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TIP: Triggers


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Have you ever heard a song on the radio that reminds you of a former boyfriend or girlfriend from months or years ago? Did it bring back emotions or feelings that you had at that time?  If so, you have experienced a "trigger."

A trigger is something that reminds you of a past event and causes you to have an emotional or physical response as a result. Triggers can actually be sparked by any of the five senses -- touch, taste, smell, sight, or hearing.

Sometimes triggers bring up happy memories like the smell of cookies baking, or the comfort that someone has when wrapping up in a favorite blanket.  There are also triggers that remind people of disappointments, losses, past trauma, or abuse.  In these cases, everyday situations like the examples below can cause negative feelings to flare up.

  • A look that someone gives you or a particular voice tone may remind you of someone who was once mean or abusive to you.
  • You avoid going to a place that reminds you of a relationship that you have lost, or of someone who has died.
  • A big crowd of people makes you anxious because you remember being separated from your parents in a crowd when you were little.
  • Seeing kids playing basketball reminds you of being cut from the team, or of a time you were embarrassed by a mistake you made during a game.
  • A certain smell may remind you of a place or person that you would rather not be reminded of ever again.

While triggers can derail what may have otherwise been a good day, there are things you can do to manage your responses. With practice, you can decrease the amount of influence your triggers have in your day-to-day life.

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