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  • If we were totally sane, we would respond to the present only on its own terms; we would

  • worry or be angered or give way to anxiety only as much as the circumstances before us

  • actually dictated. But we are notof coursemost of us quite sane, as evidenced by

  • the way that we respond with such disproportion to certain events in the here and now. We

  • have occasional tendencies to get wildly more worried, angry and anxious than we should,

  • if we were simply following the facts in front of us. What causes us difficulty is that we

  • are wired to feel and respond according to precedent rather than on the basis of a dispassionate

  • evaluation of the present, and in particular we follow emotional tracks laid down in the

  • distant pastwhen many of us were victims of deeply unrepresentative and unusually painful

  • experiences, from which we continue to make panicky, gloomy and unhelpful extrapolations.

  • In other words, we are, to use the inelegant but useful contemporary term, easily (far

  • too easily) 'triggered'. That is, situations in the present elicit from us with undue haste

  • responses formed by, and frankly better suited to, a past whose details we have forgotten

  • and whose distinctiveness we cannot now perceive. A tricky but not objectively existentially

  • troubling email will hence convince us at once that this is The End. An item in the

  • news will plunge us immediately into devastating guilt or boundless fury. The prospect of a

  • party we have to go to or a speech we need to give brings on unbudgeable, monumental

  • terror. The triggering happens so fast, there is no chance to observe the process and see

  • the way in which we cede our powers of evaluation from present to past. Our minds are simply

  • flooded with panic, we lose our bearings, the rational faculties shut down and we are

  • lost, perhaps for days, in the caverns of the mind. We get triggered because we don't

  • have a direct link with objective reality: each of us approaches the outer world through

  • the prism of an inner world with a more or less tenuous connection to it. In this inner

  • world of ours lies a repository of expectations formed through our unique histories; our internal

  • working models, or our best guesses, of what the outer world will be like; how others will

  • respond to us, what they will say if we complain, how things will turn out when there is a challenge.

  • Crucially, and this is what we of course miss when we have been triggered, the inner world

  • isn't the outer world. It contains generalisations and extrapolations from a past that may be

  • far harder, stranger and more dangerous than the present. Psychologists have a handy rule

  • of thumb to alert us to the disproportionate side of our responses: if we experience anxiety

  • or anger above a five out of ten, they tell us, our response is likely to be fuelled not

  • by the issue before us, but by a past we're overlooking. In other words, we have to believe

  • (contrary to our feelings) that the issue won't be what it seems to be about. Image

  • result for david hockney The best way to free ourselves from being so eagerly triggered

  • is to refuse to believe in most of what overwhelmingly and rapidly frightens or angers us. We must

  • learn to adopt a robust suspicion of our first impulses. It isn't that there is nothing

  • scary or worrying in the outer world whatsoever, simply that our initial responses are liable

  • to be without proportion or without calculation of adult strength, resilience, resourcefulness

  • or options. Another way to approach our panic and anxiety is to remember that, despite appearances,

  • we are not a single person or unified 'I'. We are made up of an assemblage or a blend

  • of parts dating right back to our earliest days. In a way we can't easily track, different

  • events will engage with different parts of us. Some of our most troubled moments are

  • when a difficulty in the present isn't handled by an adult part, but by a part formed when

  • we were six months or three years old. We end up so scared because the challenge of

  • public speaking or of a seduction or a worry at work has, unbeknownst to the adult part

  • of us, been left in the hands a very scared toddler. In the circumstances, it can help

  • to ask ourselves at points not what 'we' are afraid of but what a 'part' of us

  • is worried aboutand to learn more carefully to differentiate the parts in question. What

  • might we tell a part of us in order for it not to be so scared? Image result for david

  • hockney flowers It is a milestone of maturity when we start to understand what triggers

  • us and whyand to take steps to mitigate the most self-harming of our responses. Whatever

  • our past seems to tell us, perhaps there won't be a catastrophe, perhaps we're not about

  • to be killed or humiliated unbearably. Perhaps we have adult capacities for survival. Too

  • much of our past is inside us in a way we don't recognise or learn to make allowances

  • for. We should dare to approach many of our triggers like a starting pistol or a fire

  • alarm that we will from now on, for well-grounded reasons, refuse to listen to.

  • Our resilience cards are designed to help us become tougher in the face of adversity. To learn more follow the link on your screen now.

If we were totally sane, we would respond to the present only on its own terms; we would

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B1 UK triggered outer present adult respond anxiety

Why Are We so Easily 'triggered'?

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    Tracy Wang posted on 2018/10/31
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