Dealing with triggers? The missing ingredient.

Margo Groeneveld
05 Jul 2020

When being triggerd. When things don’t work out the way you want. Or when a conversation gets challenging. When strong emotions, like frustration, a sense of powerlessness or fear, arise. What do you do?

Take some time to think back to a recent event, where something happened, or someone said something, that triggered you. Did you react, or did you respond?

Whats the difference?

Often we react… Immediately. In the moment. Usually when we do that we come from an emotional state, from a stance of defending your point, wanting to proof a point, a feeling of needs not being met. It’s a response that is often missing the attunement to the others’ needs as well. And therefore a reaction that has a higher chance to evoke a next reactive response.

Responding I feel is an attuned, considerate response. It includes acknowledgement, of both your own ideas and feelings as well as your partners, and asking questions. It is a response that creates room for deeper understanding and connection. There is a willingness to create a win-win, a willingness to set each other up for succes. It’s a response that acknowledges the importance of the relationship.

What we can learn from couples therapy

Couples therapy has done great work on these kinds of interactions. I feel we can learn so much from all that work on how to build trustworthy, mutually respectful relationships. On how to create win-wins, even when you are on opposing sides. And I have been inspired by the work from Gottman on how to sustain trust and love in couples.

According to Gottman trust can be measured by how much time couples spend conversing in one of the following three boxes: nasty, neutral and nice. Happy couples spend most of their time in the nice box, while unhappy couples get stuck in the nasty box. The neutral box as it turns out is heavily underrated. To get from nasty to nice, one needs to go through the neutral box.

In my experience, the neutral box requires to step away from the conversation. To take time… Time to think and feel through what happened. Something that often gets lost in the day-to-day tasks and busy schedules.

Yet it is worth the effort. To reconnect in a helpful, responsive way.