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Understanding and Overcoming Triggers: A Journey to Personal Growth



We’ve all experienced those days when our emotions seem to spiral out of control, leading to impulsive reactions and subsequent regret. Such triggers are part of the human experience, but we can learn to manage them.

This article delves into the nature of triggers, their underlying causes, and provides practical strategies to navigate and overcome them. By understanding our triggers and embracing them as opportunities for self-reflection, we can embark on a transformative journey toward personal growth and wholeness.

Exploring Triggers

Triggers can range from minor irritations to significant disruptions in our daily lives. They can be as seemingly insignificant as getting stuck in traffic or as specific as someone leaving crumbs on the countertop. Often, triggers manifest as pet peeves—quirks that bother us when others display them. However, these triggers have deeper roots in our psyche, representing aspects of ourselves we may have suppressed or denied.

The Unconscious Reactions

Renowned psychologist Carl Jung once stated, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.” When we get triggered, it is an invitation to explore why we reacted in a certain way. Triggers often occur when we witness aspects of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge. We resist, fight back, and blame others, as our ego strives to protect us from confronting these hidden aspects. Acknowledging this truth can be challenging since we tend to deny that the things we despise in others are also true of ourselves.

Example: Exploring Entitlement

Let’s consider the stereotype of millennials as entitled individuals. Many complain about millennials wanting constant praise, displaying a sense of entitlement, and desiring immediate advancement. Instead of asking, “How do I manage other people’s sense of entitlement?” a useful question is, “How am I being entitled?”

Initially, our ego may resist such self-reflection, denying any sense of entitlement within us. However, by opening ourselves up to this perspective, we might discover hidden aspects of our entitlement. Perhaps we desire recognition and promotion just as much as anyone else. Maybe we hold expectations that those who report to us shouldn’t constantly seek appreciation or strive for career advancement.

The Trigger Cycle and Self-Discovery 

The trigger cycle follows a pattern: in our early years, we shadow aspects of ourselves, denying their existence. Later in life, we encounter these suppressed qualities in others, unconsciously recognizing them as our shadow. Caught in denial, our ego reacts, triggering emotional responses that lead to blame and lashing out.

To utilize triggers as opportunities for self-discovery, we must shift from blame to self-reflection. Instead of pointing fingers, ask yourself, “How is this true of me?” Approach this exploration with creative curiosity, free from self-criticism and judgment. Embrace the trigger as a valuable lesson and opportunity for growth.

Projection and Expanding Awareness 

Sometimes, triggers arise from projection, where we see qualities or behaviors in others that we dislike but fail to recognize within ourselves. This projection can result in perceiving those traits everywhere, leading to a distorted perception of reality. Recognizing this pattern is crucial in reclaiming our projections and taking responsibility for our own emotions and perceptions.

Triggers within Close Relationships 

Triggers tend to emerge most prominently within our closest relationships, such as with loved ones and family members. Within the dynamics of family, we often choose to shadow certain parts of ourselves. It is essential to understand that this process is a normal aspect of being human, free from blame or fault. By embracing triggers as gifts, we can awaken to unexplored aspects of ourselves, nurturing self-love, and promoting personal growth.

Understanding and overcoming triggers requires self-reflection, curiosity, and a willingness to explore our shadows. By shifting blame to self-inquiry, we embark on a transformative journey of personal growth. Triggers serve as opportunities to reclaim suppressed aspects, making the unconscious conscious. As we navigate triggers with compassion and understanding, we expand our awareness, allowing us to become more whole and authentic individuals. Embrace your triggers, learn from them, and uncover the hidden gems of self-discovery.



This article is related to my podcast episode with Luke Entrup – Listen here

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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