Triggers: When Emotions Control Our Thinking

Triggers: Everyone feels stress.  However, the degree that people experience stress, the things that create stress, and the way people respond to stress varies.

Different Triggers for Different People

We all have individual triggers.  I say individual triggers, because different things create different feelings and different responses in different people.

For example, heights frighten some people. For other people, heights are thrilling.  Furthermore, the amount that people feel fearful or thrilled varies from person to person.

In the case of bungy jumping, some people are fearful of leaping off a high place to the extent that they cannot even walk out to point where other people jump with glee.  Between these extremes are people who have more intense or less intense feelings about jumping off high places.

How Powerful are Triggers?

When triggered, we experience the impulse to act.

Emotions are not thoughts.  And, under some circumstances, our emotions can fire faster than our ability to think before acting.

For example, two people see a person fall.  One laughs.  Another one winces.

Neither person thought about how they would respond to what they are seeing.  Instead, they are impulsively responding to a visual experience.

Becoming Smart to Avoid Triggers

In many cases, we can recognize patterns in the emotions governing our thoughts.  These patterns are circumstances that increase the likelihood that we will respond emotionally rather than mentally.

However, we can become smart to avoid triggers.

When we recognize these patterns, we can make changes in our behavior that affect our ability to deal with stress.

For example, in rush-hour traffic on the freeways, there are miles of cars.  The way that each driver experiences the drive varies from calm awareness to rage.

Rage can lead to dangerous actions.  If we recognize the patterns of behavior that precede the rage, we can change that pattern.  For example, caffeine, hunger, fatigue, and starting late increase anxiety before we even get on the road.

Additionally, anxiety can press us to try to drive faster than the flow of traffic.  When we become frustrated with drivers who slow us down, our anxiety increases further.

The solution is to eliminate or change our behavior before we get on the road.  In this case, we avoid the stimulates, eat, take a break, and start early.

Once we start our drive, we can decide to be part of the flow of traffic and not an intimidating threat to our own safety and the safety of others.