Emotions Behind Triggers

JJ and Melissa discuss how emotional triggers (reactions) effect the person triggered, as well as others around them.  Further, they talk about the key ways to manage triggers and their ensuing feelings before becoming emotionally overwhelmed. Both share examples of personal stressors as well as techniques they use to overcome them. With practice, this helps them become more aware so future triggers can be handled more quickly and with less stress.

June 2, 2020
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long and features your hosts JJ Parker. And Melissa Albert's JJ owns a tech company and Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. So, JJ, I noticed you were just a little frazzled this morning as we were trying to get started in our podcast.

JJ Parker  0:27  
Oh my god, I was all frazzled. I it was like an entire morning of just feeling behind. Right? Yeah. And when we were supposed to meet up to record this, I was not prepared at all. Everybody in my house was loud. Like, I was like, freaking out and I don't like to be late and late overbear and here we are.

Melissa Albers  0:59  
And that just Are you into a

Tiddler? It did

it was a trigger actually you got triggered we thought we would talk about triggers today and I feel like you were like in a state of triggered pneus I did

JJ Parker  1:15  
not like it. It was it's like just off balance like this morning was fine I got up this morning I can't did my work at home routine right but just as the morning progressed, it's like things slipped and slipped to the point where I didn't even realize that I was so out of balance. And then when I realized that it was like five after 11 and you and I were supposed to be on a call it just boom like

Melissa Albers  1:43  
fully triggered

JJ Parker  1:44  
fully triggered I called you and I was like what I call her idea probably was babbling incoherently about like

Melissa Albers  1:50  
she didn't even call me you sent me a text with the rolling the eyes. Oh,

JJ Parker  1:54  
yeah, right. I couldn't even I

Melissa Albers  1:56  
couldn't even speak and because I know you That emoticon was like, oh, danger Will Rogers is not in a good space. And what's so funny about that is like, when, you know, like, in this moment, you're talking about being triggered, the stuff that you are triggered about was super real. But your feelings that you were failing because you were five minutes late. I mean, those feelings and like how they kind of overtook you. It's it had nothing to do with what was happening between you and I, like you could have easily said, I'm running late, I need to do something different. And I would not have even thought twice about it. But emotionally, you got amped up because in your mind, it was totally different.

JJ Parker  2:37  
Yeah, like there's no there was nothing, no external thing that needed to happen at 11. Right. We had a whole we have the whole afternoon to record this thing. Like there's no this is all self imposed internal and say, Where do you even say it's self imposed like it's like a thing that just comes up. Right. And then like anxiety that just somehow feeds into itself to the point where you're not really it wasn't not even really thinking very rationally, like, a rational, higher, right was, hey, you're five minutes late. It's no big deal. You have two hours time blocked for this event.

Melissa Albers  3:15  
Yeah. And it's and it's me too. So it's not like somebody who doesn't know you and doesn't understand that if you're not 10 minutes early, you feel like you're late, because that's how you are like, I would have given you that grace. It's absolutely no big deal.

JJ Parker  3:28  
So given that, like, how can I get so triggered on something that should be so easy and comfortable? If you think about, like, how easy it is for that to happen, you know, in an easy environment? I can't imagine I mean, we all know how bad it is when it happens in a high pressure environment, right? Yeah. Or even higher.

Melissa Albers  3:48  
Yeah, well, and I just feel like in this conversation, what I'm recognizing and what I'm feeling is the emotions behind it. Emotions inside as you Got triggered? Like all the reasons were totally logical reasons and no one would ever challenge or question those reasons but the emotions inside, it's like anxiety, you know, judgment, self judgment. Yeah, guilt, like guilt, like I'm late that is so bad and all of these sort of fantasy thinking pattern. I don't mean fantasy in that in that manner but like we take something that's very, very simple and then we fantasize in our minds very quickly and and make it bigger than it really truly is. And I think that that's the trigger point, right, some emotion spurs in us and creates these thinking patterns that are not quite how we would be thinking if we weren't feeling emotional.

JJ Parker  4:44  
Yeah, well, it says something that made me think of like, the image of who I think I am. My actions weren't lined up regardless of like the love very logical circumstance that happened, right? Yeah, my wife might debate this point. I think I'm an on time person. If somebody starts at 11, and you're not there 10 minutes early, you're late. Yes. But I think I'm an on time person. I wasn't on time. There's the conflict, right? My self image and my own actions weren't in alignment. So that's triggered me, right?

Melissa Albers  5:21  
Yeah, yes. Yes, exactly. You know, it's so interesting, like I was thinking about what kinds of things will trigger me and one of the things that I find that I'll get really whipped up a little that's one too I, I don't like being late and I know where that came from. It came from in my house when I was young, one of my parents was always very early. And one of my parents was always very late. And there was always extreme stress. When we were supposed to be out the door for something. Yes.

JJ Parker  5:53  
Right. And that stuck with you.

Melissa Albers  5:56  
Oh my gosh. So now I always feel this anxiety. Inside as we start getting closer to the time that we're supposed to walk out the door, or that a meeting is supposed to start, or a phone call is supposed to start and the feeling I have inside, it honestly doesn't match the action outside. It just doesn't match. What I recognize is that feeling of anxiety inside of me. It's a tension like it's a real tension.

JJ Parker  6:23  
How does that feel like physically? How does that feel? I talk about Mind Body connection, like, yeah, you can feel that before you recognize it. So what is how does that feeling come up for you? How's that physical? Come up for you?

Melissa Albers  6:38  
Yeah. And I would say for me that anytime that I start to feel like I've been triggered by something like in this conversation, we're talking about something as simple as being on time, but in any time that I get triggered, I can feel it in my chest. I start to get this tense feeling and across my shoulders, the back of my neck, I start to feel like this constriction Everything starts to get tight. And then that anxiety, it either stays as anxiety, or I replace it with another feeling, which is mad. Like I get

JJ Parker  7:12  
mad, like, why what's happening that's causing me to be late? Why is this? Yeah? Well, yeah.

Melissa Albers  7:18  
And how is this going to reflect on me if I'm going to be late? And who is this going to make mad and I'm already mad because I'm late. But it's really interesting when you think about the feelings that once we've been triggered by something, and it doesn't have to be it can be all sorts of things, right? Like triggers happen for all sorts of reasons. But that emotion inside usually, you know, like, if I'm putting on my coach hat, I would say, really, there's two sponsoring feelings to everything and that's love and fear. And, and when you have a really strong reaction, it's usually sponsored by one of those two things. Well, not usually it's always sponsored by one of those two things. Like being late for example, and then feeling anxious and then getting mad, but the real sponsoring thought was fear. Fear of being late fear of being judged because I'm late fear of causing a conflict because I'm going to be late. Yeah,

JJ Parker  8:15  
yeah. Today when I was triggered my physical the thing that physically happens to me as a as a way I can like, yeah, that's coming up is like I will actually shake I get like a little shaky, weak shaky, but like it's it is like, yeah, yeah, tension like, shaky. I'm shaking Why are a hand shaking like which is obviously for me it's like, pretty easy to start recognizing now, like happening. And it's funny how it happens before you realize it in your in your head.

Melissa Albers  8:49  
Right? Yeah, because your body will always tell you how you're feeling before it hits your brain every single time every time.

JJ Parker  8:58  
So once we can To start realizing that we're getting triggered once we start getting in tune with the very early signals that we are kind of on this spiral, what are some things that that you do or that that you help people with, like get themselves back centered and grounded from that state?

Melissa Albers  9:19  
Yeah, you know, there's actually usually three things that I will offer and what I tried to do myself if I've been triggered and one of the things is to recognize how far in I am out triggered Am I

JJ Parker  9:33  
what's the scale like? A little bit.

Melissa Albers  9:39  
I wish I could talk about the color or the color of my face and my a beautiful raspberry tone that is not typical. But you know, like, what I would try to do is like notice how far in I am like how long Have I let it go before I recognize, oh my gosh, I don't feel good. If it's early enough on, I can kind of catch myself and then sort of like, bring myself down with more soothing thoughts. If you feel you're going to be late, maybe you could hit it off at the pass and just make a quick phone call or a quick text and give yourself a little more time even, you know, like, instead of being I'm worrying two and a half minutes late, which is literally how I would think I might send a text and just say, I'm so sorry, I think I'm going to be about seven minutes late or 10 minutes late, and then get there beforehand. So I feel like I'm just sort of shifting my energy summit to more more soothing thoughts. I think that's probably one of the best ones. The other one is to go more general. In other words, as I get more and more uptight, I will be thinking more and more and I get more specific about the thinking. I start picking things apart even more and more and more and just going in deeper and deeper. And if I can be more general that can really help you No like go more general in the thinking

JJ Parker  11:01  
I would maybe like, if I phrase it like this, like you use zoom out, you look at the bigger picture is I kind of what you mean,

Melissa Albers  11:08  
or just your your literal thoughts become more general in nature, as opposed to I'm going to be two minutes late and just that the tightness of that kind of thinking, you know, whereas the more global way of thinking might be, let's just take a breath in the grand scheme of things. Is it going to be that crucial to be two minutes early? You know, can I see how much I've done? And that being two minutes late in the grand scheme of the day? Is that really that critical? Is that a huge character flaw for real or is it is it perhaps so just going more general is another really good thing? And then, you know, we've been talking about the trigger of just being late but there's one other way that you can do it too, but it kind of depends on the trigger. So like you were asking, you know, what can you do about the trigger, but I think it's kind of interesting to talk also about what are Things that trigger us besides being late, obviously, I mean, you and I both share that trigger, which is kind of interesting. I actually never really thought of it that way until today. But a lot of times, I also feel triggered by other things having nothing to do with my time. And that might be I can feel triggered by certain people that a certain way and I can just feel myself getting like, wound up inside about how

JJ Parker  12:31  
being what I'm allergic to some people. Yeah. So a phrase being triggered by some people. Yeah, simply, oh,

Melissa Albers  12:39  
that's your trigger. That's a trigger, right. So, like, trigger us or like, if something if I have pictured something in my mind, like an outcome, whether it be in a conversation, or whether it be in a project or whether it be in something, you know, that I'm whatever and that outcome isn't what I pictured it was Be a lot of times I can be really triggered by that because I feel really let down like I then I beat myself up about feeling bad about it like, oh, like, did I was I setting the bar too high? Or you know?

JJ Parker  13:13  
So again, it's like an expectation. Yeah, you miss match. But it can be really powerful that that can be really powerful. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  13:22  
And in the like in the workplace, like going into certain offices and being in a meeting, right where the same kind of scenario always renders a similar solution that I don't really like, or I'm in these meetings with certain individuals where I just feel like the energy isn't quite right, or we're not really solving what we're trying to solve. I might feel really triggered by that.

JJ Parker  13:46  
The thing I think that's interesting about triggers is like, a lot of times when we're describing them, it's like an external thing that's happening to us, right? Like, my meetings went long, so now I'm late or, you know, Bob always comes into my office and blah, blah, blah, right? Like, like things are happening to us, which are causing us to get triggered. But is that really like, is that really how that works? I don't like the idea that it's like what's an, you know, an internal trigger or an external trigger? Maybe they're all just internal triggers? You know, right. They're all about us. Right? Yeah.

Melissa Albers  14:29  
It's so funny. I was having a conversation similar to this this morning. I wasn't even really aware that that this would tie to this part, but it really does is that you know, some people can say, Oh, these are the things that trigger me. You know, when people don't do what they say they're going to do when when someone asked me to repeat the question four times or you know, like they can, they can tick off all of these standardized things that they say trigger them into getting mad, but the reality is, is that we have a feeling inside of us. There's something about in how we think feel b r that is actually triggered by those external things. So those external things to me, like if I'm thinking about it, I think those external things are nothing more than sort of a light bulb going off. Like, ah, there's something in your process here. Like you, something's triggering you that would be worth

JJ Parker  15:20  
turn a light ball. Yeah, right. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  15:23  
That has been reminded that it exists through some external happening. Mm hmm.

JJ Parker  15:28  
Yeah, that's really interesting to think about, because it's really the words we use to describe them and then kind of what's happening inside. Yeah, we don't have real good language around describing triggers and how, how our response to that, yes.

Melissa Albers  15:44  
But you know, it's funny as we don't maybe say on the outside, but I really think that most everybody knows and if they don't, if they certainly sit for a moment and sort of feel in their bodies, I think most can get pretty quickly to what their top triggers are. I really Think so. And I think the hardest part is exactly what you said is like putting words around it are being honest with ourselves about it because I think it's right at that point where we hit a fork in the road, we can either be honest with ourselves about it and and decide what do I want to how do I want to be with these triggers like now that I've noticed them, what's what's available to me, or we can try to shut that feeling all those feelings off. And then we make ourselves wrong for having the feelings that that something triggers, and we go into this guilt or shame and and we, yeah, yeah. And then nothing gets solved with that. But that's our human condition to constantly make ourselves wrong. And that's no way to live.

JJ Parker  16:49  
Right? Like, you're right. I mean, it's like the human condition to do that. And it's, it's, it's a shame right now like it because even when you unpack it logically, a lot of triggers are things that happened when we were children or circumstance that was kind of outside our control. And yeah, we're just reacting in in ways that, you know, again, with your logical brain, you wouldn't, but that happens and we just have to, like accept like the Yeah, that's bad. That's what happens. It's okay. Yeah,

Melissa Albers  17:21  
I think a lot of times, we get triggered by something and then we feel like overly responsible for whatever that is on the outside, you know, over responsible to own it, or we're obligated to do something with it to prove that we are and I don't think it's actually any of those things. But we're so used to worrying about the external piece of everything, the validation on the outside that we've, we've somehow gotten away from validating ourselves and seeing how powerful that is. And when we do that, like when we focus on that piece, I feel like we have this huge audience. tunity to put down a lot of those really strong emotions and then understand what those triggers are and give ourselves grace.

JJ Parker  18:08  
Mm hmm. Definitely. I was just gonna talk about like, I totally agree that getting you know, we're kind of talking about AF kind of pass back. Have you been triggered after you've calmed down? Yeah, to have some self reflection on like, okay, really what happened that right, like, like, let me think about why that came up. Maybe something about the way I think about things or my past shows or whatever. I think that's really interesting. The thing we kind of skipped over a little bit that I want to circle back on a bit is like, just like, getting from that, like, hyper triggered state. back down. Because, you know, I think all of us, you know, we all have experienced it. Obviously, I experienced it. Yeah. Norman Darrell just a moment ago, but like the time you know, the time kind of like we have expectations about how long long it would take to calm down from that. Mm hmm. I will wait for everybody or like techniques on calming down, right. Obviously, I immediately got in my car and blasted the 90s rap as loud as I could. But everyone's got their own approach, you know,

Melissa Albers  19:18  
share that playlist just in case. I think you know what, I think that while I would love to say that there's a very simple answer to this, I think that it is a little bit of a process to be able to, to get hold of and what you're describing is this, you're describing really strong waves, right? And in this self awareness journey, when we start, the waves are really like they have to get really, really high for us to notice, like, I'm triggered and that wave is really, really big. And then we know there's a period where it has to come down, crash down so that I can just become more normal until I become more normalized or more Okay, and then it takes us Little more again, as it starts to build, something else happens, we get triggered again, we get triggered again. And that wave becomes big again before we let it come crashing down. And I think what happens is, through self awareness through having more understanding and accepting of how we feel what we start to do as we shorten that space, and we prevent the waves from becoming so high and crashing so far down, and we start to learn how to have more scalped waves because let's be honest, we're human beings, we're interacting with other human beings, we're constantly going to be having experiences highs and lows, but but through awareness, having an understanding of when our body becomes triggered, having an understanding of our brains, and then like being able to just create more scalped waves in our experience, and then the time that we're experiencing that and the emotional energy that we're using becomes far less and more easily.

JJ Parker  20:58  
I like that. I like that. I like The idea that like, the waves Don't go away. Oh, right. They, they just maybe become a little bit different shaped and you're able to surf them right exactly more easily. Instead of them, then of you like trying to ride the monster wave, it's much easier to write smaller waves more consistently. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  21:23  
And that self awareness isn't just like this altruistic theoretical awareness. It's really being able to really care about yourself and have objectivity about your feelings so that you aren't judging yourself because, again, like if you get triggered about something and then it makes you mad. The reason it's usually making you mad is you're feeling super guilty or you're, you're you're just in shame about the fact that you're having a strong emotion. And a lot of times we do everything in our power to not show that emotion on the outside, but it can become very damaging on the inside. So here we're so far away what the from what the actual The event was, and we're so caught up in the secondary guilt and shame of how we always react, you know, air quotes, how come I always do this? Why can't I ever just not let that matter? And I I think it's just a it's a journey and and you know, like I always say once you know something you can't unknow it and understanding like, first of all, what are these things that seem to get me hooked up all the time, and there's some exercises we can talk about in a later podcast to help people but I think that's the first one is like, take your inventory. What do you think are your top you know, three things are five things that really make you triggered. And for a lot of people, what here are the five that I hear all the time, self doubt, particular people, certain situations, unfavorable outcomes, and unrealized feelings. I think the first part to that is to just sort of you know, Unpack your triggers and understand what they really, really are and spend a little time with writing about them. Feeling those feelings behind them and tracing them back. Like, what's the earliest time I ever remember feeling like that? Yeah, it's just to start to have more awareness about those feelings and where they came from.

JJ Parker  23:18  
Well, that that sounds like a perfect segue into another episode because I'm sure there's a lot of unpacking that we can do there, Chris, Holly. In the meantime, I think I am going to go grab my self awareness wetsuit and try to try to serve some of these waves. Good.

Melissa Albers  23:48  
Good to talk to you. I'm looking forward to the next discussion.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Discussed in this episode

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Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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