Trigger: any spark of annoyance -- from the more serious to the downright petty -- that ignites your blood to boiling, incites comments you'll later regret saying, and/or makes you act in ways that only worsen the situation. Also known as a precursor to an Instant Bad Mood.
Let's be frank, we all have triggers that set us off. Some minor, some more grievous.
Think of triggers as the drip, drip, drip of gasoline next to a lit match. Sooner or later: BOOM! And, voilà, Instant Bad Mood.
I'm no stranger to Instant Bad Moods, and have the scars to prove it. However, experience has taught me that the key is to manage the triggers as they come and, therefore, avert that impending burst of anger from the get-go.
Here are three easy ways you can take control of your triggers and keep the peace.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Trigger me once, shame on you. Trigger me twice, shame on me.
By now, you know what your triggers are, and have likely let them get the best of you from time to time. For example, working with lazy or incompetent people on a project sets me off. As does a rude waiter; a review when it's clear the person didn't even read my book; chronically late individuals; whiny or pontificating Facebook posts; arrogance in any form; rumors; zits with a poor sense of timing; and so on.
Make a list of your triggers. This little task may surprise you, especially when you reach for second and third sheets of paper to finish your griping. Then, next to each trigger, jot down ways to avoid those people and situations in the future.
For me, I now very carefully choose the people with whom I work on projects; I've learned to let any bad reviews roll right off my back; if a friend is chronically late, I factor that into the schedule (which actually gives me more time to get ready); I rarely check my Facebook newsfeed; and I do my best to steer clear of rude and arrogant people.
If it's impossible to avoid triggers -- say, an obnoxious co-worker you can't help but see every day or the ill-timed zit -- brainstorm solutions for turning those situations into practices in cultivating patience, love, compassion, and humility.
When you transform triggers into lessons, you'll come out the winner every time.
Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Fold 'Em
When a trigger strikes, a gnarled version of our fight-or-flight instinct kicks in.
Learn when it's beneficial to stick around to defuse a situation and hopefully become a better person for it, and when it's best to turn and walk (or run!) in the opposite direction with your dignity still intact.
If it is a person who is the trigger -- because they are rude, late, obnoxious, you name it -- you need to decide whether it's appropriate to tell them they're acting in a way that bothers you or if it's easier to simply smile and exit.
By having a chat with someone about something they do that triggers you, you may inspire them along a more positive pathway as well and solve the problem. File that under "Win-Win!" If that isn't an option, remember that sometimes it takes more love -- for yourself and for the other person -- to let go than it does to repeatedly subject yourself to even minor torment.
If it's a thing -- unruly hair, slow traffic, literally rain on your parade, a recipe that refuses to turn out, you name it -- that bothers you so much it drives you into an Instant Bad Mood, then it's time to have a heart-to-heart chat with yourself. You need to decide if it's really worth getting that upset over something trivial. (I'll help you out here: It's not worth it!)
Realize Exactly Who's Pulling the Trigger
No one emerges the winner when a trigger of any kind morphs into an Instant Bad Mood that's left to fester.
Except . . . Here's a clue: He has red pointy ears and tail, smells like stale smoke, schleps around a pitchfork, and likes to play with fire.
Pulling the trigger and then sitting back to watch you spiral into an Instant Bad Mood is child's play for the Devil. Make no mistake, he knows what sets you off and how to use that to his advantage, and for his twisted entertainment.
Your best defense: compassion.
Think of compassion as your divine bulletproof vest against triggers. When you embrace and mindfully practice compassion every day, you begin to look at those people who are triggers with different eyes. You start to realize that you've never walked in their shoes so you don't know why they act the way they do, but that they still deserve love. Likewise, you begin to look at things that are triggers and grasp just how silly you're being.
Embracing compassion is your way of telling the Devil, "I'm rubber you're glue, whatever trigger you throw bounces off of me and sticks to you!"