigger is, identify it, tag it in your mind as a trigger. This is the first proactive step in managing your emotions effectively.
Take a Tactical Pause
Even if it only lasts a few brief seconds, taking that intentional pause, can work wonders in managing these triggers. For me, it may manifest in the form of a deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth. I challenge anyone to do this and tell me they are not instantly a little bit calmer than before they took the breath. You cannot help but be a bit calmer. There is great power in our ability to intentionally and consciously breathe to control our response to emotions.
Remember that emotions are neither good nor bad. They are just emotions and part of the human experience. Try not to feel guilt or shame or anger at feeling or experiencing emotions…it is what we do! But the key is not to let that emotion dictate how you respond from there, how you interact with the people around you, how you resolve problems or conflicts.
Visualize yourself as an Emotional Trigger Jedi
I believe there is tremendous power in the process of visualization. Running through these potential scenarios in your mind ahead of time. Actually, visualizing the scene, in as great a detail as you possibly can. Picture yourself in that situation, the person says that triggering phrase to you, and then you respond with the wisdom of Solomon and Yoda combined. You are a Jedi Master when it comes to managing your emotions. The more you visualize these scenarios in your mind ahead of time, the more likely it will actually play out that way in the real world. Why? Because when we are stressed, we default to the way we have been trained. Visualization is a powerful self-training tool that is far too underutilized.
When you learn to identify your emotional triggers, how to manage them in a positive and productive way, you will be on your way to greatly enhancing that Self-Management skill. Your friends, family members and colleagues will all appreciate you for it.
Now where did I put that Jelly filled donut?