Triggers, what are they?
They are situations or things, sometimes they can even be people's behavior, which actually "re-trigger" an emotional reaction to a past traumatic event. So, when you are triggered, you are really not responding to the present situation, but you are responding as if you were now in the past and the past situation was recurring, and usually it is a very strong reaction. This sounds so weird and so surreal, but it really can happen.
The first thing is to realize you've been triggered.
Then breathe, breathe, and breathe some more, because the feelings that are triggered are quite intense and unpleasant, you may feel like you have no control over the emotions of fear, dread, panic, etc. that are coming up. So breathe deeply and calm down.
Realize these emotions being unearthed due to a totally innocuous present event are really NOT due to that event, but due to feelings from deep inside of you, so separate the past feelings from the present event.
Perhaps distance yourself till you calm down. That is, take a time out to calm yourself and regain composure, for as long as it takes.
The best thing is that now you know what's going on so you can deal with it in a logical, unemotional way. "Whenever something negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it." -- Eckhart Tolle
It is quite surreal to think that this can happen to you, but realizing that it is happening and understanding these emotions are a way to heal from them.
Know that the past event that happened years and years ago is not happening anymore, you do not have to react the way you did years and years ago. You can take a totally different and more constructive path and react not at all or react in a constructive and understanding way.
Realize that whatever or whomever may have triggered you, they are not to blame. They (the people or events) are simply things that happen on a normal day and in a normal time. The reaction you are having is due totally to your past. No one is to blame here. However, these things are to be understood in order to be responded to in a normal, unemotional way.
Its awful the way this thing makes you feel, weak, stupid, like you are over reacting for no reason, like people will think you're a freak. It feels like you've tripped and fallen over nothing at all. It's not fair, but you have been through something that can be triggered, now the thing to do is to gain understanding of it so that your reactions are no longer a reflex or extreme and you feel you are in control of your emotions.
Talking to your therapist, if you have one, and hopefully you do have one, is a great thing to do. Your therapist who knows you well will be of the utmost help in dealing with these unwanted emotions and reactions.
Persistence, patience and understanding, all of these will help anyone get over this.
We can't change the past and remove the incidents that caused us pain, but we can change how we continue to react to the past. We can react with understanding that yes our past affects us, but we can also decide not to over react by this simple recognition.
Showing love to our "Inner child" or, worded differently but essentially the same thing, as Pema Chödrön says: Showing love to our fear, and counseling, and breathing exercises and educating ourselves about triggers and how the brain works is a multi pronged approach that is sure to make things better for us.
With love and peace,