Simple 5 Step Process To Help You When You Are Emotionally Triggered

By Kelly Russell

What can we do when we find ourselves emotionally triggered? It’s kind of the bazillion dollar question isn’t it?

I am going to answer this question, posed by three of our wonderful readers in today’s post. (And hopefully win that bazillion dollars – payable in the currency of greater inner peace – which we can all then use to chill around poolside in The Happy Dream.)

Julie writes:

“My biggest obstacle is being triggered. I’ll be doing great and feeling complete joy and happiness in the thought system of love… and then when I hear specific words from my loved one, my deepest fear is triggered and I lose my peace… I’m not sure what the best practice is to release these fears, so I can be free of them. Any suggestions?”

And from an anonymous reader:

“My question involves the 3 Biggies: Fear, Guilt, and Anger – and they are quite a challenge when in the middle of a situation where one or all three are triggered. Dealing with a health challenge, for example. Recently I had minor surgery, and a not-so-nice side effect occurred and I had to be hospitalized. That was the last thing I wanted to have happen, and Fear, Anger, and Guilt, hello. I am responsible, BUT I truly don’t want this situation, NOT at all. I have learned to not resist – as that makes the situation more real – and to just look at it as passing, as an effect that will be replaced by an overdue “happy dream”. So, how to empower myself so I am not triggered by these strong emotions? …the challenge is when in the middle of them, not to let them overtake me – and just maintain the true reality and not the appearance.”

And from another anonymous reader:

“Could you do a talk on ‘being triggered’? I don’t like it when I am ‘shushed’, even when I clearly haven’t listened and was interrupting.”

First, I want to remind us all that we are spirit, having a seemingly human experience. Emotions are part of the human jam. So, you aren’t bad for having an emotional reaction, and it does not mean you are getting an F in A Course in Miracles.

But, it can certainly be sabotaging to ourselves to have extreme emotional reactions, particularly because they often result in our projecting said emotions onto another person, aka energetically punching them and ourselves in the face and then having to explain to everyone how we gave ourselves those two black eyes.

What can we do about it?

How can we help ourselves not to go off the deep end when we are emotionally triggered?

I looked up “trigger” in the dictionary and found these definitions:

  • “Something that causes someone to feel upset and frightened because they are made to remember something bad that happened in the past.”
  • “A trigger is something that sets off a flashback, transporting the person back to the traumatic event.”
  • “The part of a bomb that causes it to explode.”
  • “To fire or explode.”
  • And my fave – “The projection that actuates the mechanism that discharges the weapon.”

True that. These definitions address two different meanings of the word trigger, and yet they are all completely accurate and applicable to what we seem to experience.

I am a psychotherapist, and one of the conditions I treat is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In the world of form, this is a severe anxiety reaction that happens to some people as a result of either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or violent event. Symptoms include having intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the experience, such as fear, anger, sadness, guilt, and shame. There are often distorted beliefs about one’s self or others, such as “I am bad” or “I can’t trust anyone”. Hypervigilance – a sense that danger is everywhere, and one has to be constantly on guard or on the defensive – is common. As is feeling detached, estranged, or isolated from other people. Those with PTSD often relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares. They often avoid situations, places, and people that remind them of the trauma, and experience strong negative reactions to triggers.

Gee, is this sounding kind of familiar?

That’s because any traumatic event that appears to happen in this world is actually a flashback to the biggest trauma we, in our one mind, have ever seemingly experienced: our separation from our Creator. In that sense, we ALL have PTSD, except I think of it as us having Post Traumatic Separation Disorder.

The most effective treatments for PTSD are those that teach you how to gain control by facing your negative feelings. They involve processing by talking about the emotions associated with the trauma and working toward “exposure” – doing some of the things you have avoided since the trauma occurred. Some treatments focus on teaching you to recognize the thought patterns that keep you stuck, and help you to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma, and to reality-test the thoughts you do have for accuracy and rationality. Other treatments identify the negative beliefs you have formed about yourself as a result of the trauma – i.e. “I’m not safe” or “I am guilty”, and help you to reprocess the event in such a way that you replace the negative belief with a positive truth.

Ummm… yep – check, check, check, check.

Duh. OF COURSE this is the treatment plan that is required for us, prescribed by the Greatest Physician of the Mind Ever and written on His Rx pad in the form of A Course in Miracles. After our traumatic experience of the seeming separation from God, where our awareness went from constant, all-encompassing, changeless, timeless, sparkling, blissed-out, joyful, swaying-to-the-music-of-the-spheres LOVE, to…

BAM!

Feeling FEAR – separated, alone, abandoned, afraid, unlovable, and – because we thought we did it to ourselves – wracked with guilt that we ruined our lives for all eternity and it was ALL OUR FAULT.

That is what we in the psychology field refer to as Big T trauma.

Ya think?

Even though the separation never occurred, and we in reality are all still at home with God in that ongoing state of ecstatic, mind-blowing, orgiastic, yummy awesomeness of always, that is out of our awareness. Kind of like a person with PTSD could be sitting on a beautiful, tranquil tropical beach –light-years away from the perceived danger of the original trauma – but can be triggered in a nano-second as they are transported in their minds via flashback to a violent “reality” and no longer aware of the beach at all.

That is exactly what did happen to us at the time of the perceived separation, and what happens to us again when we become emotionally triggered in this world. We are sucked unceremoniously out of, as Julie said, “doing great and feeling complete joy and happiness in the thought system of love…”
Into the Pit of Despair.

So for you, beautiful Julie, and our two other amazing readers, and everyone else who finds themselves being emotionally triggered, here is the process that has been very helpful and effective for me.

Grab your free copy of the ‘Shift Process’ to help you when you have an emotionally triggering experience. Click here to access it now.

Simple 5 Step Process To Help You When You Are Emotionally Triggered

Step 1

As soon as you are able to be conscious of the fact that you are having an emotional reaction, put some space between yourself and other people.

Excuse yourself for a moment, go to the bathroom, go outside, say you have to run upstairs or walk the dog or get something from your car. If you are in a car with others, get quiet and proceed with the next step.

Step 2

Start deep breathing, taking one slow, deep breath after another for as long as possible. Focus only on breathing deeply. Do not talk, just breathe.

Step 3

Acknowledge to yourself the fact that you are having an emotionally triggered reaction. Put your hand on your heart, and see yourself from the you that is the observer, as in,

“Wow, you got REALLY pissed off about that. Just see the power of your reaction. Look at how you went from 0 to 60 so fast. Feel how hard your heart is beating. I wonder why such a strong response?”

As you calm down, you will eventually be able to say,

“This is not real. This is just my projection.”

Step 4

Ask Spirit to help you to see the situation differently.

Step 5

In your mind, say to the triggering individual or situation,

“I forgive you, because I remember these is nothing to forgive. You are spirit, pure, whole, and innocent. All is forgiven and released. I am spirit, pure, whole, and innocent. All is forgiven and released.”

Sometimes it is helpful, calming, and soothing to say that statement over and over, like a mantra.

SPACE. BREATHE. OBSERVE. ASK. FORGIVE.

Do this even if you don’t believe it – even if you are saying it with teeth clenched and eyes and fingers crossed. You are building musculature. Even if it doesn’t feel like it. It’s better to say it and not mean it than to not say it and not mean it. Giving attention, energy, and voice to that forgiveness prayer will eventually lead to strengthening you, because the act of repeating it will, over time, lead to meaning it as you keep experiencing the positive effects of forgiving.

Engaging in this process when I have been emotionally triggered has helped me immensely. I know I have circumvented fights and arguments, refrained from saying things I would later have regretted, and definitely dodged the bullet of sabotaging my relationships and therefore myself, and probably headed off jail time and/or community service. The whole point to doing this is for the purpose of avoiding an immediate attack on another person, for which you will then suffer and eventually feel guilt and shame and punish yourself for, and have to start the whole projection cycle over again.

A Course in Miracles states,

“If you accept the remedy for a thought disorder, and a remedy whose efficacy is beyond doubt, how can its symptoms remain? You have reason to question the validity of symptom cure. But no one believes that the symptoms can remain if the underlying cause is removed. The continuing will to remain separated is the only possible reason for continuing guilt.”

The forgiveness part of this process is the activating agent. The rest is just to get yourself there with all of your limbs intact and – I mean this in the kindest sense – not doing anything stupid on the way. Yet it is very common to resist the forgiveness aspect or skip it altogether. Why? Because in that moment we want to be mad, we want to hold on to our anger, and we think that forgiving the other person will let them off the hook (which it will) and they don’t deserve it (except that they do). We think they need to know how upset we are and why (they don’t). We believe that they need to be punished, or feel shame and remorse – or the guilt trifecta of all three (they don’t) and that it is our right and possibly our duty to make that happen (it isn’t).

Except that there is no “they”. They is you. They is me. They is us as the perceiver, who believes that things outside of our minds are really happening.

A Course in Miracles reminds us:

“Turning the other cheek does not mean that you should submit to violence without protest. It means that you cannot be hurt, and do not want to show your brother anything except your wholeness. Show him he cannot hurt you, and hold nothing against him, or you hold it against yourself.”

We are not doing this process for the other person. We never are. We are doing it for ourselves. Because it is impossible to feel a negative emotion toward another and not equally feel it toward yourself. You are doing this in order for you yourself to not have to be punished, or feel remorse. So that what you end up projecting onto another person is your own innocence, which brings you to the truth of seeing them, and therefore you, as you really are.

As The Course reminds us,

“How can you who are so holy suffer? All your past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing.”

YOU are the beauty, and the blessing. As you offer it to your brother, you will see it in yourself. As you see in him the light of the world, you behold it reflected in your own heart.

you are the beauty

I hope this post has served to shed some light on why we have the emotionally triggered reactions that we do, and offered you a tool that feels light enough to carry with you, and substantial enough to bust out and wield in the moment when you need it to be your ally.

Question: Are you ready to apply this process the next time you feel emotionally triggered? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment I promise to read every one. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Know someone who could benefit from this post and video? Click here to share the love on Facebook.

I love you.

Kelly

Rev Kelly Russell
Spiritual Life Coach, Psychotherapist,
& Teacher of A Course in Miracles

Grab your free copy of the ‘Shift Process’ to help you when you have an emotionally triggering experience. Click here to access it now.

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44 thoughts on “Simple 5 Step Process To Help You When You Are Emotionally Triggered

  1. I enjoyed your video and blog…I am constantly on “high alert”…..creates a lot of anticipatory anxiety and all that it encompasses. Thank you for your information.

  2. Thank you Kelly!
    I plan on using these steps the next time I feel triggered. I also love the mantra you used!!
    Namaste 🙏

    • Hi Lois! That is great! I love that you love it. That process – and that prayer used as a mantra in particular -has saved me a million times. 😊

  3. Hello dear Kelly, Thank you so much for these 5 steps. I applied them immediatly on a story with my son who lives in Colorado. I live in Brussels, Belgium. I love deeply my son but there are also painful stories. So I applied these 5 steps on these stories. It feels so good and liberating. I will use these steps more, for every difficult situation in my life. You are an Angel for me. Thank you so much.
    Much love ,
    Ghislaine

    • Hi Ghislaine! I love hearing the practical application results! Isn’t it so great to see how ACIM works on whatever story we are telling ourselves, and shifts our perception from fear to love? Awesome! ❤️

  4. Hi Kelly. It’s Deb…from Iowa, we met in San Francisco….Sausalito excursion. WOW!! What a powerful message. You really summed up how to navigate those emotionally charged momemts. Thank you!!!!

    • Hi Deb! We had such a blast in that Sausalito excursion, and speaking of “navigating” – you were a great leader, getting us all over SF!
      Thank you for your comments! Hope to see you again here in Boston in 2019! 😊

    • Hi Victoria! Yes!!! The fact that it works – the forgiveness – becomes such an intrinsic motivation for continuing to practice it. Thank you for writing!

  5. Leave, breathe, forgive, thx, Kelly. I tend to protect other people and intervene here but afterwards, I realize, they’re an adult and I should give them an opportunity to generate their own response. They may decide to ignore it or respond laughingly because they can laugh at their own foibles or simply ask why, etc… we are all continually creating ourselves and our relationships and I must step back and allow that relationship to unfold. I knew a couple who had a small restaurant/variety store and would appear to be fighting and they would throw things at each other and argue publicly. They had regular customers who loved it and would be rolling wih laughter. Everyone would sit back and enjoy the relationship. The couple were in their 80’s and were married at 18. Day in and day out they worked and lived together and always greeted everyone by name and really connected with everyone. There was no loneliness in that restaurant. It appeared they were getting mad at each other and then forgiving each other, over and over so that their love trumped and getting mad at each other was something they allowed each other. So from my initial shock of their public display, to simply accepting their very entertaining relationship taught me acceptance of others relationships. My difficulty is when I introduce someone for the first time to my friends and I perceive one of them is telling this new person to the group to be quiet and listen to him. I have intervened here, feeling as her protector and have regretted it. Now I know why, there’s not a relationship between those 2 yet and I am attempting to shape their relationship, so thx Kelly, I’ll take a moment, breathe, forgive and allow their relationship to unfold and give them the opportunity to create it all on their own. Ann

    • Hi Ann! Thank you for sharing your learning and forgiveness opportunities! Those relationship dynamics we witness in “other people” can be powerful teaching experiences if we can see them as our own projections, and not outside of us. 😊

  6. Thank you. This really struck a cord with me. I realised that I do this in a slightly disorganised fashion naturally. What is my main block is the forgiving myself. I can say – but not always mean – that I forgive others, but really struggle with forgiving myself. It just occurred to me if the people I try to forgive are worthy than I most definitely am. I forgive myself because I am more light than darkness & am as God created me.

    • Jo, what helped me was when I realized there is no difference in forgiving another or myself. There is only One Holy innocent Child of God and you are it.(as are all of us, as One).

      • Jo & Kay, Rock on! As we are able to forgive and see innocence in others, we are thus able to realize it in ourselves, as we are all mirrors, reflecting back to one another our Truth as the Light of the World. One Son, one Light, one Love. Thank you both! ❤️❤️

  7. I was recently triggered by a comment made about my family by someone I love and trust. I was obsessed by the comment all day. I finally asked for Guidance and what I heard was “you can either have the anger and rage toward….or you can have Me. You can’t have both. You decide which you want, My Peace or your anger. The choice is yours. Every time I would obsess after that, I would say “no, I would rather have peace.” Today, I am at peace again and I forgive the comment and I thank the person who made it for showing me where I still need to practice forgiveness. There is always a gift in the challenge.

    • Hi Kathleen! I love that you asked, and were able to hear the answer. Our requests for guidance are always answered, but we have to quiet ourselves and be willing to listen. What a gift in the direct response you received! As the Course advises us in lesson 34, “I could see peace instead of this.” That is always our choice. Thanks for writing. 😊

  8. Beautiful! Wise! Witty! Useful! Loving! Heartfelt! So proud to have you on this team and as my VERY dear friend. <3 Thank you Kelly.

    • So grateful to be both on this team and your very dear friend! Thanks for your lovely acknowledgment of Spirit speaking through me! 💋

  9. Kelly,
    I always receive healing from your beautiful and powerful reminders of Truth.
    Thank you with all my heart. All the best to you and All you hold dear.
    Love, Jean

    • Hi Jean! Thank you for letting me know that what comes through me is helping to remind you of your own beauty and perfection! That is my only intention. 🙏🏼

  10. Hi Kelly, thank you for your beautiful words!
    We met at the San Francisco conference. We shared dinner together and I expressed a desire to work with you. When you have a moment I would love to be in touch.

    Sincerely,
    Jo Ann

    • Hi JoAnn!
      Thank you SO much for writing! I had a wonderful time talking with you at dinner in SF! I would love to work with you! After the conference I sent you email communications from two different addresses – but it sounds like you did not receive them. Perhaps I copied your email incorrectly? You can reach me at [email protected]. I hope to hear from you! 😊❤️

  11. Hi Kelly, I’ve been thinking of your 5 steps this week and using them at work and with family. They totally work! Your teaching is always easy to apply and so very helpful! I am so grateful!
    Love,
    Sandy

  12. Thank you Kelly! Exactly what I needed today. I have been feeling very triggered by my son’s attitude lately. He has always been such a love bug and in the past month this attitude is emerging where there is lots of eye-rolling and sighing and sarcasm and yelling (he is 10) and I do just go from 0-60 in a second -it’s crazy and I get this intense physical pain down the right side of my body when it happens too. We are heading off for 7 days together so I am printing out these 5 steps and putting them in my purse!!! Thank you again.

    • Hi Kristen! Holy Spirit always has impeccable timing! Using the steps and getting yourself back to the place of peace where your true self resides is the best demonstration you can show to your son. As you use this process to teach yourself that you cannot be hurt as a Son of God, you are teaching him that about himself and freeing you both. Thanks for writing. 💖

  13. Dear Kelly, as you said upfront, everyone has difficulty with this issue, being immediately thrown into anger, fear and/or guilt. So, thank you so much for giving us these 5 steps! When this PTSD happens to me, I find myself searching for just such a tool to get my equilibrium back, to regain a sense of peace and joy — to be the image of God and love. Your teaching/sharing is a gift of Spirit — you are a gift of Spirit, and I am grateful with my whole being. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Hi Roselyn! Thank yo for writing. The process has been so helpful to me over the past year, so I am happy to share it and am recommending it to clients. Getting ourselves back to a place of forgiveness is the way we will find lasting peace, which is our Truth. 😊

  14. Hi Kelly,
    You radiate so much love.
    Thanks for your presence of love !!!
    I love ACIM and what it brings me to remember.
    Peggy Huddleston

    • Hi Peggy! Thank you for your presence of love as well! I don’t know if you are the Peggy Huddleston of the “Prepare for Surgery” guided meditation cds, but if so, I love your work! If not, I still love your work! We’re all one anyway, right? ACIM helps us all to remember our innocence as the Light of the world. 💖

    • Hi Roxana! Yes we do! Thank you for reminding us that as the Course reminds us, salvation aka joy aka the Peace of God are all reached through the shift in perception that forgiveness brings us to. 🙏🏼

  15. I am thankful that I have read your post. I feel triggered lately because I kept calling someone but he did not answer. I cried and got upset immediately. I wanted to confront him but I do not know if it would give me peace.
    I think that I would feel bad because if I confronted him, then I would be just projecting a negative aspect of myself.
    So I have to choose to breathe and forgive.

    • Hi Marissa, you answered your own question about not knowing if confrontation would give you peace so beautifully – “I would just be projecting a negative aspect of myself.” The choice to breathe and forgive will always bring peace. Good call! 😊

  16. I love the example of the bomb going off… I had to chuckle because that is whats happens when my husband is stepping on my last nerve and I allow my humaness to take over…. In the end it is me that feels like crap, not him. He walks away with a smile…

    • Hi Patricia! That definition and image resonated with me too, because that’s what it can feel like! It is also a great way to look at the devastation that our egoic /human responses to being triggered can cause. This process can be so helpful in forestalling that and returning us to the love that we are. Thank you for writing. ❤️

  17. Thank you Kelly and Thank You God for this 5 steps that just came at the right time as I have been triggered by someone that I don’t even know personally, but connected shortly through a dating site. Over 3 weeks ago, I had let go of him and 2 weeks ago of the pain he had triggered (1 month ago) and he just emailed me again to trash at me. I deleted his negative reply to my open heart and forgiveness/peace message (sent 2 weeks ago) after reading the 1st sentence infused of attack, and blocked him, instead of keeping playing the ego games. But I was still triggered by the little I read and started to be emotionally disturbed and obsessed again, thinking I should have replied with an open heart again. But useless once, why trying again. This doesn’t worth my attention/energy. So I said the step 3 over and over to release him from my judgment and to release myself. I forgive myself for putting myself into that situation instead of listening to my intuition, and forgive him at the same time as his replies were an expression of his own pain that I have triggered without even knowing how, despite me asking. We are both innocent and have pushed on each other sensitive buttons. Forgiveness done and lesson learned. I am moving on free of guilt and pain, remembering that blessings come in disguise sometimes.

    • Hi Ann! Thank you so much for writing and sharing your experience. The blog post came “at the right time” at your invitation from Holy Spirit. You were open to hearing what came through me. I’m so glad it resonated as an affirmation of your intuition, which is one of the ways in which we receive guidance. It is so great that you were able to use the process to forgive the other person, and in doing so, release yourself. Seeing both of you as innocent and acknowledging the blessing in the experience will continue to free you from guilt and pain. ❤️

  18. Dear Kelly
    Thank you so much for your words of comfort !
    One is never too late !
    I’m 75 years old ! Was hurt when I was13!
    It has kept returning to me all my life !

    Thanks to your words ,I feel I will be able to cope better !
    I have had a hard life ! God never lets me down!Thank you