Sometimes the smallest trigger can send us into a dizzying cycle of reactive, drama-filled behavior. While triggers are often thought of as negative, they can be either positive or negative. Becoming consciously aware of environments that stimulate your negative triggers, while increasing situations that promote your positive triggers, is what we call becoming “trigger intelligent.”
An example of a positive trigger is immediately smiling back at a laughing baby. A nature walk can be a positive trigger for joy and a feeling of well-being.
It is the negative triggers that we encourage you to become aware of that can cause you to “go reactive.” For example, a fan yelling at a basketball game can trigger negative recollections of your dad shouting at your high school games. Suddenly you’re joining the crowd and yelling at the volunteer who is refereeing your child’s game—and regret it later.
The triggers that you most want to notice are those that produce an unwanted and ineffective reaction. Reactive triggers steer you away from healthy and productive outcomes. It’s no surprise that when triggered, stress, isolation, and anger increase, which distances you from the Creator essence that you want to cultivate.
Without understanding the environment that provokes your triggers, you may become a Victim to those triggers and find yourself repeating them over and over without choosing more resilient ways of responding.
Again—environments that provoke your triggers are not inherently bad or good. What matters is your conscious response to them, promoting your trigger intelligence. Yelling during a basketball game is part of the game. How you respond to the yelling is your choice.
If you choose to respond under the influence of the triggers, you are at risk of depleting your energy and escalating your reactive behavior. When you are aware that you are triggered, you can choose to modify the pattern.
Think about situations when you “go reactive.” Almost invariably you will react from one of the Dreaded Drama (DDT) roles of Victim, Persecutor, or Rescuer.
Each role has different situations that tend to evoke a trigger. From the Persecutor role, it might be a co-worker who doesn’t complete their job on time that triggers you. Their inefficiency sets you off and you react with judgment and think of ways to control them.
As a Rescuer, it might be feeling uncomfortable with a conflict between two co-workers. You may want to jump in and try to fix the conflict when it’s not your business.
From a Victim perspective, you might get triggered by feeling that something is unfair or that you were slighted or discounted.
Reactive triggers are not always caused by other people. They may be part of the environment or physical space, such as a stuffy room or noisy background. They may be part of the situation, such as time constraints or difficult tasks.
Each of us adopt behaviors that respond to our reactive triggers. These are personal and often vary from one situation to the next. Some examples of different reactive behaviors can range from switching to a more aggressive approach or going silent and withdrawing. A reactive behavior might be a change in pace. Some people speed up when triggered and others stall or procrastinate.
Triggers are part of the human experience. The key is to increase the environments that promote your positive triggers while being more conscious and aware of those that trigger a negative response in you.
We are challenging you to take inventory of your reactive triggers so that you can observe yourself in action. If you are alert to the moment, you have a greater chance to choose a more resourceful response and increase your overall trigger intelligence.