Pull Your Emotional Trigger
An emotional trigger is a situation that we experience as stressful.
Typically, it comes from a past experience that was incredibly challenging, if not just straight-up traumatizing, or we have a value conflict.
When we experience an emotional trigger it’s shocking.
When we revisit that same emotional trigger, having “done the work,” it’s disappointing. When we repeat the same traumatic patterns and experience the fall-out again and again, it’s defeating.
Emotional triggers are everywhere and even happen at work.
Firstly, this doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, even if you thought you had risen above this issue.
Secondly, there are a few tactics and strategies you can apply in any professional or business situation when you are triggered.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are some huge opportunities available when we can stop blaming ourselves and start celebrating our growth.
Traumas and Triggers at Work, Oh My!
Why do you get triggered at work?
Professional experience, and especially small business, can be susceptible to emotional stress.
Work teams tend to be tight-knit groups, with overlapping roles and responsibilities and a flattened hierarchy.
This means, you’re working with people from all levels of experience and at all levels in business.
Let’s be real, triggers used to be reserved for trauma responses but, as internet-speak took over, buzz words like trigger and pivot became the norm.
Unfortunately, it’s because they’re also becoming the norm in our day-to-day experience. We’re exposed to a massive amount of stimulus and our work-home lives have blended.
Change is the only constant.
All of this combined leaves us feeling pretty overwhelmed.
It’s easy to be triggered when we’re exhausted, stressed, and uncertain.
A trigger can feel like when someone pushes a button straight to our most extreme emotional response. We. Freak. Out.
Why do we feel so out of control when we are triggered?
We interpret the situation as something it is NOT. We make assumptions, interpretations and believe this experience is highlighting that same awful and painful learning from our past.
A trigger also occurs when we have a value conflict. This means, you believe you are being forced to sacrifice what is most important to you at this moment.
Of course we react!
Who wouldn’t go from 0 – FREAK OUT when presented with either option.
The situational trauma is automatic, a gut instinct, visceral response.
Without practice or experience, we react without even knowing this is a trigger response.
A value conflict is also incredibly stressful because we subconsciously panic, and our options narrow to fight, flight, fawn or freeze.
Neither of these reactions yield positive results, most especially in business.
A Trigger as a Tool
It’s easy to think we’ve gone backwards in our growth or success when we’re triggered.
With that said, the assumption is that we will never feel that feeling again, or we shouldn’t have additional opportunities for growth.
Micromanaging can be a common trigger in the workplace.
When an employee feels triggered, maybe they’re reminded how a care-taker or parent constantly checked up on them.
They felt controlled like there was no trust or respect, and eventually suffocated.
This would result in huge knock-down screaming fights.
Fast forward to today, and the employee “overreacts” to being micromanaged, gossiping with other team members, being rude or disrespectful to their boss, perhaps even undermining the work.
With understanding around this trigger, the employee can schedule some time to discuss with their manager how to work together, build trust, and set-up planned communication so everybody wins.
Then the manager sends 20 emails checking in on every little activity.
Oh yeah, we’ve all been there. And we’ve all “overreacted.”
But, now we’ve learned, right? Mastered this trigger?
Based on the smoke coming out of your ears, perhaps we get to peel back another layer.
This is when a trigger becomes a tool.
Your emotional reaction is simply that, an indicator there is another learning available to you. Another opportunity where you can release hidden stress, assumptions, interpretations etc.
The manager in this instance could also be feeling stressed, getting a lot of pressure, may not be used to such an emotionally intelligent employee, or just repeating bad habits.
Having a follow-up conversation where we explore why they’re micromanaging or deviating from the last conversation can be helpful.
The employee could also explore why this issue is continuing to trigger them.
It’s just a few emails, right? Maybe they need to address their experience with their caretaker.
Maybe they could step into a more compassionate perspective, like the one above, where the assumption is their manager is super stressed and the slew of emails isn’t about doubt or deviation, it’s just a knee jerk reaction to their own trauma, aaawwww
Addressing Value Conflict
The simplest workplace trigger is a value conflict.
If you’re asked to stay late, but you promised your family or friends you’d meet them after work, this is t-r-i-g-g-e-r-i-n-g.
If you’re assigned to a committeeor team, and someone can’t do their work because they got sick, you might feel irrationally irritated.
When you value family or responsibility, and someone values work ethic or health, you will experience a conflict.
This trigger is easily addressed, with awareness. Your reaction will subside when you honor your values, and work with the person or situation to make sure your values get their space too.
All this to be said, if you’re in a business that simply repeats the same toxic patterns or your values are in direct conflict, without some heavy reframing and perspective shifts, this simply may not be the right place for you.
How To Overcome Workplace Triggers
Emotional triggers are not easy. They can pop up without awareness or control.
They feel like they’re happening to us, and sometimes they come from such deep, past trauma, we can feel like we’re condemned to victimhood.
Let’s be clear, some traumas need medical and professional support beyond this blog, ok?!
If you’re dealing with something life-threatening or debilitating, please check out https://www.opencounseling.com as they can point you towards free, online support for your specific needs.
However, if you just want to punch Debbie from accounting in the face, let’s dance.
PSA: You may never fully clear a trigger.
That’s not even the point. The real win is the awareness. “Oh shit, here it is, good ol’ trigger buddy HEY!” From there, you can start to unpack the issue.
Recognize The Trigger
Has this come up before? What’s different this time around?
I bet, despite your strongest inner critic, you are reacting differently.
Firstly, you’re recognizing the trigger, hooray!
Secondly, you’ve tried some strategies – you know what happens when you blow up, hide from or avoid the issue, or maybe you’ve even attempted to address it in the past, but here we are … again.
What if…….instead of assuming this MEANS something – like you did it wrong, or it’s your fault, or they’re a stupid iddiot a-hole…. you get to learn something new, get yet another skill in your development handbook, and grow even more?!
Maybe this work, this time, is internal.
Sit with this trigger. What story are you telling yourself?
What if it could mean something totally different? Why Not try to just looking at it from the opposite perspective.
Or perhaps, wait until you’ve fully discharged the range of emotions you’re experiencing and then re-examine this situation
You are in charge.
A trigger can show up so suddenly and we forget we get to say how we want to feel and engage in this situation.
Once you allow your emotional experience to conclude, you can address the fear, shame or pain that took over.
You can go into a past experience and wonder what lesson you’re holding onto, now.
You can test a different frame of thought. You can discuss with anyone else involved, from a place of neutrality and curiosity vs blame or need.
This is especially helpful if we sacrificed our values.
Sometimes, and especially in business, there will be value conflicts.
This is where planning, co-creation, negotiation and testing are crucial.
When we know there will be a conflict, we can ask anyone involved to help create the win-win-win. We can schedule and plan for your values.
Anytime you make space on your calendar for something important, your ego brain breathes a sigh of relief.
Certainly counteracts worry and stress.
The second you KNOW something is happening, you can plan, and even if that something sucks, your brain prefers that knowing to UNknowing. Lastly, nothing is forever. Test out the negotiated win-win-win for a period of time (yup, kinda the same as the last tip).
Schedule a review, so everyone knows we are testing this solution and are fully aware it might work, it might not, and it will likely need some improvement.
Awareness > Trigger
When you can look to your triggers as friendly reminders of how far you have come, they stop running your days.
Knowing certain people or situations, even feelings, will spin you out is the first and most important step.
Creating some tactics and strategies to support you when triggered helps. Knowing that triggers are unavoidable, but how you react is entirely within your control is the secret.
When you understand a trigger is simply a growth opportunity, and hopefully, you will have endless opportunities for growth and expansion, you will reframe the experience and empower yourself in every moment.