Updated: Aug 14, 2020
Anything can be a trigger for anyone. It’s truly a matter of perception. Our perception is our reality, essentially meaning “I think therefore I am.” However, whatever triggers me doesn’t necessarily trigger someone else. It’s a subjective experience. Further, what triggers anger in one person may trigger anxiety in another. It’s complicated and simple at the same time.
I believe that all triggers can be broken down in to four themes. It’s a minor (or major) over simplification, but if you truly look behind an emotional event you’ll see four basic themes present themselves. These triggers are responsible for all our experiences with undesirable emotions, not just anger.
1. Injustice/Unfairness – Any event where a person experiences or perceives the event and/or the circumstances as lacking in equality, justice, or fairness.
2. Insult/Injury – Any event where a person experiences or perceives the situation and
circumstances as having resulted in pain, harm, or damage of any kind including but not limited to social, financial, physical, and emotional.
3. Invasion/Inconvenience – Any event where a person experiences or perceives the situation or circumstances as an unwelcome intrusion that causes trouble or difficulty as well as a disturbance in the person’s comfort.
4. Intent – Any event where a person experiences or perceives the actions of others as having some form of negative or malicious intent; that the person acted of their own free will in creating an injustice/unfairness, insult/injury, or invasion/inconvenience.
These experiences can be internal (caused by one’s own self) or external (caused by an environmental stressor such as another person or entity). They contribute to negative/undesirable emotions and tend to elicit a strong emotional and/or behavioral response to reduce the discomfort created by the triggers. Typically, they are easy to identify but not obvious to see. We tend be very sensitive to them as well as they quickly engage our fight/flight/freeze response.
If I may over simplify again, I believe assertive, respectful, and open communication is the answer to these or any trigger. This is required of all parties involved. If one party does not engage in this type of communication, we cycle back to one of these possible triggers.
Lastly, when considering that our perception is our reality and everyone’s perception is different there is no way for us to agree on everything. What’s important is that we listen, we validate, and we express ourselves in healthy and helpful ways.