De-triggering Exercise


Triggering and emotional flooding is a very common experience. A variety of things can trigger us depending on our life experiences. When we are in a triggered state we are unable to respond effectively to our current circumstances. We simply react in an involuntary manner. Triggered selves are often much younger versions of us trying to get our attention.


If you are anything like me you have created messes with people in your life when you were triggered.  According to Dr. John Gottman anything we say or do in a triggered state we will regret later. I know this all too well. The good news is we can develop our ability to de-trigger ourselves.

Below I’ve provided an excellent de-triggering exercise that I have integrated fully into my tool kit. I have become so skilled at this exercise that I can now do it in the moment when I need to stay grounded. Most of the time, anyway! It is a great way to take care of ourselves during difficult conversations or in the face of something that is difficult or triggering. When the stakes are high and we have to face someone or something that triggers us this is a lifesaver!

Think about a time you have been triggered. Close your eyes if necessary and really feel into the experience of being triggered. Notice where in your body you feel it most strongly. This is where you triggered self-lives.


Now, place this part of yourself outside of you so you can see it as separate. Picture this self across the room from you so you so can see him or her clearly. Notice what he/she looks like, their age and posture. Remember to be your adult self during this exercise. This part belongs to the adult self and not the other way around.


As your adult self have the following conversation with the triggered aspect of yourself. Listen carefully to what your triggered self says:


  • Why is he/she there, what is he/she experiencing?
  • What is he/she trying to warn you about? How is he/she trying to be helpful?
  • What is this self’s concerns?
  • What does this self-need from you in order to let go and trust you? How can you be a good parent to that part? Does he/she need comfort? Protection? Firm boundaries? Is there a role or function you need to take care of so that pat doesn’t have to do it?


Begin to take over for this part of you self now and place him/her in a safe place so you can step into this role fully.


Remember, all parts of you are creative, resourceful and whole and have wisdom. This is about using it more skillfully. This process takes practices so please be gentle and patient.


This exercise comes from Organizational Relationship Systems Coaching. 

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