Being Triggered

June 5, 2019

Vanessa Leveille

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“I’m triggered” —a phrase I hear often. Many times people know what they are relaying when they say this, and sometimes people are saying it because it’s become the buzzword replacement for “I’m feeling some type of way”. In my work as a Holistic Therapist & Wellness Coach, I serve predominantly Women of Color, and when I hear them say that they’re triggered, I begin to encourage them to dig deeper. The reason why is that I want to empower them to go beyond the surface level of stating that they’re ‘triggered’.

When we dig, we find that their state of being triggered had a lot more to do with just being upset at the situation at the moment. We find that it is deeply rooted in other things, and that ‘thing’ is widely unacknowledged, for the most part. This is because that ‘thing’ resides in the subconscious and in the meridians of the body. Meridians are pathways along which our life energy or Qi flows. Anytime our body experiences a distressing event, our body stores the information. When we don’t give attention to the impact of the event, the information gets lodged in the meridians, blocking vital energy from flowing. By digging a bit deeper we can access what is in the subconscious and what it lodged in the meridians. Being triggered isn’t usually an isolated thing; it has connections to unaddressed emotions and experiences in our lives that we may need to revisit, and resolve. These are the experiences that are in the subconscious, informing all that we do and think.

Alright, let’s take a step back. In order to fully understand this, we have to break down what triggers are and what it means to be in the state of being triggered.

A trigger is an external event that sets off a memory or flashback that brings you back to the event of your original trauma. As we have discussed before , trauma is any incident you personally identify as distressing in your life that brought on emotional, mental or physical threat or bodily harm to you. Triggers can be anything, and are usually activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Triggers are also very personal, and differ from person to person. I would be remiss if I also didn’t point out that triggers aren’t always negative. For example, the smell of cookies baking might remind you of a pleasant memory with a loved one. For the sake of this article we will be focusing mostly on triggers that elicit discomfort.  

Being triggered is the manifestation of the trigger. More often than not, it is an intense emotional or physical reaction. The reaction can be wide ranging, from anger, sadness, anxiousness, sweating, fainting, confusion to complete freezing in the moment. The most frustrating thing about being triggered, is that sometimes you cannot even pinpoint what the trigger was. You just suddenly feel all of these emotional and physical sensations and it is overwhelming. This is because the original event went suppressed and unaddressed that it’s not immediately recalled; it is deeply lodged. Once triggered, the impact can also be short lived or long lasting. Long lasting impacts lead to un-wellness.

Now, that we know what triggers are and what is meant by ‘being triggered”, another thing to discuss is the misconception of ‘getting rid of triggers’. You cannot get rid of triggers. It is discouraging when I see information out there about releasing and getting rid of triggers; it is so misleading. Triggers are a healthy and normal part of being human. Because keep in mind, triggers can be experienced as both pleasure and discomfort. Why the heck would I want to get rid of a trigger that sends all kinds of feel good sensations throughout my body, and makes me feel immense joy? We are not emotionless, feelingless beings, and feeling discomfort isn’t necessarily a bad thing also. Discomfort communicates something. Triggers are there to communicate to your mind and body that there is something now in your consciousness and presence that needs attention. That communication is essential to how we move, think and show up in the world.

What we do want to do, is eliminate, release and/or minimize the intensity, frequency and duration of the state of being triggered. When you address the original event and the source of the trigger, you can begin to heal in profound ways. By working on the emotional wound, the source of the trigger will lose its effect and triggering power.

So why is this article entitled ‘Black Girl Triggered’? And why do I empower the women I serve to go beyond the surface? Well, there are layers to that too. To be triggered and to be a Woman of Color is a precarious thing. A WOC triggered, especially a Black woman triggered, is an unwelcoming and uncomfortable thing to witness and hold space for, for the very people who don’t even value our existence, nevermind our displays of human emotions. Thus making it an unpleasant experience for us on so many levels. WOC have learned to suppress their emotions because there is very little safe space for it in our society (I’m in the United States). Often times there is the fear that you’ll be labeled as an angry black woman when you display ‘being triggered’. Remember Serena Williams at the U.S. Open Finals? And don’t forget that Strong Black Women don’t crack… so to have a response to a trigger isn’t taken as seriously, and often your feelings are minimized even by well intention people. We stifle, we stuff down, we ignore, we keep pushing, we minimize and as a result, we suffer.

I teach, and remind, the women that I work with that it is their fucking birthright to feel and to express. To assess for safety and to instill safety in the body first so they may be able to access the parts of them that want to feel and release. It is a natural thing to want to protect the body and to also want to release that which harms the body; the dissonance is so real. So we dig, we remember, we tune in, we learn how to and when it’s okay to express, we learn how to recognize what we internalized that is not ours and we let go of stories that that are limiting and untrue. We learn to not live with past feelings and memories for too long, and we learn that being a black girl triggered is our right, and so is our healing.

Now, what do we do? I am doing a complete series on my Instagram page with helpful ways to address being triggered, so click here to head there next.

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Being Triggered

In order to fully understand this, we have to break down what triggers are and what it means to be in the state of being triggered.

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