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Trigger Translating

Trigger Translating

Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Nonviolent Communication, always kept a little notebook in his front pocket to write down his triggers, or reactive moments, as he noticed them in his daily life.

And it’s a practice I’ve found useful, too.


Because, before I can free myself from my automatic responses to difficulties (many of which have been conditioned in me a loooong time) so I can show up more skillfully, more choicefully…

…I have to NOTICE those triggers first.

What do I mean? I’ll illustrate with a quick story.

A few mornings ago, after two weeks of being sick while also taking care of a sick three-year-old, I’d about had it.

  1. I hadn’t gotten much sleep and was annoyed as $&%# (trigger 1).
  2. I couldn’t get in at the doctor’s office and was anxious about getting the medicine I needed (trigger 2).
  3. My partner walked around audibly sighing and moaning - 5 or 6 times (the nerve! trigger 3).
  4. And then my little one looked at me from across the room and blew a stream of infected snot onto the floor (OMG!).

It all added up so fast! Snot down his face and all over the floor?! Aaargh! I wanted to explode!

Now, since I’ve done the practice a fair amount, it was readily apparent to me how much of my annoyance at my kiddo was really about a build-up of worry and frustration about the rest of my situation. I needed some hope or relief - and saw none on the horizon.

Without the reframe, “I’m generally short-fused right now because I’m exhausted and sick…”  I could’ve easily just reacted to that last trigger with my kid. I could’ve given him a useless lecture about tissues. I could’ve yelled at him or handled him harshly. Or - any number of other reactive possibilities.

What did I manage instead?

I breathed a few breaths, cleaned up the mess, and exchanged a wry smile with my little cherub, who was sitting there quite pleased with himself.

It’s definitely not an overnight thing.

But the more you practice, the more you’ll notice your triggers (your reactive stories) at a meta level.

And then, you can begin to shift your attention from those initial reactions to the facts of the matter, the Observations. (Alternately, you can connect to the Feelings and Needs underneath a reaction, as I did above.)

This capacity to translate, or reframe, your initial stories will begin to give you way more choice in difficult moments. So keeping some kind of a Trigger Translation Journal might be for you if…

  1. You have trouble identifying your feelings or needs during times of reactivity
  2. You get down on yourself after being triggered, and want to interrupt the shame spiral
  3. Your triggers have you automatically reacting in ways you wouldn’t choose

Want to give it a try? Check out these posts on IG to get you started.
And while you’re there, follow GROK so we can stay in touch there. :)

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