Do you know what your triggers are? Can you name them right off the top of your head? Knowing the kinds of situations that are likely to activate an exaggerated reaction from you is an essential first step in Mindful-Mastery. Triggers are events or situations that activate an intensified emotional reaction in some individuals (but not all), due to a past experience, belief or sensitivity related to that situation.  The ability of the situation to trigger a reaction depends largely on the individual's past experience with the situation or object. Some common examples that I often see in my practice include, rejection, criticism, boundary violations, brief text messages or failure to respond promptly, being told what to do, tardiness, discrepancy between someone's words and actions, boredom, etc. Now, any or all of these things may cause some degree of annoyance or discomfort in most people. But for some, the meaning they make of these situations, based on past experience, can move a normal annoyance to the level of a full blown trigger.

A trigger can be anything at all. An example I often use with clients is the tissue box metaphor. Because there is always a tissue box in my office, I use tissue box. Now, the tissue box is factually there. All agree on this fact. However, if I had a memory from childhood of kids throwing tissue boxes at me and calling me names, I may have a very different internal experience (passengers) of anxiety or fear related to tissue boxes. In my behavior or body language, I might start to tense up, move away from the tissue box, or try to convince you that we should move away from the tissue box. This would of course seem very odd from the outside. But would it not make sense now, that you know my past experience? The tissue box has become a trigger, due to past experience.

The key to living an adaptive and effective life is to decipher what is an objective fact (on the road), and what is a passenger (a belief or exaggerated feeling due to past experience). Knowing your triggers very clearly, allows us to take pause when activated, before reacting in a way that may damage our relationships or move us away from what we truly want. Mindful-mastery is the development and practice of awareness of this difference, and taking Wise action in the direction of your goals and values, rather than where the passengers tell you to go.

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