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Understand Relationship Triggers (and what to do about them!)

Updated: Apr 25

Why do people get "triggered"?

When people become angry, frustrated, or sad, it's often an external event (the trigger) that causes these feelings to be activated. To be clear, these feelings already exist within us, they just get brought to the surface by these triggers. Understanding the 3 levels of the brain and these 4 communication skills can help you understand when somebody is more likely to get triggered and how to skillfully respond.

In this article we are going to reveal the source of these triggers and how to begin to dissolve the influence they have over one's mood and actions.


The Ball Metaphor

Imagine yourself standing waist deep in a pool of water. Surrounding you are those plastic balls you find in a McDonalds playpen. Some of these balls are red and some of the balls are green. Now in this scenario, you have been told all your life, maybe explicitly or maybe implicitly, that the red balls are very bad, and green balls are good. Whenever someone passes by, you try to push these red balls under the water and hold them down there as long as you can. At the same time, with your other hand you are trying to show off the green balls toward the person so they can better see it. Finally, after growing exhausted from trying to push down the red ones, you loose your grip and the red balls all come rushing up to the surface, splashing everyone around you!

After seeing the red balls causing such a disturbance, you then reinforce your belief that these red balls are bad! But actually, the red balls themselves are not bad, it was the momentum created by pushing them under the surface that made them come up in a destructive way.

If you had just peacefully allowed the red and green balls to float on the surface, they wouldn't have bothered anyone or caused such a dramatic scene. But in the effort to hide the red ones and put the green ones on display it actually drew more attention to what you were trying to hide and caused a disruption.

People are like this with the qualities they determine are positive and negative within themselves.


Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To

We all begin life completely whole, accepting each aspect of ourselves and not trying to hide anything.

In time we begin to become conditioned by our family, friends, society, etc. to believe that certain qualities are negative (red balls) and certain ones are positive (green balls) — and so we begin to behave as described in the metaphor above.

On a deeper level we believe that the negative qualities make us less than others, while positive qualities are how we stay "above the competition" in terms of being a "good" person.

Once we are able to learn to accept all aspects of our being, we will be able to move more gracefully through life. Even when the "bad" qualities come up, it wouldn't be as charged or exaggerated. Most people understand that nobody is perfect, and don't expect others to be.


How this Affects the Way you Choose Your Relationships

This is you at the beginning of your life — 100% whole:

But as a person starts deciding that certain aspects of themselves are positive and negative, they start to reshape this wholeness, trying to cut out the negative and exaggerate the positive. In time, this circle starts to look more like a puzzle piece...

Unconsciously, people seek out relationships that fit with our puzzle piece, in the deep search to become whole again. Where there is a negative, a person will often inexplicably find themselves in relationships where that repressed quality is exaggerated in the other person, and visa versa.

These relationship patterns are bound to repeat until there is a return to that fundamental wholeness (and with it naturally comes an acceptance of the wholeness of others).


If you're curious to learn more, check out our Relationship Coach training course which is designed to guide you and your client back to this state of wholeness. This transforms one's relationships with their partner, family, friends, and (most fundamentally) themselves.

Any questions? Let's have a chat and see what the next, most powerful step in your journey could be!