Do you get negatively triggered?

Triggers are funny things, they can be something that someone says or does or even a facial expression they show. They can even be things like getting a text or email from a certain someone or with a certain subject line. We call these negative anchors in NLP.

Often we are not consciously aware of the fact that the trigger has been activated, until we feel ourselves feeling frustrated, upset, angry, anxious or some other negative emotion.

In May 2020 we ran a really informative online workshop on releasing your negative triggers (we will be adding the recording to our free resources so keep an eye out for it).

Mind-reading and triggers

The problem with these negative triggers is that they impact how we feel, our confidence and resilience and also have a really bad impact on some of our important relationships

I know that, if I look back on some of my past relationships, I can recognise that when I was triggered I would react in a very unhelpful way, get angry and even burst into tears!

Once triggered, it was often really difficult for me to express what was going on and, to be honest, I sometimes didn’t feel that I needed to. After all, surely they should realise what they had said or done? I have even been known to convince myself that they did it on purpose!

Now that may or may not be true. Maybe they did know, but maybe they didn’t.

Maybe they did do it on purpose, but maybe they didn’t!

The problem was that I mind-read that they did without actually finding out or telling them.

Not good for me, not good for them (how can they correct what they don’t know they do?) and definitely not good for the relationship.

The vicious trigger cycle

Once you have been negatively triggered you are now in an un-resourceful state. Once you are in an un-resourceful state your critical inner voice can start to kick in about yourself (mine used to love telling me I was over-emotional) or about the other person (my critical inner voice used to like to tell me how a certain ex-boss of mine was arrogant).

The thing is, once the trigger cycle starts to roll, your unconscious filtering gets affected and you then start to automatically reinforce the trigger, making it more likely that you will feel as bad, if not worse, next time they do the same thing.

Your unconscious mind also likes nice easy associations and loves to put similar things into the same filing cabinet. It starts to look out for other things that the person does that is similar and those things become a negative trigger as well!

Step 1 – recognise what triggered you

Even now, I can still find myself feeling emotional about something. The great thing now is that I have learnt to respect my own emotions. If I feel a certain way, rather than berate myself or allow myself to go in a downward spiral, I accept that is how I feel. I then ask myself three questions:

1. What is this negative emotion giving me?

2. What happened just before I felt like this?

3. What happened just before that?

The first question may sound a bit strange, but one of the foundational principles of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is that everything we feel and do has a positive intention for us as an individual.

Choose whether to tell them

Asking myself these three questions also gives me the opportunity to tell the other person. Andy and I are great fans of the Clean Feedback model to do this. It enables you tell someone something in a nice structured way and maximises the chance of your feedback being received well.

In essence this model covers four points:

1. What exactly happened in terms of what you saw or heard (your answers to question 2 and 3 above). By the way triggers can also be gustatory (taste) or olfactory (smell) and also can be a kinaesthetic touch. So, tell the other person exactly what happened, be as specific as possible.

For example, the other day I asked my partner something and he raised his eyebrows at me so I told him ‘just when I asked you what time we were going out, I saw your eyebrows raise’

2. Once you have covered what happened you can now move on to what your mind-read was behind their intention. Remember though that this is your perception only, as you don’t actually know. So own it as your perception, your mind-read.

When I was giving feedback to my partner regarding the raised eyebrow, I said ‘my automatic mind-read was that you were either frustrated with me, felt that we had already talked about this or didn’t want to be tied down to a time so early in the day’

3. Once you have expressed and owned your mind-read you can then move onto to tell them the impact of what happened and your mind-read (remember both share responsibility for the emotional impact).

How did I express this in the example I gave above?

‘So, the raising of the eyebrow, coupled with my mind-read of what was going on for you and how you felt in that moment made me feel patronised and that really upset me’

It is important to give the feedback in this order. This then gives you the best chance of not only having a helpful and open conversation, it also optimises the possibility that they will either stop doing whatever it was that triggered you or you can choose to let the trigger go if you know that they did not intend to impact you in that way.

Making relationships work for you

Relationships can be tricky things. When they are going well they can really sustain us. When things are not going as well, they can do the complete opposite.

If you would like to know more about how NLP can help you to improve your important current and future business and personal relationships contact us for a chat or visit our NLP workshops calendar to see when we are running our next relationships workshop.

Many thanks


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