Triggers That Get To You!

By Amina Hedayat Khalil

Leadership and Think Global Coach

What is a trigger?

As we get closer to the beach, I smell the ocean scent with its salty sulphury
smell combined with decaying seaweed that’s washed on the beach. This smell
reminds me of my childhood when I spent many summers by the seaside of
Alexandria. Ah… not to forget the fishy smell as well. Those days were a few
of the best days of my life. Being carefree, full of playfulness, and just pure

Going to Half-Moon Bay Beach in California is one of my loved spots in the world that
triggers those memories of Alexandria and compel me to visit over and over

On the contrary of that joy and nostalgic mood I mentioned, every time I attend a firework
celebrating either the fourth of July, the end of each day at Disney parks, or
a simple backyard fun, fear is triggered from the deepest space within me. The
fireworks blasts trigger my panic buttons because of my war experience. Those
blasts trigger my memory of the danger we experienced.

I’m so grateful I’m not in a war zone anymore, but still the sound of fireworks
triggers those emotions in me and many times I want to leave before it’s over.
I don’t show much of that fear in front of my children when they are so excited
and oohing and aahing with fascination at every blast.

So, a trigger is any stimulus that creates and impulse within us, then we act upon
that impulse. A trigger could be internal or external.

The first example I used is an example of an internal trigger of memories that was
nudged by an external trigger, which is the ocean.

The second example of the fireworks is an external trigger that cause old emotions
to surface as if going through the same experience.

Whenever we are triggered in any way, we want to understand and become aware that we are triggered. We are all different in the way we get triggered. What triggers me
might not trigger you, who’s reading this blog now. How we behave as a
consequence of the trigger is also different from each other. You’ll behave one
way; I’ll behave another way.

A trigger sends impulses to our brains to become aware of the situation and
perceive it the best we know how, or the best we are used to.

Once we become aware of the trigger and recognize where it is coming from and how to
associate it with my impulse, then I make the choice how I want to behave.

This is an extremely important point here: “I make the choice how I want to

As soon as I feel triggered, I take a deep breath or two, or even three to gather
myself and calm my nervous system, I recognize that I have a choice, then
choose how to behave from the choice of the person whom I want to be.. the best
version of myself. We all envision ourselves better and super and marvelous
than what we are displaying now. We envision we have all the qualities we want
to embody and who we want to become.

This is the best opportunity to practice becoming who we want to become. Let your
choice come from that person, the best of you, not driven by the external
stimuli from the environment.

Here we have the influence of an:

  1. External trigger
  2. Internal trigger

We go through the consequence of those triggers, either:

  1. Positive nourishing effect (triggering pleasant memories we act upon), or
  2. Negative depleting effects (triggering fear and emotional unrest we act upon.)

Most important point: we have the choice to behave in the direction that will serve
us most.

  • Recognize the trigger.
  • Become aware of its origin.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Make a choice how you want to behave.
  • Be the best version of who you are and who you want to be. 

Any questions? Go ahead and comment below.

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