Read the latest Mental Health Monday column, from Sarah Russ, on being “triggered.”

Lately, millennials have popularized letting others know when they are “triggered” by something, usually in an attempt to let someone know that their commentary is offensive in some way, and avoid heated debates, hopefully causing the individual who made the commentary to self-reflect or use different language moving forward.

Contrary to this trend, a common tenet in mental health and in life-coaching philosophies is that if something triggers you, there is something to be healed within yourself related to that trigger. I am not referring to blatant racism, sexism, or other overt offensive behavior. I am referring to that girl who is a friend of a friend who you just cannot be bothered to put up with. This is actually a great time for you to self-reflect. If you use your gut reactions blindly to help you make decisions, you may be doing so without really understanding what they mean to you, and if you are triggered often, it may be a sign that you may be the common denominator.

This is often referred to as “insight” by therapists and is used to describe how well you are able to reflect on a visceral reaction to a circumstance or personality type and see how these relate to some part of your life. 

First, take a closer look at the behavior or personality trait that is bugging you, and compare it to your own experience: Is this something you are afraid you do too much? Is it something that someone awful used to do to you all the time unapologetically? Is it something you are jealous of or wish you could do? If you are scared to explore it, maybe enlist a good friend to help you unearth it, or if you find it really nagging you, seek out a therapist to analyze it with you.

Once you find the nerve it is hitting, ask yourself, do I like this particular area of my life or does this mean I should change or adjust it? Jealousy is maybe the least flattering reason to uncover, but is one of the easier ones to solve: just do the thing you are jealous of; finish your degree, start working on improving your income, start taking care of yourself more, etc. But what if it is intrinsic self-esteem you are jealous of? Or what if you are triggered because of a past trauma you haven’t processed?

These are harder things to work on, but releasing past trauma with modalities like EMDR, and building self-esteem with CBT and positive self-talk, will allow you to have easier relationships with people, and to have more peace when confronted with a less than ideal personality at your bestie’s next get together. Many evidence-based workbooks can be found online to do work on your own, or you can seek out a mental health professional to do this work with you.

Next time you feel yourself wanting to tell someone you are offended, pause for a second and decide if it is a larger pattern that you can take charge of for yourself.

See the following links for therapists in the Miami-Dade area specializing in EMDR and CBT, and evidence-based workbooks: