What triggers you

Defintion and How to Manage Them

On any given day, you probably experience a range of emotions —excitement, unease, frustration, joy, disappointment. These often relate to specific events, such as meeting with your boss, talking current events with a friend, or seeing your partner.

Your response to these events can vary based on your frame of mind and the circumstances surrounding the situation.

An emotional trigger is anything — including memories, experiences, or events — that sparks an intense emotional reaction, regardless of your current mood.

Emotional triggers are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Knowing what your emotional triggers are (and how to deal with them) is a key component of good emotional health.

Just about everyone has some emotional triggers, though these might look a little different from person to person.

They might include reminders of unwanted memories, uncomfortable topics, another person’s words or actions, even your own behaviors.

Common situations that trigger intense emotions include:

  • rejection
  • betrayal
  • unjust treatment
  • challenged beliefs
  • helplessness or loss of control
  • being excluded or ignored
  • disapproval or criticism
  • feeling unwanted or unneeded
  • feeling smothered or too needed
  • insecurity
  • loss of independence

Listen to your mind and body

A key step in learning to recognize your triggers involves paying attention when situations generate a strong emotional response.

Beyond surging emotions, you might also experience some physical symptoms of anxiety, like:

  • pounding heart
  • upset stomach
  • shakiness or dizziness
  • sweaty palms

Step back

When you notice these signs, stop to consider what just happened and the response it activated.

Say you spent the afternoon deep cleaning your apartment and rearranging the living room. When your partner gets home from work, you wait excitedly for them to comment.

Instead, they head to the kitchen for a snack and then settle onto the sofa without saying a word.

You’re disappointed that your hard work went unacknowledged, and you start to get angry and frustrated. You can hear your heart pounding and your jaw clenching. It takes everything in you not to snap and say something like, “Notice anything different?” or “I can’t believe you’re so oblivious!”

Trace the roots

Try following these feelings back to their origins by thinking back on other situations that made you feel what you’re currently feeling.

Maybe it suddenly seemed as if you were a teenager again, trying to make the house look perfect to earn approval from an indifferent parent who traveled often.

When the emotional trigger (your partner’s indifference) fired, you’re transported back to that time in your life, when you felt like nothing you did was good enough.

Get curious

Sometimes, the connection isn’t quite as clear, so you may have to do a bit more digging.

When strong emotions come up, don’t try to ignore them or fight them back. Instead, approach them with curiosity to get more insight on what may have triggered them.

Do any patterns stand out? For example, relationship discussions might bring up envy and frustration related to your fear of being alone.

Once you’ve identified your emotional triggers, you might think, “Well, that’s easy. All I have to do is avoid those situations.”

It’s not really that simple, though. You can’t avoid or escape from every difficult situation life throws at you. And it’s pretty much a guarantee that unpleasant emotions will come up occasionally.

In other words, you’re better off scrapping that getaway plan and preparing yourself to deal with any triggers that might come up in your day-to-day life.

Here are a few pointers to help you respond.

Own your feelings

First, remind yourself that it’s totally OK to feel whatever you’re feeling in that moment. Sad, angry, afraid, mad — triggers can evoke plenty of emotions, and that’s normal.

But before you can begin working through those emotions, you have to accept them. Denying or ignoring what you feel generally only makes it worse over time.

It can help to remind yourself of the differences between the past and the present, but do so with compassion for yourself, not judgment.

Say a coworker picks up your book and asks, “What are you reading?”

If this makes you recall classmates who used to tease you and hide your books, you might feel anxious and annoyed and want to snatch the book away.

Instead, acknowledge that, while circumstances in the past may have caused pain and led you to feel that way, those circumstances aren’t repeating right now.

This reminder can help you take back control and actively choose another response, such as briefly summarizing the book or following up with a question about what they’re reading.

Give yourself some space

Physically leaving can help you avoid emotional overwhelm. If you can, excuse yourself to take a short break. This can help you avoid an instinctive reaction you might regret later.

Once on your own, try some breathing or grounding exercises to calm down and soothe yourself.

The goal here isn’t to completely avoid the circumstances that triggered your emotions. You’re just giving yourself a chance to cool off so you can handle the situation more productively. Once you feel more relaxed, you can return to the situation with a clearer head.

Keep an open mind

Generally speaking, most people in your life don’t try to make you feel bad on purpose. Some of their actions or words that upset you could even be a byproduct of their emotional triggers or other factors you aren’t aware of.

Your partner who walked in and didn’t realize you’d completely changed the living room? Perhaps they got some bad news or had a rough day and needed some space to decompress before talking about it.

Everyone has unique emotions bubbling under the surface at any given time, and you may not know what’s going on unless they tell you.

It’s also easier to misinterpret behavior or intent when you don’t know someone well. This makes it even more important to consider their perspective.


When someone else’s actions trigger your emotions, opening up may help you avoid a similar situation with them in the future.

Take a minute to find your calm, if necessary, and then try using I-statements and other healthy communication skills to address the situation:

  • Instead of slamming your desk drawer and yelling, “Where did you put my tape?”
  • Try calmly saying, “I feel frustrated when you take my things without asking and don’t return them.

In some cases, it may help to challenge the other person to practice better communication.

If silent treatment, passive-aggressive behavior, or unkind or sarcastic remarks are emotional triggers for you, try a polite, “What’s on your mind?” or “Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Short-term coping strategies can help you get better at dealing with specific emotional triggers as the come up, but that doesn’t mean you have to just get used to living with them.

There are several ways to go about addressing the root causes of your emotional triggers, which can help them have less of an impact over time.

Work on mindfulness

Mindfulness exercises help you learn to pay more attention to what you feel and experience in the present.

Boosting mindfulness skills can help you become more aware of the emotions that come up throughout the day. Being more in tune with your feelings can make it easier to both understand what triggers them and find helpful ways to cope.

Research from 2019 suggests mindfulness meditation can help improve your ability to process and regulate emotions.

Other types of meditation can also help you learn to focus your awareness and find an inner calm, even when faced with difficult or unwanted feelings.

Learn how to start a regular meditation practice.

Identify toxic relationship patterns

When it comes to managing emotional triggers, much of the work lies with you. Other people don’t bear responsibility for your reactions. They are, however, responsible for their actions, which might trigger your emotions.

Here’s an example:

One of your friends is cheating on their partner. When they first mentioned it, you told them hearing about the infidelity made you uncomfortable. Although you asked them not to share further details, they keep bringing it up, even after you restated this boundary. You feel angry, upset, and disappointed — by the cheating and their lack of respect for your boundaries.

People who seem to want to push your buttons intentionally will often continue doing so, no matter how many times you ask them to stop.

Healthy relationships involve mutual consideration and respect. The alternative — a relationship where your emotional needs are regularly disregarded — often ends up harming you more than it benefits you.

Keep a mood journal

Regularly tracking your emotions in a journal can help you recognize specific patterns, such as emotional triggers and times of greater vulnerability.

Maybe you notice you find it pretty easy to keep your cool when your boss critiques your work, but the same can’t be said when you feel like your partner doesn’t want to spend time with you.

This information can guide positive change. Your usual response to this trigger, which is shutting down, usually only makes you feel worse. Instead, you resolve to start a conversation with your partner next time these emotions come up.

Talk to a professional

Emotion regulation is a difficult skill to master for most people, and it’s not always easy to identify triggers on your own.

Your instinctive reactions to certain triggers can become so deeply ingrained in your behavior that you may not even realize how your reactions cause harm. If you’re too close to your triggers to recognize them and address their effect on your interactions, therapy can help.

Therapy provides a safe, non-judgmental space to identify triggering situations and explore potential reasons behind your triggers.

A therapist can also:

  • help you practice using more productive communication strategies to express emotions in any situation
  • offer guidance and support as you work to heal the source of your triggers

Our guide to affordable therapy can help you get started.

Learning to recognize and manage your emotional triggers can take some time, but this effort can pay off in some major ways when it comes to your relationships and overall well-being.

Unpleasant events can provoke strong reactions in anyone, but when you can manage triggers effectively, you’ll find it easier to navigate tense situations without unnecessary distress.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.

Emotional Triggers: What They Are + How To Identify Them

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Mental Health


Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

Updated on January 3, 2023

Co-Founder of Inner Bonding

By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

Co-Founder of Inner Bonding

Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator.

How they formHow to identify them

How to heal

Last updated on January 3, 2023

You know the feeling when someone makes a jokingly mean comment that might not be a huge deal to another person but totally destabilizes you for the rest of the day? Suddenly, you find yourself feeling off-center and thrust into a bout of anxiety, guilt, or shame. Sound familiar?

We all have emotional triggers. It can be challenging to identify what exactly those triggers are, but the process of getting to know and understand them can help us heal and learn how to cope better in response.


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How and when our emotional triggers form

Experts On Call

Why do we all have triggers? In short, because we were all children once. When we were growing up, we inevitably experienced pain or suffering that we could not acknowledge and/or deal with sufficiently at the time. So as adults, we typically become triggered by experiences that are reminiscent of these old painful feelings. As a result, we typically turn to a habitual or addictive way of trying to manage the painful feelings.


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A few examples to help you identify your emotional triggers

So what are your triggers? What do you do to manage the painful feelings that are triggered? Do you face your triggers head-on or attempt to avoid the pain?

Here are a couple of examples that might help you to discover your own triggers:

1. Maddie was raised by absent parents. Her father traveled frequently, and her mother was emotionally unavailable. She was left alone a lot even as a toddler, and when her sister was born two years later, Maddie was put in charge of her. By age 5, Maddie was not only in charge of making meals for herself but also her sister and their younger brother. She essentially raised herself.

Today, Maddie is a very competent physician, but she gets painfully triggered when someone she cares about isn't available. When she calls her daughter at college and her daughter doesn't return the call, Maddie gets upset and sometimes even begins to blame her husband for her pain (even though it has nothing to do with him).

Until Maddie began her work with me, she didn't realize that "unavailability" is her trigger and that she most often tries to avoid her old pain by blaming her husband. But now that she is aware of the trauma from her childhood neglect, Maddie is learning to compassionately attend to her inner child in order to heal.

2. My trigger used to be anyone's anger or disapproval. My mother was a rageaholic, and both my parents were highly critical. For many years, when someone got angry at me or disapproved of me, I would do anything to avoid feeling the loneliness and pain of their unloving behavior toward me. I felt lonely and helpless a lot as a child, so feeling any degree of loneliness and/or helplessness as an adult was a huge trigger for me. By learning to be very kind to my anxious inner child, I eventually healed this trigger.

Some more common emotional triggers:

  • Someone rejecting you
  • Someone leaving you (or the threat that they will)
  • Helplessness over painful situations
  • Someone discounting or ignoring you
  • Someone being unavailable to you
  • Someone giving you a disapproving look
  • Someone blaming or shaming you
  • Someone being judgmental or critical of you
  • Someone being too busy to make time for you
  • Someone not appearing to be happy to see you
  • Someone coming on to you sexually in a needy way
  • Someone trying to control you
  • Someone being needy or trying to smother you

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How to heal from them

Once you know your triggers, the first step toward healing them is considering their origins. Ask yourself which of your triggers might relate to your childhood experiences. Only you can heal your triggers, so take a little time to go inside and make sure to be patient, kind, and compassionate.

As I showed with Maddie's situation, it's typical to avoid our triggers when we are unaware of them. Do any of these avoidance techniques relate to you?

  • I get angry
  • I get needy
  • I comply and become a people-pleaser
  • I shut down and withdraw from the other person
  • I blame someone else for my pain
  • I turn to an addiction—food, drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, shopping, work, gambling, and so on

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If you do relate to any of these responses, how do you feel about them? You'll probably realize that the pain doesn't go away just because you try to avoid it, and you may even end up in more pain.

I encourage you to be very honest with yourself about your triggers and how you react to them. Even if this approach feels harsh initially, it will help you learn to be more compassionate with yourself. Thinking honesty about your triggers is the only way to eventually heal them.

RELATED STORY: What Is Generational Trauma? Plus, How To Deal


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Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

Co-Founder of Inner Bonding

Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator. She has counseled individuals and couples since 1968. She is the author/co-author of nine books, including the internationally best-selling Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You?, Healing Your Aloneness, Inner Bonding, and Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God? and her recently published book, Diet For Divine Connection. She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah, as well as on the unique and popular website Inner Bonding.

How to please a guy, what men like, what turns men on - August 7, 2020

Find out what men like most in women. And what do you think?


Often men don't even formulate for themselves what attracted them in their chosen one. Just a spark, fire, an eclipse, and now you are already walking down the aisle ( what a nightmare) . But if you torture them well, the unexpected will turn out: they find attractive something completely different from what we do. Correspondent Alyona Zolotukhina tried to find different men for the article who would speak only the truth and nothing but the truth. Six handsome men told what they really want from women. The answers were unexpected.

Maxim will be attracted by the one who “for any kipish”


— First of all, I pay attention to the appearance — a girl should look like a girl. I love it when she wears dresses or skirts, discreet makeup, but it is clear that she takes care of herself. Most of all I am attracted to smart girls, having a brain is just fine. I love easy on the rise, super when a girl agrees to any kipish. Moderately independent girls are also cool, but not in such a way that “I can do everything myself”, men are flattered when girls ask for help.

Artyom prefers girls in caps and sports

, she just does not see well and, when she wants to see something, she squints. I like it when a girl walks in sportswear (but only in a stylish sports outfit, and not like a collective farmer), and if she is also wearing a cap, it’s generally fire. I like it when a girl wears simple strict jeans and a leather jacket.

I love travelers. You will offer one to go by train to Karasuk tomorrow, and she will support you without any problems. I like those who are generally for any kipish, but more for travel. I really like girls who you can play a trick on, and they will not be offended, but in return they will also play a trick on you.

In sex, I like girls who love variety, and are not limited to standard positions, to which you can offer something, and they will only support it. A girl who does not have an instagram is very exciting, although these, probably, can no longer be found. I also like it when girls go without a bra, and their nipples can be seen.

Dmitry for the girl to be creative


— If we don't talk about appearance, then I pay attention to the girl's voice, to the way she speaks. Beautiful voice - who doesn't like it? I also appreciate creative people. Sings, dances or, even better, draws - then I will pay attention. If a person can create, then he is thinking, and if he is thinking, then he is necessarily interesting. And it doesn't matter what hair color, eyes, or size of... hmm... legs. Well, you can throw tomatoes, naturalness. Ideally, without any manipulations with the face and body at all. Lips, eyelids, nose should be natural.

Stanislav likes girls who clearly understand what they want from life


— What attracts me in a girl is the ability to look at the situation from the outside, not only from her bell tower, but in general, with an open mind . I like it when she knows how to think and analyze - it's very nice to look at this. I love it when there is a bump of hair on my head, it looks beautiful.

It's unexpected when a girl knows how to give compliments. One time when I was 19years old, a girl (her name was Alya) gave me a calendar, where it was written with a pen: “Stas, unusualness is the main thing in you, save it.” She didn’t need anything from me, she just wanted to say nice words.

It's very cool when a girl realizes what she wants from life. Not everyone needs children, husbands, and when a person understands this and is not afraid to talk about it, it's great. Usually people want what it is customary to want.

I am impressed by people who benefit people and society with their work. Therefore, if it is important for a girl to do nothing, just to earn money, namely, to benefit people, that makes me happy. I would not be friends with a girl who works, for example, in the network business.

Ildar will pay attention to a girl with a tongue piercing


— I like it when, at first glance, a girl is not in the mood for flirting, and then suddenly winks, smiles, meets you with a glance and, looking into the eyes, sends an air kiss with only his lips. Attracts piercings in the tongue. I didn’t think before that I might like this, but, no matter what attitude I have towards the pieces of iron in the body, the piercing in the tongue turns on and makes me think.

A light dress is what I will pay attention to on a girl. It does not have to be short, but it should definitely lie on the figure as easily as possible.

Sometimes very bright and correct things are turned on, which, in theory, show the girl's chastity. For example, in the application I met a girl who is a believer and sings in a church choir. Honestly, it made me want to get to know her better. It's cool when a girl starts to pester you in a public place.

Evgeny thinks that arm hair is unaesthetic


— First of all, as a stylist, I am attracted by grooming. It is important when a girl takes care of her manicure, pedicure, eyebrows, hair, takes care of the scalp, face, skin around the eyes - most do not do this, which is very noticeable - bags under the eyes give out age.

Naturalness is very cool, although I understand that beauty injections are normal, they should even be done rather than avoided, but everything should be in moderation, ugly when a girl turns into a doll. Pumped lips - repel, it's unattractive. Cosmetics should also be in moderation, much more beautiful when the makeup looks natural. Whitened teeth are an important nuance, and fresh breath. Repels the smell of sweat, the girl should smell good.

Sincerity, easy playfulness, without arrogance, honesty - this attracts. It happens that you make up a girl, and she sits with a sad face without emotions, and it is not clear whether she liked it or not, I am for girls to be honest. I wonder when she can support a non-female topic - I once had a client who understands cars as well as a man.

There is such a nuance - hand depilation. I believe that this procedure should not be neglected if the hair on the arms is very noticeable. This is not very developed in our country, and most girls do not think about it, they are used to not noticing the hair on their arms. The smooth skin of the hands is very attractive to men.

Why do you feel like crying, eating or smoking after sex? Doctors and psychologists explain.

Right to left: the story of a family that legalized cheating for the sake of love - they became polyamorous.

They won't say it to your face: 10 unexpected things that drive men crazy (it turns out they hate... sandals)

What turns you on and likes you in the opposite sex? Question

What turns you on and likes you in the opposite sex? — Questioner

Arina Dorohova

What turns you on and likes in the opposite sex? field






Alexey Pimyakov

I get out of the elevator and met a woman from our entrance. We exchanged a couple of words and almost fell at her feet, such feminine miracles emanated from her. Try to resist. IMPOSSIBLE



Eyes (look) .... hands (palms) ... shoulders (wide) ... back (lower too))) ... voice (with hoarseness) ... smell (tart) ...)) )...but the main thing is the ability to make me laugh and the absence of stupid questions))))


Arina Dorohova





If the son-in-law, for example, of two women are exactly the same in appearance, let them be twin sisters, he chose the one that is more friendly, smiling. Smile, kind smile.


Arina Dorohova




The ability to be a man in any situation and see a woman in a woman, and not repeat what he sees when he just wants to satisfy his lust, as many do right now


Morozoff Pavel



Anastasia Volkova

Appearance and some unique features in it.
Witty delivered speech.
Love for animals.
Duality of charisma.
Sun people.
Military uniform.


Morozoff Pavel

Thank you))) Good answer.



feet, chest, red hair, freckles (especially all over the body), gothic style, thinness, tall stature, modesty, adequacy and unusualness


Arina Dorohova




and you


Arina Dorohova

For me, the inner world of a person is important




The ability to laugh contagiously. And in general, the ability to smile charmingly at people. A rare skill in my opinion.


Arina Dorohova

Thank you for your reply


Viktor Shalamov

Good corn is growing in the opposite field. As the cobs gain milky maturity, it will be necessary to pick and cook.



Oleg Nikolaev

In the field opposite the birch grove, I think daisies grow, in which you lay looking at the clouds of the July summer ...


Arina Dorohova

Not bad



Oleg Nikolaev

Even more exciting is you, sunbathing naked among the magical flowers of love - daisies!


Arina Dorohova




Vanka Vankin

In the opposite field, it turns me on that raspberries grow there, and in my field only potatoes:(


L. ....

well, you are a joker Van .. about the fields



Sunbay Manibai

The most important thing is her belief! Secondary parameters are her beauty, by my standards!


Sasha Ivanov

I like to go to the pond. There are frogs jumping. I love how the girls dance, their boobs are jerking!


Vladimir Druzhin

Turns on appearance. Enrages way of thinking (although, praise the creator, there are exceptions)


Arina Dorohova

Thank you for your reply


Vladimir Druzhin

Glad it was helpful)



Uninvited Guest

natural beautiful, tender, sensual, feminine everything, from brain to fingertips


✶𝔸𝕝𝕖𝕩𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕣 ​​𝕐𝕠𝕝𝕜𝕚𝕟✶

Boobs! One word, I just cheer about them . .. My wife does not save with a fiver! Male! Nature!)))


Arina Dorohova

Then what size do you need?


✶𝔸𝕝𝕖𝕩𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕣 ​​𝕐𝕠𝕝𝕜𝕚𝕟✶

I don't know, the main thing is not the process itself, but to shoot a beautiful princess! That identity then problems! Falls in love, fuck off....((((


Arina Dorohova

Yes, girls have such a habit


✶𝔸𝕝𝕖𝕩𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕣 ​​𝕐𝕠𝕝𝕜𝕚𝕟✶

Tin! ))) No problem to remove! The problem will then get rid of! (((They even call my wife on my mobile!))) Tin!)))


Arina Dorohova



Valery Shilov

this is - for each individual - its own, for one - a figure, for the other - the eye is more attracted


Ali Agasiyev

YOU have no word chic. sexy and vopshe super beautiful woman!


Tony † Ae 😈

Character, mind, movements, appearance, look, speech patterns, voice, smell, etc.


Arina Dorohova

Thank you for your reply


Andrey Smirnov



Sergey Kuzmin

I don't know... until I stop falling in love with everything beautiful and kind...


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