Article in brief: Ever wonder why a sound or a smell triggers emotions or revives memories? Weather good or bad, emotional triggers have a large effect on how people live their lives.
An ‘Emotional Trigger’ is something that sets off an emotion and a memory, flashback or feeling related to a specific event in that person’s life. ‘Emotional Triggers’ are very personal as they are based on the memories of feelings associated with a specific person at a specific time in a specific situation.
There are two types of ‘Emotional Triggers’, the first are external triggers and the most common of them are sight and sound. The second are triggers of habit.
A ‘Sight Trigger’ takes place when seeing something that triggers an emotion, this can be a place, a person or an object, for example: Seeing kids playing football triggers a happy emotion related to the memory of that person playing football with their childhood friends.
The ‘Sound Trigger’ is activated when hearing something that triggers an emotion, like hearing a music piece, a sound of something that was present when a situation happened or something someone said that is linked to a memory. For example: Hearing the sound of a train that reminds someone of a trip they took.
‘Emotional Triggers’ can also react to ‘Smells’, this can either be directly related to a situation or related to a person who was present in a situation. Example: The smell of an old perfume might trigger childhood memories at a specific age.
Feeling or touching something can also be a trigger. This can be something that happened physically like an injury or something that was felt like petting an animal. Example: Touching a specific material while shopping might trigger a memory of something similar that was worn one before.
Last but not least, ‘Taste’. Tasting something that is linked to a memory can work as an ‘Emotional Trigger’, a very simple example is eating a specific dish that can only be found in specific places.
The second type of ‘Emotional Triggers’ are ‘Triggers of Habit’, these occur in relation to things people do in their daily routine, or things that are linked together due to a routine. For example: many people smoke while driving, hence when trying to quit smoking, driving triggers the emotion to want to smoke. It is the same reason why someone would walk into the kitchen to get something, but suddenly find themselves in front of the fridge, although they never wanted anything from the fridge.
The science behind ‘Emotional Triggers’ is very vague, many scientists believe that ‘External Triggers’ have to do with the chemistry of the brain, and the method of which memories and emotions are interlinked and stored. The second type however, is linked to habit and how our brains are wired.
‘Emotional Triggers’ are not always happy or positive, some people have gone through traumatic situations and these triggers remind them of their trauma. In other cases, it is not as serious as a trauma, however it does have a negative impact on people .
The most common example is the word “Diet”. Many people have a very negative reaction to the word “Diet”, as it is related to being overweight and food deprived. This can lead to a person who is told to go on a diet, to actually feel depressed, and in some cases gain more weight. Nutritionists and Doctors nowadays use phrases like “better lifestyle choices” or “eating healthy” instead of “Diet”, to avoid the emotional triggers linked to it.
Knowing what your ‘Emotional Triggers’ are can help overcome some bad habits and control your emotions better. Although figuring out the trigger is not easy, but digging into memories and decoding the emotion will help.
Getting over triggers is even more difficult, as it requires someone to rewire their brain into acting and reacting differently to things that make them feel bad to start with. However, with practice and using the right tools, overcoming these ‘Emotional Triggers’ is very doable.
Note from writer:
A personal example of ‘Emotional Triggers’ and the reason why I researched this subject is my fear of men in military uniforms, I never understood why when I saw a man in military uniform I would get anxious, my heart rate would go up, I start sweating. It didn’t make sense, because I had never had a negative encounter with anyone in a military uniform before.
After years and years of wondering, I remembered the situation that made military uniform an ‘Emotional Trigger’. Over 20 years later that situation still affected me, when I was 29 I figured it out.
My father was enrolled in the voluntary military force during the Gulf War, I was perhaps 7 years old then, and I remembered one night when he was leaving for camp my mother told him to be careful, it scared me at that point, to think that my father could be harmed in any way, I was too young to understand that he would be fine and too scared to ask.
Today, and although I am not 100% comfortable being around men in military uniforms, I am now able to control my reaction as I know what is the trigger.
- Bang: a loud, sudden, explosive noise, as the discharge of a gun.
- Emotional: pertaining to or involving emotion or the emotions
- Triggers: anything, as an act or event that serves as a stimulus and initiates a reaction or a series of reactions
- Black PHD, Claudia. “The Triggering Effect.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Psychology Today, 22 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-many-faces-addiction/200909/the-triggering-effect>.
- “What is a Trigger?.” Psych Central.com. Psych Central, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-trigger/0001414>.
With a background in communications, her passion for writing is driven by the need to voice her thoughts. Budoor also hold an eMBA in innovation and Entrepreneurship, other than writing, her interests include reading and traveling.