We all have buttons – those things that friends, family, and clients can push that trigger us.

When I am triggered, I don’t make good decisions. I am pretty sure you don’t make good decisions either. In fact, getting triggered generally leads to bad decision-making for everyone.

One of the marks of maturity is not losing it when someone or something triggers you. But in order to check yourself before you wreck yourself, you need to understand basic human triggers, and your specific triggers.

The usual suspects

I have spent a lot of time supporting loved ones by going to 12-step meetings with them. It’s scary to go alone, especially the first time, so I am the supportive person people tend to call to go with them.

I accompanied someone to Gamblers Anonymous meetings for months several years ago. It was our thing to do together: we would go for a meal and go to meeting.

Oddly enough, I got as much out of attending as my friend did because I was going through some big financial turmoil at the time. Think about it – I was in a room with folks in financial distress and it was a judgement-free zone. I got lots of support to get back on my feet.

One of the main things I remember about the experience is learning the acronym HALT. It is something I think everyone should know about and stands for: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

If you find you’re about to cry, or feel your blood pressure spiking, or if you start seeing red, pull up and ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.

And know you might be experiencing several simultaneously.

That quick check-in can save you hours / days / years of cleanup work after a blowout or breakup.

Here’s what I know about me:

  • Being hungry makes me whiney and weepy
  • Being angry makes my face flush and blood pressure spike, and I may say terrible things
  • Being lonely triggers sadness, depressive thoughts, and listlessness
  • Being tired triggers frustration, tears, and shutdown

Even as you are watching yourself start to go off, you can sometimes stop skidding out before crashing into the wall by checking on whether you are experiencing any of the above.

The personal ones

I know I need to pull up and not talk, text, or type when I start wanting to prove, posture, or take someone down.

If I am on a mission to show that I know more or have more power in a situation, I have been seriously triggered and I should walk away immediately.

There can be some odd things that trigger you – someone honks at you in traffic, cuts in front of you in line, or gets better service from a server. These are teeny tiny things that have little impact on our lives, and yet there can be a huge temptation to go off.

For me, invalidation is what will send me off the deep end. Not respecting me or questioning my authority / experience with certain things can have me reaching to unfriend you, wanting to get you fired, or firing you as a client.

It’s not my best quality and I am working on it.

Yesterday, my neighbor’s dog walker did something dumb and I almost went ballistic, but I pulled up and realized it was my invalidation trigger and I walked away.

Did I obsess about it for a while? I am embarrassed to say I did. But, I also didn’t do anything stupid that would have gotten me into a pickle with my neighbors or landlord, so I am going to call it a win.