Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dealing With Triggers

(This blog was originally posted on April 28, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Does the sound of your spouse chewing a piece of gum drive you up a wall? Do you experience an unbearable craving for a cigarette as soon as the dinner dishes are cleared away? Do you break into a cold sweat at the thought that one of your primary duties as best-man will be to make a speech or toast for your buddy and his new wife on their big day?
These are just a few examples of “triggers”: i.e., events or situations that evoke a strong emotional and even physiological reaction. For example, the sound of the first bars of a song you shared with a former partner may now bring up more negative emotions—anger and/or sadness—about the lost relationship and the person you once loved. Whether you change the station on the radio or skip over the song on your playlist, the damage is done and the distress is real. Suddenly your day, which seemed like it was going so well you heard those bars, is well on the way to being a total loss.
There are actually a few things you can do to salvage this situation. First, and most important, breathing/activating a subconscious anchor is an excellent way to calm down, relax and defuse a trigger. As horseman Monty Roberts reminds his students, “Low adrenaline equals high learning.” (This applies to humans and equines.) Breathing naturally helps to relax the body and lowers adrenaline floating around in the blood-stream that otherwise jack up our anxiety and energy level. I help all of my hypnotherapy clients find and create a subconscious anchor during one of their first sessions with me, which they can use right away—wherever and whenever they need it—to return to a comfortable, calm and relaxed state. Relaxation is the key to your being able to use the logic and reasoning parts of your conscious mind and effectively, confidently deal with a stressful or negative situation.
Systematic desensitization in hypnosis to various triggers of the negative association (e.g., your ex’s memory) is a great way to reduce stress and anticipatory anxiety about encountering unwanted reminders in your environment. I use this technique with many hypnotherapy clients to help them deal with various issues such as resisting a sugary or high-calorie snack, smoking, overcoming anxiety about public speaking, etc. Therapeutic guided-imagery journeys and role-playing exercises such as talking to the person or object that causes this distress to build self-confidence and practice successfully resolving the specific conflict give you the “edge” in a real-world encounter. Remember, the subconscious mind does not know the difference between what is real and imaginary. When you practice walking calmly, confidently away from the person who broke your heart or politely reject that second helping of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing while you are in hypnosis, the SCM thinks it is doing these things in real time. The end result is that the behavior will be easier and more comfortable—even feel more natural—when you do it for real.
The Emotional Freedom Technique is another very useful strategy for dealing with anxiety and other negative feelings or reactions that come up when you encounter a specific trigger. This process involves lightly tapping specific areas of the body (head/face, chest, hands, etc.) to essentially disrupt and defuse negative energy in the body and re-wire the mind to make a positive response or reaction. I often teach EFT to my hypnotherapy clients to give them an extra tool with which to manage stress and anxiety when they are faced with (or know they will encounter) an issue that triggers this negative emotional state.
As always, it is important to make sure that you eat nutritious food that contains protein, drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine to keep your blood-sugar level even. As I explained in my blog titled The Origin of Fears and Phobias, when the blood-sugar level suddenly dips the body automatically defends itself by substituting adrenaline for glucose (sugar). The bloodstream carries this hormone to the organs, muscles and glands to activate the fight/flight response and become hyper-sensitive to negative stimuli that already induce anxiety, nervousness, fear and even create a phobia.
For more information about how to deal with stress-inducing triggers in your life, please contact me at or call (661) 433-9430 to set up an appointment. I also invite you to read my previous blogs titled Dealing with Frustration and Release and Let It Go.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified  hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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