These days, the word “trigger” generally holds a negative connotation. We associate it with anger, fear, disgust, and a variety of other emotions that can result from our triggers. But we can also learn a lot about ourselves and how our brains work from our triggers by shifting our perspective to what is sometimes known as the “other side” or “silver lining” in DBT practices.
In many ways, a trigger is a warning bell, alerting your mind and body to a possible threat. This is similar to how anxiety creeps up. In these situations, it can be hard to take the time to pause, breathe, and think about what exactly is causing the emotion that is currently overcoming the body. However, with practice, we can not only begin to understand why certain emotions are triggered in certain situations, but extend that understanding to future situations to better navigate our own brains and turn triggers into treasures.
How Can a Trigger be a Treasure?
Imagine someone at your work says something that triggers you. You’re not sure what it is about the situation that draws such strong emotions to the surface, but the threat detection system in your brain, powered by the amygdala, is telling you to be on guard. There are two responses to this trigger. On one side, your coworker said or did something to upset you, and that’s justification for putting a target on their back for the release of those emotions. On the other side, your coworkers probably didn’t mean to trigger you and their comments likely don’t hold much weight in the scope of your life. Additionally, this experience gives you the opportunity to learn something about yourself, equipping you with new tools to take with you into future situations that might result in a trigger.