EDNA HEALY · MFT              

Compassion  Kindness Clarity           

Couples Therapy: Couples and Triggering

What Is Triggering?

Triggering is what happens when we have an experience and our reaction (feelings, thoughts, ways we respond) to that experience not only reflects what our current experience is but also has a strong connection to our past experiences.  In the moment, our current experience may “feel” exactly like old experiences we have had or may remind us in some way of those experiences. Our feelings and responses to the situation reflect the accumulated feelings and beliefs (about ourselves and our partners) that are related, that are connected to our own personal history.   The disappointments, losses, anger, sadness, hopelessness, experiences and feelings related to our needs not being met from the past come to the surface and feel like it’s happening right now.  

Even when each person in a couple has strong communication skills it is possible to get triggered by what our partner says or does.  Our communication skills leave us temporarily and our emotional reactions and the way we act toward our partner can create alienation and resentment and may begin or escalate conflict.  Triggering when acted on in relationship creates disconnection.  It separates us from the awareness that the person we are fighting with is also the person we care about and the knowledge that our partner is more than whatever negative experience we are having with them in the moment.  We lose connection with our positive experiences – our view of our partner is primarily through the filter of our past painful experiences.

I have found that developing the ability to recognize when you are triggered and building/strengthening skills around what to do when you are triggered are essential to maintaining a healthy, caring relationship.  I support you from a place of kindness and non-judgment in becoming aware of your triggering and noticing how it impacts you and your relationship.  I work with you to develop skills to communicate to your partner what is happening for you.

We all get triggered but we can learn to become more aware of when it is happening and with that awareness begin to choose other ways of responding.  As humans we all bring our emotional baggage into our relationships. Even when you have the skills to recognize your own triggering you may not always be able to stop yourself from reacting to your partner in the moment in a way you may regret later.  Sometimes you may be hard on yourself when this happens.  I support you in bringing compassion to yourself and recognizing that these experiences can provide you with an opportunity to deepen your intimacy with your partner.  As you own your reactivity (while holding yourself with kindness) you are able to make space and develop empathy for your partner’s feelings about their experience of disconnection.  Your connection with your partner can deepen as you provide space for them to be seen and heard around their experience.  You can then reveal deeper layers of yourself and the wounding you carry with you to your partner and are more likely to be received with kindness and compassion.  When we risk showing ourselves this way we create the possibility for healing both with our partners and also for the deeper emotional wounding we carry.



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