Why was I triggered?

I couldn’t understand how my father could call me selfish. Me, selfish?! Me, who had just dedicated a year of my life volunteering in Haiti. Me, who dedicated all my time and effort to helping others. Me, who financially supported two children to go through school, donated to charity and protested for the rights of others.

Me, selfish?!

I was still upset days after the argument with my father and knew that I was overreacting, so I brought it to my therapist (yes, therapists need therapy). That’s when I learned about unconscious limiting beliefs.

This was over 10 years ago. At the time, I had some familiarity with Freud’s unconscious and admired Jung’s collective unconscious, but I hadn’t considered how these psychological theories could impact my own life.

When I began to explore the concept of unconscious limiting beliefs a door opened in my mind, revealing that beneath my altruistic actions lay an unconscious motivation.

I was desperately trying to prove to myself and the world that I wasn’t selfish.

The fear of being perceived as selfish was unknowingly steering my every act of kindness.

Despite my selfless endeavors, I was caught in a loop of fear, unable to convince myself that I wasn’t selfish at the core. Even my journey to Haiti, though driven by intuition, was tainted by the fear I harbored. The fear that I was essentially a selfish individual. I was operating out of a need to dispel a belief rather than genuinely acting out of love.

The paradox became clear

I was doing loving things, yet my motivation stemmed from fear.

This realization hit hard, especially as I acknowledged that my actions, while beneficial to others, contributed to my emotions.

This realization forced me to confront and heal my unconscious limiting beliefs, paving the way for a deeper understanding of myself.

As I share my journey here today, I invite you to consider: What unconscious beliefs might be triggering you, or steering your actions?

Related: Healing unconscious limiting beliefs

Getting Triggered

Getting triggered is an inevitable part of the human experience, and oftentimes, it manifests as anger.

We react passionately to certain situations or specific words, unaware of the deep-seated beliefs fueling these emotional responses.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Carl Jung

Our hidden beliefs, live inside the depths of our unconscious and shape our reactions.

When these trigger words or situations align with our hidden self-perceptions, the impact can be explosive. Minor provocations can transform into emotional storms that, from the outside make absolutely no logical sense.

Freud’s exploration of the unconscious mind aligns with this.

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.” Sigmund Freud.

Our conscious behaviour is only the visible 10% of our psyche – the tip of the iceberg!

The hidden part, submerged beneath the surface, influences our emotions and actions, making the process of acknowledging and addressing these triggers paramount to our emotional well-being. It’s when we internalize these triggers, believing them about ourselves in a hidden way, that the emotional wounds cut the deepest, shaping our narratives and influencing our actions in ways we may not consciously realize.

Here’s an exercise that I use with my clients to help uncover the limiting belief to take control of being triggered.

  1. Identify the Belief:
    • Draw two figures on a piece of paper—one representing yourself and the other the person you have a conflict with. (You don’t have to be an artist, stick figures are fine.)
    • List phrases on the right side that the person has said about you or things you believe they think of you.
  2. Choose the Key Phrase:
    • Select the phrase that resonates the most with you from the list. This will be the core belief you want to address.
  3. Internalize the Belief:
    • Place the chosen phrase in a thought bubble above your character on the left side of the page, transforming it into a belief you have about yourself.
  4. Reflect on Wider Impact:
    • Consider if this belief surfaces in other areas of your life, such as work, relationships, or hobbies.
  5. Create a Positive Mantra:
    • Develop a positive mantra that counteracts the identified negative belief. Frame it in the positive, such as “I am XYZ” instead of “I’m not XYZ.”
  6. Repeat and Reinforce:
    • Repeat your chosen mantra to yourself as frequently as possible throughout the week.
    • Set it as an alarm, use it as wallpaper on your phone, and place sticky notes around your living space.
  7. Put Mantra into Action:
    • Integrate your mantra into your daily actions with intention.
    • Small, intentional actions aligned with your mantra can be more impactful than grand gestures.
    • For instance, if your mantra is “I am generous,” consider giving to others or treating yourself kindly.
  8. Reflect and Reinforce:
    • Continue your mantra-based actions for another week.
    • Observe how the mantra positively influences your mindset and actions.
    • Over time, the negative belief should lose its grip on your thoughts and emotions.

This exercise is taken from my book: “The Good Thing about Mortar Shells; Choosing Love Over Fear”. Take this journey further. Check out my book here.

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My book

If you have enjoyed this article and would like to take this journey further, check out my book The Good Thing About Mortar Shells: Choosing love over fear”.