Emotionally Reactive and Offended Easily (Triggers)
Are you offended easily by comments that wouldn’t offend most people? Would others say you are emotionally reactive?
You need to learn what is triggering you to have those reactions. Trigger is simply another word for hurt.
If we could tap into your brain, we’d probably find a list of triggers. There are certain “things” that others say that always result in your being emotionally reactive. That list is your guide to healing what causes you to be easily offended.
You may even be aware of some of your triggers. However, there is probably a long list of triggers that you aren’t consciously aware of.
What Will Trigger Emotions for You
Are you wondering how the ways you are offended easily can show you how to heal? You might be thinking that the people who make those comments that cause you to be emotionally reactive are the problem.
That is somewhat true. However, there is much more to it than that. Also, you can’t control how and what others say to you or about you.
You’ve heard it before, so this is just a reminder. You can only control how you react.
Now, think about a time where you were easily offended. What was said to trigger emotions?
Was it something about your physical appearance? Does it have something to do with how you act? Was it related to your personality?
Those questions typically point us towards our list of triggers. Again, trigger is just another word for hurt. So, think about the “things” that hurt you. What causes you to be emotionally reactive?
Write down your list of triggers. That list is going to help you determine what you need to heal.
Let me explain what I mean by that. If you are triggered by something, that means that, on some level, you believe it to be true.
You can argue with me about that, but hear me out first. If somebody makes a comment about you and you know it’s 100% false, it’s not going to bother you.
Example of Not Being Triggered
If you are preparing your argument against that, then keep reading as I give you some examples that prove I am right. While you are reading these examples, keep your list of triggers nearby. These examples may cue some more triggers.
When my niece and nephew were young, they gave me the perfect example to explain how triggers work. My niece was about four years old and my nephew was about three years old.
They were playing chase. My nephew was getting frustrated that he couldn’t catch his cousin. So, he stopped and called her a “silly-haired punk.”
My niece immediately stopped and said, “My hair is not silly,” then she kept running. She knew that her hair was not silly. So, she was not triggered.
Example of Emotionally Reactive Response to a Trigger
Now, let’s imagine a scenario where two children were also playing chase. The child who couldn’t catch the other child, instead stops and says, “You’re fat and ugly.”
The child who was called “fat and ugly” has very low self-esteem. That child is very insecure regarding his or her physical appearance.
The response would be much different than that of my niece. There are many possible responses for that child, just as there are many responses for us as adults when we are emotionally reactive.
What are some of the ways that you are emotionally reactive when triggered? Take a look at your list of triggers. How have you reacted to those?
The two main reactions are anger and sadness. If your typical reaction is anger, my belief is that you are actually covering up feelings of sadness. If you want to learn why I believe that, you need to read my post Anger is Often a Repressed Feeling of Sadness.
Let’s go back to the example of the child being called “fat and ugly.” The ways he or she might be emotionally reactive are probably quite similar to the ways we are emotionally reactive as adults.
If the child’s response is that of anger, he or she will probably lash out. That child might respond with a response intended to hurt the other child.
The angry child might throw a “below the belt” punch. It might sound something like, “Well, at least I’m not stupid and make bad grades like you.”
The child who makes that comment knows that the other child has a learning disability. However, his or her anger causes the emotionally reactive response to hurt the other child as he or she was hurt.
That sounds really harsh, doesn’t it? It is. However, I can guarantee that you have said and/or thought these same kinds of “things.”
Hurt People Hurt People
Everybody has heard the phrase, “Hurt people hurt people.” That is why we are emotionally reactive. We were hurt and react from that place of hurt.
Now, let’s look at the child who was called “fat and ugly” again. If the child’s reaction is sadness, then he or she might cry because he or she has a lot of insecurities about the learning disability.
It’s also quite possible that the child will show no signs of emotional reactivity. That’s usually what adults do when they are hurt and feeling sad.
Adults tend to swallow the pain from their triggers, which just adds more to their feeling of not being good enough. As children become adults, you can probably imagine how big their piles of Not Good Enough Stuff, those feelings of never being good enough, have grown. The reason for that is that we aren’t taught how to heal.
Don’t get irritated here, but the answer to healing your triggers is becoming aware of them and then learning how to love and accept yourself.
When somebody would tell me years ago that I just needed to learn to accept and love myself, my eyes rolled so hard that I’m surprised they didn’t get stuck somewhere inside my head.
Now, I don’t roll my eyes at that because I know acceptance and self-love truly are the answers to healing Not Good Enough Stuff. When you begin healing, you decrease the frequency of being emotionally reactive and your triggers lessen.
Let’s take a look at another example of how somebody might NOT be offended easily by a negative comment because it is NOT on his or her list of triggers. This will make more sense if you keep reading.
Why You Are Triggered or Not Triggered
As with a lot of the deep stuff I write about, I’m going to try to make this a little lighter for you. Think about sitting in a room and somebody walks in staring at you.
That person says, “Wow! You have two heads and that makes you so ugly and disgusting.” Now, I don’t think that anybody reading this has two heads.
Not only that, but that comment will not trigger emotions for you. That person who made the comment will not find you emotionally reactive.
Why is that? The answer is simple. Having two heads is not on your list of triggers. Due to that, you will not be emotionally reactive.
You know without a doubt that you do not have two heads. So, if you know something is not true, it will not trigger or hurt you.
It’s time to take a look at your list of triggers again. You are probably thinking there is no way that your response, or lack thereof, to the “two heads” comment will never be the same as the triggers on your list.
Well, that is where you are wrong! If you work to heal the things that trigger emotions that are difficult, your reaction, or lack thereof, will be the same as the “two head” comment.
Where Triggers Come From
I know this from my own personal journey in healing triggers, so I will give you an example of one of my experiences.
From about the age of twelve until my early thirties, I struggled with my body image. No matter how thin I got, I still felt fat. There was even a point in high school where I starved myself down to ninety-eight pounds.
As with all eating or body image disorders, my struggles came from my Not Good Enough Stuff that started at a very young age. If you want to read about how your negative self-talk was created, click here. Here’s a little hint, it ALWAYS begins in childhood.
My body image was Number One on my list of triggers. I was emotionally reactive, to say the least, when somebody made a comment that I perceived as negative in regards to my body.
Yes, there were times when those comments were intended to be negative. However, there were also times that the comments were truly compliments, but my insecurities wouldn’t allow me to see that.
Instead, anything and everything seemed like a direct attack regarding my body. Somebody could have simply said, “I’m going to go on a walk tonight, do you want to come with me?”
In my head, that comment meant that the person was indirectly telling me that I needed to go on a walk because I was fat. As with most people, my response was either anger or sadness, but, either way, those kinds of innocent comments would trigger emotions that were incredibly intense for me.
After years of healing, it even seems a bit insane that I was so emotionally reactive. I created stories in my head about what people “secretly” meant about my body.
Now, I can confidently say that comments about my body are not even on my list of triggers anymore. I can even say that I like my body and I treat it well now because of that.
Triggers Can Be Eliminated
The reason I gave that example of my experience is that I often see my therapy clients with the belief that certain “things” will always trigger them. That is simply not true if you’re willing to put in the work to heal.
If you are wanting a step-by-step guide to healing your triggers to stop being offended easily, then sadly, you’re out of luck. Don’t give up though!
The reason that I can’t give you that step-by-step guide is that our triggers were created from different types of emotional trauma. So, offering a one-stop shop for healing them would be impossible.
My triggers related to body image were created from parents who struggled with their own body image. Due to that, they unknowingly put their struggles on me.
You may not have a clue where your triggers came from because it feels as though they have always been there. It’s also possible that you know exactly where they came from.
Either way, they can still be healed. The point of this post is not to guide you in your healing of triggers. It is simply to explain triggers and the reasons you are offended easily.
Your Journey of Healing Triggers
Before I wrap up, I want to give you a reminder about triggers. If you are triggered by something, then, for some reason, you believe what was said is true.
If you struggle to identify your triggers, just start paying attention to how you react towards certain topics that are discussed about you or in front of you. If you are emotionally reactive towards certain topics, rest assured that you can add those topics to your list of triggers.
My recommendation, as always, regarding healing your triggers is to find a LICENSED therapist to help guide you. We are trained to help you with this. It is much easier to identify and heal triggers if you have a licensed professional guiding you.
What are some of your triggers? Are you willing to share ways that you were emotionally reactive to a trigger? Is there something you have done to heal your triggers?
Let the NGES community know about your experiences with triggers. Comment on this post because we can all learn from one another. We just have to be willing to show vulnerability by sharing our struggles.
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This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.