Portrait of woman, upset and pensive.You’re just being yourself, going about your day, and then, all of a  sudden, something happens and you’re triggered. 

Though you’d been feeling calm and happy, now you’re now fuming. You are washed with emotions of hurt, shame, or humiliation. You might feel invaded by these unbidden feelings. Your raw emotions feel so real, so big, they just take over. 

You feel out of control. You just want to lash out, run away, or hide. In such situations, it’s common to feel all of these things at once. 

Wow, you think:What just happened? You start wondering why you’ve been thrown back into what feels like old, unresolved feelings. 

You’re emotionally triggered. This is what it feels like to be transported into a familiar, yet painful and nonsensical emotional world where you just get trapped. 

When you have unhealed internal conflicts, it’s remarkably easy to fall into this emotional quagmire. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out of it without being reactive or defensive along the way. 

After you’re released from the grip of triggered emotions, you may feel embarrassed or ashamed of how you’ve acted. You may be full of regret for decisions you make, bridges you burn, and the opportunities you miss when in such a state.

We all have difficult emotional experiences in our past. Is being triggered an inevitable part of being human? Portrait of man, pensive.

First, let’s explore the difference between a natural reaction to an unhealthy emotional interaction or being triggered.

Not all emotional responses are triggered reactions. You can definitely have a non-triggered emotional response to others’ unhealthy or inappropriate behaviors.

You can tell you’re having a healthy emotional response when you: 

  • remain grounded in yourself 
  • understand your feelings, including why you feel what you feel
  • can act from a place of empathy, presence, openness, and receptivity 
  • remain emotionally connected to your inner world, and present for the others
  • feel attuned to yourself and to others
  • have more emotional clarity about what’s happening 
  • are able to  create healthy boundaries and take care of yourself in a difficult situation

On the other hand, when you’re triggered, your reactions seem to come out of nowhere. Everything happens so fast and feels like an automatic, knee-jerk reaction. Out of control and unaware of why you feel the way you do, you feel righteous and justified, and entitled to have your big emotional reaction. 

Your ability to self-regulate goes out the window. You shift into defensive mode, emotionally on attack or simply withdraw. You’re not grounded in yourself anymore. You’re lost down the rabbit hole of unhealed emotional conflicts. 

Female portrait, closed eyes, laying her head on a window, mirror/shadow image of her on the window. When triggered, your unhealed parts demand attention. Yes, those old parts of yourself from your past need to be attended to. They need to be heard, seen, and validated. They need attuned presence and soothing. Unfortunately, when you’re right down the rabbit hole, your reactive or defensive behaviors aren’t getting you attuned to the presence. You don’t have access to healing, transformation, or growth responses. 

There’s good news in all this: whatever has wounded you can also be instrumental in your healing. It’s possible for your triggers to become doorways to opportunities for change. 

EMDR is a powerful therapy to help you use the triggers and heal. 

It’s true: as unpleasant as triggers can be, they are also opportunities for healing, shift, and growth. When you’re triggered, what you unconsciously work so hard to repress or deny comes right to the surface. When they’re so obvious, it’s possible for you to work through the issues and reclaim yourself. 

But, if you don’t capture these opportunities for healing, you’ll quickly repress them again and push what wounded you deep down in your inner world. They lie dormant until triggered again and the whole cycle begins anew. Until you face the unresolved feelings from your past, they will keep being triggered, again and again. 

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an effective, unique form of psychotherapy that will help you take advantage of these windows of opportunity so you can release old ways of responding. 

By capturing feelings, beliefs, and body sensations that emerge when you’re triggered, you and your trained therapist can follow the memory lane right to the source of unmetabolized experiences. When we get to  the roots of your wounds, deep, lasting healing becomes possible. 

How does EMDR help resolve your emotional triggers?Emotionally free man, back image, walking on the shore, trace of foot prints behind him.

Through bilateral eye stimulation, EMDR can activate your whole brain and mind in order to process past experiences that created unhealthy responses. Essentially, EMDR can target  – your triggers and disarm them. 

When you start healing, a glimmer of emotional connection to your authentic self comes through. With that glimmer, you can begin to see who you really are, your essence. As you begin to get in touch with  your true self, you’ll just want to continue your healing. You’ll see the value in your triggers and, instead of being sent back down the rabbit hole, you’ll see them as new portals to transformation.  

In my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, office and online across California, I blended psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapy, EMDR, with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). I have a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, I have a MFT (marriage and family therapy) license, and I am EMDR certified. All of my work is grounded in the neuroscience of psychotherapy and relationships in order to help people discover how to find emotional freedom and live fully in the present and create more fulfilling, successful lives. 


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