Emotional "Triggers"

More on triggers.

Everyone has "triggers". The more mature we are, the more we are able to accept that.
Some have more, some have less. Anything external can become a trigger, like a hot-button for instant emotional reaction or thought. I see a rowboat or guitar, I see my Dad's face, every time. The emotion that seeing my Dad's face brings is a combination of comfort, warmth, love, and loneliness and sadness. He passed away when I was a child. When I see or hear a motorcycle, either a dirt bike or a street bike, I see my brother's face. That thought brings an emotional reaction of comfort, fun, freedom, and melancholy; he lives far away. When I see a mandolin or a banjo, I instantly see and hear my birth father, which brings a combination of emotions like kinship, camaraderie, inspiration, and also pain, frustration and sadness; he passed away not long ago after a terrible fight with illness.
Some triggers bring fear, some bring resentment, some bring pain. When I see a person acting abusively, male or female, toward another person, I see more than one face I have known. The emotions that the thoughts immediately bring are a combination of anger, frustration, compassion, desire to stop it,  and sometimes fight-or-flight. My awareness of this trigger helps me to recognize the emotions and name them, and take responsibility over my actions.
The emotions from triggers can produce some of the same  chemical cocktails that they would if the situation was current, usually not as strongly, but sometimes just as strongly. Some feel good, some feel bad, some make us feel fatigued, anxious, and some make us feel confident, even arrogant. The brain produces more than 50 identified active "drugs" that include neurotransmitters and hormones including adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine and serotonin.

Some triggers can be so subtle it's nearly impossible to isolate and identify them, and others show themselves obviously.

 I knew a person who was triggered at the sight of two young people walking and talking; he would get a flashback from his youth, from when he walked home from school every day along with some neighborhood bullies. He could not differentiate between the flashbacks and the current situation, so he believed those new people were talking about him and were planning to come after him, every time.

Another person I have known was triggered when she saw a blond-haired woman. She had grown up with an Aunt and a cousin who were blond haired; the Aunt she looked up to and admired, but she was very jealous of the cousin, who's father was very attentive. (This woman's father was absent most of the time, and when he was around, he was dismissive and condescending.) As children, she would retaliate against her cousin out of her envy, and of course the cousin didn't like her because of her behavior toward her, which increased her resentment even more. Unfortunately no adults intervened or helped. 
She seemed to have no awareness of her trigger or where it came from; she simply believed her emotions about any blond haired women she saw or met. And if they smiled broadly or laughed out loud, her face would instantly turn "dark", and she would recoil as if they had bitten her, and become angry with them. She would spread rumors about them as well, trying to get others to turn against them. Any blond friends she made would eventually get devalued by her, and get treated with less and less respect, regardless of how kind they were to her; in fact kindness from them seemed to trigger her even more.

A picture can be a trigger, the sound of someone's voice, a TV show, the way someone's hair looks, the way another person holds themselves, the fragrances or odors in the air, objects or animals in the environment, situations and circumstances. When we notice that we automatically LIKE or RESENT certain people before we even get to know them, we are not dealing with facts about the person, we are dealing with our own internal triggers.

"She's pretty, so she's stuck-up and she thinks she's better than me"  is a FAR cry from a realistic assessment of another human being. She's pretty TO ME, my brother might think she's weird-looking~ SHE might not think she's "pretty" either, and regardless of her looks, I have zero way of knowing anything about her actual personality. (If I really think I can assess her that quickly, that thoroughly, that superficially, I need to take some classes in deductive reasoning and some serious humility training.) My instant assessment of her is really a trigger; when I was younger there were a group of older girls in my neighborhood who were dark-haired and mean-spirited, they would bully my friends and I every time they saw us, and on top of that, the older boys in the neighborhood that used to be our friends would not stand up to them because they wanted to date them. Trigger in the making. After that, I have of course met many dark-haired women that behaved in a similar manner, which solidified this trigger~ the factor that this trigger IGNORED was that NOT all dark-haired pretty women fit this behavior. The trigger only paid attention to the ones that DID fit, in order to confirm itself. It's a false assumption. In reality, there are people who behave that way from every race, with every hair color, and both sexes. But the trigger ignores all of that information and ONLY recognizes those who look or sound like those certain humans from the neighborhood, and ignores any information to the contrary.  

A simpler, common example can be seen with people who are afraid of dogs. It's usually CERTAIN breeds of dogs, like German Shepherds. Mike has been afraid of all German Shepherds ever since he was bitten by his uncle's dog, which was a German Shepherd. He does not assess each dog he meets as an individual, he simply SEES a German Shepherd, and FEELS fear.

To take that a step further, Mike's brother Scott was also bitten, and has the same fear trigger of German Shepherds. However, Scott is embarrassed by his fear, so he also resents German Shepherds. Scott is not as aware of his own triggers as Mike, and believes that each German Shepherd he meets is CAUSING him to feel fear, embarrassment, and shame, and he believes that each one actually means him harm, personally.

Becoming aware of our triggers, and of others having triggers, can help facilitate healing and peace in our lives and relationships.