We may refer to them using different terms, but most of them have them: vulnerabilities, insecurities, sensitivities or hot buttons as I referred to them n my last column. Dr. Susan Campbell in Saying What’s Real: 7 Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success calls these bugaboos "triggers."
Put simply “triggers” are those little things people say and do that get under our skin and cause us to react or overreact.
“When you find yourself overreacting,” Dr. Campbell writes, “it means that one of your old fears has been triggered such as the fear that you’re not loveable or the fear of being controlled.”
So what do we do in these situations?
When we’re “triggered,” we tend to give up control and go on automatic pilot responding the same way we always respond, which is why some couples seem to have the same fight over and over again. By just admitting that you’re having a reaction, Dr. Campbell says this helps you see yourself more objectively. By saying “I’m having a reaction…” you communicate to the other person that you are present in the moment.
“If you can name your buttons, they are less likely to have power over you,” writes Dr. Campbell who suggests that we write down instances in our past relationships when our buttons have been pushed and try to discover the origin of these triggers from scary or disappointing events from childhood that may have instilled the fear or anxiety.
Then Dr. Campbell says we should write alternative ways we might have reacted had we been more aware.
Finally Dr. Campbell suggests that we write down any actions we’ve taken to get back at someone for pushing one of our buttons.
“The ideal partner is not someone who never has unconscious reactions,” she writes. “It’s someone who can take responsibility for her own reactions without blaming you.”