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Dealing With Emotional Triggers And Trauma – Techniques To Regain Control

Written by: Lisa Tahir, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


If you grew up in a home where there was inconsistency due to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or other violence or neglect—or the witnessing of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, violence, or neglect—no doubt you were physiologically in a consistent state of hyperarousal and hypervigilance.

Image of a woman sitting curled up on the ground

This means that your central nervous system (CNS) is, as an adult, in physiological hyperalert at all times. As a result, you may continuously, consciously or subconsciously, scan the environment for emotional, physical, or sexual danger, unpredictability, or chaos. Being hyper-alert means that you never fully trust that the moments of quiet and peace that you experience will be other than fleeting.

You, therefore, find yourself in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it always does at some point. And when it does, you are cast back into neurological distress often without an appropriate context of comfort or care. This hypervigilance is a normal reaction to the abnormal experiences of chaos, abuse, trauma, unpredictability, uncertainty, and fear.

Defense Mechanisms

As survivors of trauma, we may naturally default to an array of self-protective mechanisms of defense, including dissociation, depersonalization, intellectualization, sublimation, repression, denial, reaction formation, compartmentalization, projection, or acting out. To mediate our pain and meet our needs, these compensatory methods saved us from absorbing the stressful reality of what was happening in our lives at the time.

As we grow into adulthood these defensive mechanisms turn against us and become maladaptive. They cause us problems with our affect regulation (i.e., emotional balance) and in our relationships with others.

Emotional Triggers

As adults many of us succeed in creating a life of sustained peace and tranquility, and yet at the same time we may encounter emotional triggers, which provoke us into worrying that something intrusive or negative may come along to take away what we have.

A trigger is an unhealed memory or energetic attachment lying dormant, waiting to be discovered, akin to stepping on a hidden land mine. Triggers often reside in the shadows and hidden recesses of our consciousness and may be completely out of our normal everyday awareness.

It’s important to reassure yourself during and after having been triggered that you are having a natural reaction to a wound that has been hidden from your consciousness. You may be experiencing a reaction to core wounding that has been opened up and activated. It has made its presence known to you so that you can embrace the parts of yourself that Chiron (the Wounded Healer Archytype) illuminates.

As a young person it may be that you didn’t have the power to create or maintain peace in your environment no matter how hard you tried. Where you stand now, as an adult, is different. Once you begin to apply daily empathy and self-forgiveness to the vulnerabilities that Chiron reveals, no one will have the power to take away the confidence you’re building. You will experience a new way of living life that is progressively filled with what you want and contains less and less of what you don’t want.

The more often you give yourself permission to experience inner peace, joy, happiness, love, and bliss, the more deeply you rewire the neural pathways of your brain to adapt to a new baseline of existence that’s rooted in stability. You can begin to feel safe as you gradually bring yourself into interior alignment with your core self. There will be fewer and fewer experiences of disappointment and hardship to navigate because you have changed your patterns.

Externalizing Our Emotional Triggers

When you feel aroused in a negative way you can choose to externalize your reaction by temporarily taking an objective stance from the place of your inner observer. This is different from dissociating because using your inner observer is a construct of a learned skill and technique that helps you accurately identify a potentially triggering emotional exchange.

It may help you to visualize the other person’s emotions as a color or shape so that you can imagine blocking them, putting them in a box, walking the emotions out your front door, sending them out of a window, asking them to leave, or sealing yourself in love and light. It may also help you to name that annoying aspect of the person who is triggering you. You can choose to refer to it as that person’s alter ego, ten-year-old self, or your favorite nickname in order to bring some humor to the situation. These are mental/psychological techniques to take the power and emotional charge out of challenging interpersonal interactions.

I think that when our triggers erupt, the associated emotions that we feel often are so intense that we instinctively believe they have power over us, and then, of course, we fear being emotionally out of control.

By using the techniques I suggest above, we can interrupt the process of escalation and allow the emotional charge of the triggered feelings to subside.

I suggest that you take a private moment of quiet time when you inwardly promise yourself that you’ll attend to that part of your inner world later on in a private moment when you can look at it more closely and work through what’s coming up. I inwardly talk to myself in this way to self-soothe. A seemingly powerful emotion can fall away with the gentle commitment to properly address it later. This is what it means to consciously stay present. This is mindfulness in action.

The resulting insights we are left with following a trigger allow us to see more clearly with the inner eyes of our heart. For it’s our heart that mediates between our instinctual impulses of sexuality and aggression (lower chakras) and the higher executive functioning of our upper chakras (energy systems).

Our thoughts and perceptions precede our actions. It’s the reason that more of what is thought about actually comes about. This works well for us if we are in alignment with healthy and positive influences, and if we are creating from a place where we feel abundant, grateful, joyful, and secure. To sustain our lives from this powerful vantage point it’s important to take the time and make the effort to identify and heal

our core wounding.

Transforming Emotional Triggers and Learning from Them

In order to be used in service to our happiness, our wounds want to be taken out into the light of day so that they may be fully seen, heard, understood, transformed, and integrated. Embrace the ideas and insights contained in this book. Dismantle thought systems that are based in fear, and replace them with thought systems based in love.

Through the application of self-forgiveness and empathy, this shift in consciousness becomes the transformation of your core wounding. In flashes of insight and deeper love for others and yourself, you will begin to see situations and problems differently because you’ve been willing to view them from an alternative vantage point.

In traditional psychotherapy and psychology this is called reframing or making a paradigm shift. In this way we can shift into an existence of enhanced peace, joy, contentment, and happiness. This skill is essential in moving through and then making meaning from the pain of the past.

I have used the teachings of Louise Hay, one of my favorite authors and visionaries, to reshape my belief systems. I want to share an excerpt from her book, The Power Is Within You, that may be helpful to you:

"Life is a voyage of self-discovery. To me, to be enlightened is to go within and to know who and what we really are, and to know that we have the ability to change for the better by loving and taking care of ourselves... When I talk about loving ourselves, I mean having a deep appreciation for who we are. We accept all the different partsof ourselves—our little peculiarities, the embarrassments, the things we may not do so well, and all the wonderful qualities, too... We often put conditions on our love. But we can change. We can love ourselves as we are right now!"

With understanding, self-forgiveness, and empathy, I encourage you to consider accepting yourself just as you are right now, in this very moment.

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Lisa Tahir, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lisa Tahir, is an inspirational podcast host of All Things Therapy, where she seeks to "Change Consciousness One Conversation at a Time.' Her book, "The Chiron Effect: Healing Our Core Wounds through Astrology, Empathy, and Self-Forgiveness," has been acclaimed and endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Tahir draws her strength through combining the psychological with the spiritual, and as a licensed therapist seeks to help others in visualizing and creating their very best lives no matter what has been true in the past.


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