Simple ABCs of What To Do When Triggered

I’ve been asking some of my friends for feedback on my blog. One friend responded that she finds herself thinking: “She’s right! I have this problem/experience too! I wonder what she did about it/ wish there were some more examples of what I could try to do about it!”.  

So, today I want to share with you one of my favorite tools from my mentors.


Simple ABCs of What To Do When You’re Triggered

  1. Acknowledge & Accept your “ETC”*
  2. Breathe yourself to greater calm
  3. Coach yourself with truths
  4. Distance yourself with some healthy Distraction
  5. allow some time to Elapse


*ETC. stands for “Emotions, Thoughts, and Choices”.  Or, in other words:
Acknowledge and accept Where You’re At. 

Let’s examine just the ‘A’ part of these ABCs with a real life example:

Part I: Acknowledging & Accepting my emotions

When I feel hurt, I start off by simply being honest with myself about that.

When we feel “hurt”, we really feel a whole ton of very specific emotions. It simply takes practice to be able to identify them.

I go through a list of my emotions.

I might feel sad, disappointed, angry, disillusioned, frustrated, misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned, lonely, deceived, confused, conflicted, hopeless, or scared.

In fact, when I write out my emotions during any sort of Trigger, I find that if I reeeeally think about it –if I quietly sit with my emotions and give them space to be heard– that list can be surprisingly long.

When I come up with a list of 20-30 powerful emotions, it’s a lot easier to take a deep breath and say “goodness –no wonder I feel so terrible, if I feel all of this!”

The accepting part is essentially saying to myself “I feel XYZ and that is OK, understandable, and valid.”

It’s like giving yourself an internal hug.


Part II: Acknowledging & Accepting my Thoughts

After I’ve pondered my emotions, I examine the thoughts behind those emotions.

Example thoughts might be: X doesn’t really care about me. X never actually did care about me. I deserve better than this. I’m a way better friend than X is. My friends always let me down. I’m not very desirable as a friend. I’ll never find good friends who I can count on.

A huge point about the thoughts of the ETC. that we need to acknowledge and accept is this:

While some thoughts are straight-up, shame-based lies; a lot of those thoughts have an element of truth to them.

For instance: I deserve better than this. I’m a way better friend than X is. My friends always let me down.  –These sorts of thoughts are great signals that something about our own boundaries needs to change.

We need to better tend our own Inner Yard.  If we are experiencing habitual disappointment, disillusionment, and despair; that is OUR problem and only we have the power to change it.

Thoughts that boil down to a “I’m unworthy, unloved, undeserving, undesirable, and not good enough” are thoughts that fall into the pure-lie category.

Frequently, when we first consider the thoughts that support each individual emotion, we think of just the lies and the half-truths.

Our triggered thoughts tend to be pretty rigid, pretty black-and-white, maybe even catastrophic in their extremity.  We gravitate toward playing a Blame Game that makes one or the other party out as “wrong.”

It’s technically a whole other step (part of the ‘C is for Coaching’ step) in which we broaden our minds to consider other, empathetic, grace-based options.  Options that are not blaming, not catastrophic.  Essentially, thoughts that are not triggered.



  • The ABCs of What to Do When You’re Triggered are all about how to get untriggered.
  • Acknowledging & Accepting the emotions and thoughts of where you’re at is Step #1.
  • Our hurt places have had their voice. They’ve been understood and validated. There is a huge amount of relief and comfort in this step alone.  So, good job!


Now, with some  ‘B for deep Breaths’, we’re ready to choose to move on to ‘C is for Coaching.’

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Laura Bennett

Laura Bennett

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