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"I'm Getting Triggered"

“I’m getting triggered” It’s a phrase I hear nearly every day in the microcosm of the psychiatric hospital. On any given day, at any given moment, a loud psychotic female will start screaming - or a sociopathic fellow will start threatening violence. And then, before you know it, most of the other patients are suddenly crying and yelling, stressing out, and freaking out. Getting triggered.

Did I say 'freaking out'? Sorry, that’s what we used to call it back in my era, in the good old baby boomer days. Getting triggered is very real; real because we all have stuff buried in our past. Buried but far from gone. It’s hiding in our neurons, in our psyche. And when a certain jolt happens, we can start spiraling emotionally. We get stressed, freaked; we get triggered.

Certainly some people spiral more easily than others: like those who have suffered horrific sexual or physical abuse. Or those who simply have a less resilient nature. And we psychiatrists, indeed all of us, certainly need to be sensitive to their plight. But also know that every jolt, every trigger, holds within it immense opportunity. Sadly, people may say “I’m getting triggered “ too often. They have to be careful. Careful that they may use 'trigger' as an excuse to fall into a victim mindset and not take responsibility for their lives. "I'm getting triggered" has become the 'go to' phrase for our younger folks. The 21st century replacement for "I'm stressed out". Nothing wrong with it - except when it is used as an abdication of responsibility. Life is difficult. Whether you're a baby boomer, a millennial, or part of generation Z, it's important to know this. We all have triggers, some big and some small, each and every day. It’s how we meet those challenges, how we turn those seeming obstacles into opportunities, that makes all the difference. When we can do that, then it's sort of a funny twist - because then life ceases to be so difficult. Last fall I was walking down the street and saw the following simple, yet profound words posted on a fence: “ ‘Stressed’ spelled backwards is ‘Desserts’. Coincidence?, I think not!” What can I say? I love that quote!

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