Letter No 111 - What's your trigger?

Dear friend,

Sometimes my mood or my mental state suddenly changes. And I'm speaking about a bad kind of a change. For instance, just yesterday I was feeling relaxed and 'flow-y' all morning. And then suddenly at around 2:30 I got triggered by some thoughts and for an entire 30 minutes my mind went into a complete tizzy. What do I mean by tizzy?

There were a flurry of thoughts speaking about what is not ok, what bad things might happen, what I am doing wrong, all the things I am not doing.

I felt compelled to move around, say something, do something, take immediate action, fix something. None of it well thought through.

I could not calm my mind or thing straight. There was a pattern of negative thoughts that had been building up for a while that suddenly took over.

My body felt tense and restless. Every cell in me was desperately yearning for resolution of this feeling. And the only way my brain knew was to say something, do something, or like I said take some immediate action.

Now this is what happens to me most of the time when I get triggered. For you it may be different. You be go silent. You may withdray. You may snap. You may start debating (I do that). You may want to 'talk it out' (I do that too).

What happens to you when you get triggered?


I can remember getting triggered by different things ever since I was a young person. Sometimes it would be something my teacher said, a friend said, my parents said or even my sister. Sometimes it would be when I'm at a party and I see people having a great time on the dance floor. Sometimes it would be when someone sings or plays an instrument. Sometime it would be when someone goes on stage and performs beautifully. Sometimes it would be when I'm driving and someone overtakes, or honks a lot, or breaks a signal. Sometimes it is when do something stupid while driving, and someone calls me out. Sometimes it is when I say something that I immediately regret. Sometimes it is when my wife calls me out assertively on something stupid I did. Sometimes it is when my kids get extremely sulky. Sometimes it is when a colleague doesn't do something they said they will do. Sometimes it is when they do something that they didn't say they were going to do. Sometimes it is when I do something and it gets questioned sharply. Sometimes it is when I look around me and see only all the things that I happening different from the way I think they should be happening. Sometimes it is when I am feeling serious and someone else is feeling chilled. Sometimes it is when I am feeling chilled and others are feeling serious.

And many many more.

There no clear pattern. Or is there?

What are some things that trigger you? Why don't you take a moment to write down a few things that trigger you.


Here are some more of my triggers.

When someone I’m close to, their energy drops after surging I said or did.

When someone doesn’t respond to something I said it did with excitement.

When people around me go silent.

When people don’t get what I’m saying and say it very coldly.

When someone speaks in a very confident and almost cocky tone.

When people appreciate someone else other than me. (It's tough to see this and write this).

When someone I love expresses love or fascination about someone else.

When someone talks about my softness, or emotional-ness, or theoretical nature.

Seeing someone doing well in something I’ve really worked hard at.

Seeing someone I love played by or being manipulated by someone.


And the thing is that when we get triggered, we often mess things up. We take wrong decisions, we say dumb things, we become needy or cocky. We screw up. It slows down our growth and progress. It drains our energy and joyfulness.

Therefore it's worth spending some time on figuring them out.


Is there a pattern to our triggers?

Is it worth finding out patterns of what triggers us?

Maybe. I don't know. I haven't completely crossed that place yet. Hence I'm writing this letter to see if I can identify some of my patterns. Maybe in this process you will too.

So what is my pattern of triggers. Here are some possibilites.

Maybe I get triggered when people people don't speak to me in a gentle respectful tone (because I feel I always speak with a gentle respect tone - haha as I write I realise this not necessarily always the case).
Maybe I get triggered when people are not sensitive to me (because I feel I am sensitive to people -- hmmm).
Maybe I get triggered when people tell me I am wrong very directly (because I don't tell people very directly when they are wrong. I go gentle).
Maybe I get triggered when I see all the things I did wrong or missed doing (because in my mind I have an image of me being efficient and effective).
Maybe I get triggered when I see people making the same mistakes I made (because I feel they ought to have learned from my mistakes -- haha this sounds so stupid as I write it)
Maybe I get triggered when I see how much time and energy I have wasted on dumb things (because in my mind I think I am so smart)


Now I see a pattern emerging. I swear to you I didn't plan or think through this. I just wrote down what came spontaneously. Now if someone of you write back and says 'then you should have thought about it and researched it thoroughly before sending it to us', maybe I'll get triggered. Hehe.

But these are a good representation of situations that trigger me.

So it seems in my case the pattern is caused by a clash between what is happening in reality and some image I have in my mind about how I am and how others should be.

Here is an example.

My image of me is something who is considerate and respectful. I expect people to bet the same.


When someone does something (especially a close person) that I see as inconsiderate or disrespectful, I get triggered.
Or when someone calls me out and makes me realise I am actually not being considerate or disrespectful, I get triggered.

The image in mind about myself, or the image / expectation of how someone else should be, is getting shattered in that moment. The trigger is pulled.


Any thoughts or reflections for you so far?

I am not going to attempt to write about what do about these triggers in this letter. There is enough work to be done for us just in identifying our triggers and finding the underlying patterns. Even the best solution in the world is of no use, unless we know the exactly nature of the problem we are trying to solve.

For myself, what I am realising is that I need to clearly identify and WRITE DOWN what are the different images I have created of myself (who I am, how I am, what I am) in my mind. I need to understand these clearly and check if they make sense and if I want to keep them.

Also, I need to understand what exactly I expect of others. How do I expect them to be and behave. This is especially try for the 5 to 6 people I am closest too. They are usually the ones that trigger us the most often (and we trigger them the most often).

I think I am very considerate to people. I expect them to also be.
I like take in many perspectives in situations and go deep. I often expect people to also have that.
I am ok with ambiguity and lack of detail and clarity.
Sometimes I get over-detailed and get too micro.
I believe I am fair. I expect others to understand that and also be fair.
I think I see and understand things deeply and know the right way ahead. I expect others to speak their mind clearly with their ideas.
At the same time I think I am very accepting of others ideas. I expect them to also be accepting and open to mine.

My my image or me gets threatened, I get triggered.

My wife told me last night that I was being unreasonable with the kids about something I was asking them to do. In that moment she got triggered and got emotional. I think of my self of as a open and reasonable parent. My wife getting triggered threatened my self image of me being reasonable and calm. I got triggered. Haha, how interesting our life is.


I hope I have raked up some thoughts for you. I hope you have been able to take a few pauses while reading this and reflect for yourself.

In fratitude,