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In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about coping with emotional triggers in your life.

In this podcast you’ll find:

Our triggers help us to shine a light on the dark space of our own feelings of inadequacy.

Triggering happens for all of us. If you want to find out what your triggers are go to an online community like Facebook.

We are emboldened by the anonymity of the internet. Things we would never say to someone’s face we will say to a total stranger on Facebook.

When we become triggered, our emotions make us think they need immediate expression or we may die.

Triggering is related to some ancient programming.

A trigger is anytime your ego feels obliged to defend itself. Our ego is there to keep us alive. When it takes a hit we feel obligated to fight.

If the ego allows itself to the see the trigger for what it is – which can be feelings of inadequacy or something within that needs attending to – then a door may be open to change. If we change we are no longer the same person. That part of your ego dies.

That is what happens in personal development. We go thru many stages of ego death and become unrecognizable to ourselves. The part that want wants to keep us physically alive hitches a ride on the ego and thinks we need to stay the way we have always been in order to survive.

Begin by recognizing what a trigger does for the individual. It is a service that is provided by the outside world.

Drama Triangle vs Empowerment Dynamic podcast

  • We create our experiences.
  • We are challenged to change and evolve.
  • Coaches help us along the way.

How do we create the best world we can? By allowing these triggers to shine a light in dark places and see what needs attending.

When someone in our world triggers us we project onto them that they are doing something to intentionally harm us. What if it had been written a hundred years ago and that person was no longer alive? Would you still be offended?

There is a seductive nature to being offended.  

Indignation gives us a boost of inspiration to get us into action.

Righteous indignation feels good and we can get addicted to it.

Detox from that emotional addiction so when we do feel triggered we can be more aware.

A very empowered way to understand triggers is to feel gratitude to the person for bringing attention to something we may not have been aware of.

If we can get to a point of confronting triggers with gratitude instead of anger we will have reached a space where we can control our triggers.

Everyone should be taking responsibility for their own triggers. We can’t force someone else to take responsibility for their own triggers. We aren’t on this earth to make other people pay for the wrongs we think they have done.

Rumi “If you are irritated by every rub how will your mirror be polished?”

We see ourselves through other people and vice versa.

Every trigger is a gift.

Don’t let the triggers gain mastery over you.

Righteous indignation is the fast food for the soul. While fast food tastes good initially it has a bad long-term cost.

There are greater longer term benefits from more positive emotional intelligence.

Use the same thing that causes the trigger to get you out of the experience. If the trigger is around pride and ego, then you can attach yourself to a higher ethic of pride like:

  • How do I want to see myself?
  • What is a better ego stance I can have?
  • What other things can I be proud of?

We have the ability to slow the process down and not have the reaction to triggers that can get us into trouble.

Avoid taking action in the moment of emotion explosion.  Wait until there is no emotion attached before you decide to respond.



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Personality Hacker
Personality Hacker teaches you the coding language of your mind and how to use it to create happiness.
Showing 21 comments
  • Dana S.

    I just encountered a triggering situation at work a few weeks ago. Like Antonia, I seem to do better in these types of situations when I slow everything WAY down and try to get some clarity before reacting or responding. I grew up in an environment that didn’t really offer many tools related to triggering so I’ve been trying to get better at 1) identifying reactions in myself and 2) improving with baby steps.

    Joel, I liked the approach you described but it didn’t quite click for me. I’m going to listen to that part again but could you maybe address the re-frame concept (e.g. identifying that ‘higher’ value) in the notes? Thanks!

  • Corene

    I’m wondering if you could discuss how to handle triggers stemming from a fundamentalist religious background. My husband and I have left the church of our childhood and I find it’s hard to be around or view Facebook posts from friends and family from that background without being triggered. When Mormon missionaries come to the door to evangelize, I am so triggered that I am unable to speak and end up acting rudely in order to get them to leave. It’s hard to slow everything down when they are standing at my door and won’t leave….

    • Charis Branson

      Hi Corene! Thanks for the comment. I come from a similar background and it took me awhile to process the anger and resentment I felt over the time I had wasted on my family’s religion.

      For me, it was a slow process of finding my voice in more productive ways. I journaled and wrote blogs pouring out my feelings and making my voice heard for the first time. I also came to the gradual realization that I had wasted enough of my life on that religion and I wasn’t going to waste any more energy on it. I unfriended or unfollowed everyone on Facebook that kept posting pro-religious sentiments. And the ones who didn’t like my anti-religious sentiments soon unfriended me. When I am around people like Mormon missionaries, I remember that I used to be just like them. They firmly believe they are doing the right thing. And if they have peace and happiness in their chosen vocation, let them have it. I would kindly inform them they are wasting their time and close the door even if they’re still talking. They will soon give up.

      All of this takes time. I don’t know how long you have been out, but healing is a slow process. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get on with your life. Try all the things you weren’t allowed to try. Go out for a beer. Buy a cigar. Go to a strip joint. Start living your life and the anger will fade.

      I hope that helps.

  • Meg

    Happens to me all the time. But i always put across one thing – the application of logic with empathy. Most triggers are caused by people being thoughlessly judgemental without any attempt at empathy. But its illogical to assume most people think exactly as we do and to not attempt to judge at face value….so triggers become really controvesy causing scenarios. So i lf i do end up losing to the urge to set some one right…i do try to keep in mind the other persons response to a hsrsh message which might not be the best way and just put across points on a fundamental base of logic plus empathy. I guess triggers will always ve there causing people to respond… but its up to us how* we choose to respond and get our message acrossmmhopefully without causing too many triggers in return!

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the comment, Meg! You make some really great points. The key is getting past the emotional explosion to the logical analysis. Which is why it is so important to step away and cool down.

    • Jennifer M.

      Most triggering that we experience comes from some child part of us that has never healed. So that’s why logic and trying to use reason doesn’t always apply or work. Our brains can become emotionally hijacked, so even you want to master your triggers, it’s important to get in touch with your body and identify the source of the fear. Meditation can help you become more mindful. Also acknowledging the fact that you are now an adult (not a child). You are safe and are entitled as an adult to makes choices and create boundaries that work for you based on your preferences, desires and values. It’s to make your preferences clear to others. It’s also okay to say ‘NO’ or ‘STOP’ whenever you feel a boundary is not being honored. That might be hard at first, and there’s lots of books on boundaries that can make it easier to successfully set boundaries with difficult people. If you don’t want people knocking at your door, put up a ‘no solicitation’ sign or don’t open the door. You can always say, “What do you want?’ And then follow up with, “Sorry. We do not accept solicitations or offers for salvation.” Lol. I’ve decided over time, and after working through my childhood trauma past, that not everyone gets ‘free access’ to me. I apply rules to my phones, my front door, my social media sphere and other social & professional relationships. It’s really up to you to choose the quality and type of social relationships you want in your life. If you don’t want to interact with narrow minded (“You’re going to hell”) religious types, then don’t interact with them. I don’t think all people that are religious are bad. But I do not personally care to interact with those who are intolerant and judgmental. I think we should all be given the freedom to live our lives the way we would like in peace and with love.

  • Liza

    This podcast came at such a good time! I have actually found myself being triggered in two completely ways this weekend. The first is that I am out of town on vacation and my new boss, I feel, is taking advantage of this and sending emails to our director that are my ideas. Logically, I know she is trying to make a name for herself. Illogically, I am not happy that she was hired to handle the budget but because that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is focusing on doing my job. I am trying to work through this by remembering I only have 2 years to retirement. Sometimes, like this weekend, my ego isn’t very cooperative! The other incident was with my husband. An absolutely wonderful man in so many ways. However, he can be a bit selfish. Whenever we go out of town, he will go down and get breakfast but doesn’t bother to bring me anything even though I brought him breakfast two mornings in a row. We’ve been married 25 years but honestly it makes me crazy. It’s such a little thing that I feel perhaps I am the one that is selfish! Am I?

    • Charis Branson

      I think the word selfish is extremely subjective. Selfishness is in the eye of the beholder, in my opinion.

      Have you asked your husband to bring you back something when he goes down for breakfast? Sometimes we think, “I shouldn’t have to ask him,” but we shouldn’t expect someone to read our minds. He may be thinking, “I never know what she wants to eat. If I pick something she might not like it. So the most effective thing for me to do is to let her get what she wants.” That may be his way of showing you consideration.

      As for your new boss – she’s new to her job. Is it possible she doesn’t really understand how things are compartmentalized? She may be trying to learn the ins and outs of everything and not realizing she is stepping on your toes.

      Sometimes it can help for us to switch perspectives and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. People usually aren’t intentionally thoughtless. Most people do the best they can.

      Most of all, don’t allow your annoyance with others to ruin your vacation. Have fun! 🙂

  • robin

    Oh how timely.
    I blew my stack at work a few weeks ago. This is quite unlike me….but boy, oh boy was I mad. ENFP rage. LOL. Your pod cast was great…thanks!

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for your comment, Robin! I have heard of this legendary ENFP rage. 😉

  • Shelly

    I have been in a job for the past 4 years that has worn on me emotionally and taxed my energy level because of the large number of “moving parts”. In theory, the job should fit my personality type and skill set well, but in reality I am worn out emotionally and slowly triggered over time, feeling anger, depression and lack of respect.
    I have attempted to step back and look at the big picture and have found a couple of patterns. First, the job takes what looks like right brain activity and due to the large amount of planning and administration it sits me in the left brain most of the time, even taking much out of work time to complete the planning. (I am a teacher- enough said.) Secondly, in my top values are relationships, flexibility and respect. I am sacrificing all three of these values for work.
    This podcast was a great clarifier that I am on the right trail in growing through these triggers, stepping back to assess the deeper issues and to not act on the triggers in the moment. I have also been looking for more appropriate work that is in alignment with my values.
    I absolutely love your podcasts. Thank you for such insightful content.

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the comment, Shelly! We can be in the right job and still be around the wrong people. It sounds like you are already doing what is necessary to improve your situation.

      I had a job once where I prayed for a car accident on the way to work everyday, just so I wouldn’t have to go in. I would rather spend the day in the hospital than at work. When a job gets to that point, it is time to move on. 😉

  • Brad Hendricks

    I am understanding my triggers by knowing my personality type which is INTP. Now,that I know how important it is to be viewed as competent and the expert, it helps me to see why I feel triggered at work where I feel like I am not valued for my expertise. Personality Hacker is really profound!

    • Jennifer M.

      Just wanted to validate Brad’s comments. I know as an INTJ I can be triggered when people question my intelligence or competence. My INTP family members are the same way. When I feel like my ideas are not being taken seriously, I feel like I am not being seen or heard. This is a very unpleasant feeling for me because this is how I connect with others. I think it’s quite common for us NT types because we can sometimes over-identify with ‘what we know’ rather than be present to who we are as perfectly, imperfect human beings. Personality Hacker is certainly a great source of information because if we are able to leverage this knowledge to become more self aware about the type and source of our triggers, we can then gain more mastery over our lives.

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the personal perspective, Brad! 🙂

  • Robert Jones

    I learned that I was an INFP Myers Briggs personality type around six years ago. It is only in this last week that I have been able to start connecting my realised and unrealised strengths to the way my brain is wired. When I thought I was shallow because I was easily bored I find out my navigator is explorer – wow. Words can’t express the deep sense of gratitude I feel for you. Thank you!

    • Charis Branson

      Thanks for the feedback, Robert! I’m glad you are coming to a better understanding of yourself.

  • Tyler Durden

    Getting offended is the biggest fad of the current generation. A blog I read put it best, “Time after time, particularly on college campuses, millennials have proven to be little more than entitled, spoiled, anti-intellectual brats who place far too much emphasis on feelings and nowhere near enough emphasis on critical thinking. To the millennial, words are cause for the creation of safe spaces, alternative ideas must be stifled, and anything they perceive to be a microaggression is enough to send them spiraling into a state of mental distress.”

    People don’t have the right to demand others keep their opinions about their lifestyle to themselves, especially if they’re open and public about it. I have as much of a right to comment on the way you live your life as you do to actually live it. Your feelings are not a protected right, but my speech is.

    Ingracious millennials should realize that if you live in America, you are already in the top 1%, you don’t have a right to it just because it exist, you DO have a right to live as you please – but not demand people accept it, your feelings are irrevelant and your only safe place is your home.

    Since when is hate speech not part of the first amendment. Fascists!

    “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what is isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • Tyler Durden

    Being offended is a conscious choice, deal with it.

    • Charis Branson

      Is that the first rule of Project Mayhem, Tyler? 😉

  • Ing

    Okay, this is really long, but I wanted to share an embryo of a litmus test for people who can’t figure out whether they’re INTP or INFP. I’m not sure I’m right about this stuff, but I’m tossing it out there to test it. Also I’m trying to be self-critical about my Ti and remind myself that it’s a subjective function.

    So. After listening to this podcast, I realized that triggers might also help you type yourself if you’re unsure. I frequently wonder if I’m an INFP and not an INTP, because I’m a bit too “emo” to fit into the world of cogs and wheels, but a few recent triggers (and my responses) showed off my functions fairly clearly.

    So what triggers me? I can get upset at the same things as an INFP (or anyone else for that matter!), for example a friend posting something racist on my Facebook page. But when I argue back, it’s with logic. Now, “logic” for me is a bit of a charged word, because it sounds so fancy and mathematical, but when I ask my family and friends, they agree that I tend to dissociate myself emotionally in discussions and play the devil’s advocate.

    Also, what made me froth at the mouth about the racist stuff my friend posted was that this person has called people out for being racist in the past. So in my view, they should be able to see racism at work in their own behaviour too, instead of going on a gut instinct that’s entirely emotional, and then being defensive about it.

    To complicate things further, I know about the scars that make this person react with fear, so I sort of understand why they say these things, but it still maddens me that they don’t stop and THINK. My interpretation is that both Ti and Fe are at work here, but Ti takes the lead and tries to argue rationally for something that this person reacts emotionally to, and Ti gets frustrated because it can see where they’re coming from (through Fe?), while the other person (in this case) refuses to entertain a different viewpoint.

    If I’m not wrong, then, my trigger has more to do with thoughts than feelings, even though it sets off entirely emotional responses that are almost impossible for me to handle. I had to walk away from the conversation before I said something I’d regret, and then I mulled on it for days and beat myself up for the things I did and didn’t say, and “what if that person hates me forever?” etc.

    Now, that all sounds very “feely”, doesn’t it? 🙂 But the thing is, I think it’s got more to do with Fe than Fi, because I want harmony above all, and I don’t have FAITH in my feelings. I can make decisions based on how I feel – like calling in sick because I sense that I’ll have a fever in a few hours – but I’ll also agonize over my decision because it wasn’t based on tangible facts. “What if I’m not really ill? What if this discomfort I’m feeling is false?”

    To illustrate further, some things that trigger me are a bit ridiculous. I mean, who in their right mind gets heart palpitations when they read an article where authors state their pet grammar peeves, just because some of those pet peeves have more to do with spelling than grammar? That doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Nobody gets seriously hurt by it. But my Ti was awakened (like a dragon!), because these people used “wrongly categorized knowledge” to be condescending to others. My impression was that they derided others for mistakes that they were categorizing inaccurately (as grammar instead of spelling), thus making a mistake of their own even as they were being smug. So in this case, I reacted to something I perceived as (sort of) morally wrong, but it was still based on a thinking function. These small inaccuracies don’t really violate an inner system of morals, they violate my subjective view of accuracy – even though I have lots of feelings around it!

    (Or am I wrong? Maybe I’m a total INFP. :D)

    I don’t mind telling you that it took enormous effort not to post something sarcastic and equally smug about that “grammar pet peeve” article on Facebook. I realized that I would only alienate people (thank you Fe!), so I refrained, but now I’m left to deal with the emotional fallout of not bringing clarity to the situation, LOL. It bugs me SO MUCH when people are smug about something that looks inaccurate to me. The “my ignorance is as valid as your knowledge” thing. Ugh. Very triggering.

    And now for the punch line: the cold sweat I experienced when I thought, “Oh, wait… maybe spelling is a subset of grammar? What if my (embarrassingly emotional) reaction to this ‘inaccuracy’ was based on my own ignorance?” The SHAME!

    And obsessive googling ensues…

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