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What are your triggers? Three little exercises to discover them
Personal Development
  • Jan 13, 2021
  • 3 minutes

What are your triggers? Three little exercises to discover them

Everyone has little things that irk sometimes. I do, and I experience at least one thing every day and usually many more than I can count. For people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or have had extremely difficult experiences like abuse of one kind or another, a “trigger” can produce reactions like panic attacks, crying jags, or extreme outbursts of anger, and they often have to avoid challenging situations until they can handle it. 

For the rest of us, though, a trigger is a little less dramatic. A trigger can also be thought of as an “emotional button” or a hot spot or sore spot, and it can challenge us to maintain peace, calm, or kind and loving communication.


What are your triggers? Do you know what are they?


For me, I get annoyed with seemingly silly little things when I’m having a rough day — maybe I’m tired of feeling overworked. Maybe I haven’t taken time to meditate, exercise or at least have some quiet time for myself. Sometimes I have to deal with an extremely difficult situation that can put my hair on end, so to speak, for the rest of the day or even days at a time. Fortunately, I’m usually aware that I’m under pressure, and I take time to be very mindful of everything I do until I get my sense of peace back.


Here are some things I sometimes find challenging:


  • Aggressive drivers
  • Unpleasant or manipulative salespeople, clerks, or cashiers
  • Unfair treatment
  • Sexism, gender bias (whether directed at men or women), racism, intolerance, child or animal abuse, arrogance, ignorance when paired with aggression. When I’m not at my best, I’m not very tolerant to myself and, even if I don’t voice it, I feel irritation inside.

Knowing what your hot spots are can be very helpful if you have a goal to be more peaceful. It requires awareness, thought, and mindfulness.


But how can you achieve that awareness?


Meditation is often recommended, and it’s great. But I’m going to skip that for now and, instead, suggest three very simple exercises that can help you to be in touch with and aware of what gets on your nerves. Ready? These are so simple or ordinary that you might be surprised, but they’re very practical.


Keep a notepad and pen by your side, if you’d like, to take notes.


  1. Spend a half-hour or an hour reading online news articles or blog posts that you wouldn’t normally look at. Try reading half a dozen or ten articles or posts on CNNFox NewsThe Huffington Post, or The Daily Brainstorm, or other blog conglomerates. Read any sort of news or opinion that doesn’t normally interest you because the subject matter or point of view just isn’t your speed. Do you have any negative emotional reactions while you’re reading? Do any subjects irritate you or get on your nerves? What are they?
  2. Spend a day analyzing your reactions to everything and anything. Your kids, spouse, parents, coworkers, friends, neighbors, traffic, a radio announcer — everything is important. Many years ago I turned on a certain street with a convenience market on the corner. A woman dressed in an outfit that I thought was extremely unbecoming was standing outside the store. I had some very negative thoughts that shocked me. Why should I judge her like that? I was appalled at myself though I know I had made silent judgments like that before; I was just becoming aware of them.
  3. Watch a few TV shows, including commercials, and consider your reactions. Pick something you don’t normally watch. I don’t know about you but, for me, certain commercials can really get on my nerves. I rarely watch TV but, when I do, I usually end up getting annoyed unless it’s a program I really enjoy and I make a point to ignore the commercials. And I don’t bother watching stuff I don’t like (which is most of it) because I’ll only be bored, at best, and annoyed, at worst. But why?

Give it a try, and see what you come up with.


What gets on your nerves? What challenges you to maintain your calm, your peace, or a non-judgmental attitude?

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