Being “Triggered” – Blame or Responsibility?

In contemporary dialogue, the term "triggered" is, in my opinion as a trauma therapist and performance coach, over-used. It often carries implications of victimhood and external attribution of blame. This linguistic shift from phrases like "I reacted" and “I was set off by” to "that or they triggered me" reflects a subtle yet profound change in our societal mindset towards deflection of responsibility and blame for our emotional state and emotional regulation.


A musical colleague I was coaching with earlier this year mentioned a workshopping process whereby a new piece was being developed and creatively explored. During the workshop, a participant told him she was being “triggered” by some of the content and that he should provide a psychologist to the cast. This is the kind of deflection and outsourcing of responsibility for our emotional state which can only disempower us. If we’re “triggered” by external stimuli, it’s our job to figure it out – including potentially getting help to resolve the underlying issues. It’s not someone else job to ‘fix’ this for us.


Unresolved emotional pain contributes substantially to trigger responses, with individuals exhibiting greater resilience to external stressors upon addressing their underlying issues. Therapeutic modalities such as The Richards Trauma Process™ (TRTP™) have shown remarkable efficacy in resolving past distress, thereby mitigating trigger responses and fostering emotional well-being.


I was speaking to a mentee yesterday who, post TRTP™, noticed she wasn’t triggered by others’ reactive, sometimes aggressive behaviour anymore (think road rage). When our stuff’s resolved, triggers and symptoms disappear. TRTP™ is a modality that takes care of this. The stimuli may be on the 'outside' but the buttons are on the 'inside'.


As elucidated by renowned spiritual teacher, Muktananda, our reactions to external stimuli are indicative of our internal identifications and conditioning (ie. our ‘buttons’ are on the inside). I remember reading Muktananda’s book, “Where Are You Going?”, in my 20’s. He said that if someone calls us an “idiot”, we only get upset if we identify with being an idiot. (Paraphrased here.) This was a moment of great clarity for me!


In therapeutic settings, it is imperative to help individuals reclaim agency over their emotional experiences. Whilst someone is stuck in a survival response, emotional regulation is difficult, if not impossible. You simply cannot regulate your nervous system when having a PSTD flash-back, stuck in the depths of despair or experiencing a trauma-related anger episode, for example. The person’s system must first be brought to ‘calm’ before they can then consciously continue to regulate their system going forward.


It is crucial to acknowledge that embracing personal responsibility does not equate to allowing or condoning inappropriate or abusive behaviour. Upholding healthy boundaries, distancing ourselves from toxic environments and advocating for ourselves are integral components of self-care and emotional well-being and are often only possible once one’s past distress has been resolved.


Awareness of this evolving usage of the term "triggered" and its indicative attitude is a positive first step. The question we can then ask ourselves, if we are “triggered”, becomes: “What am I going to do about it?” Do you feel the shift towards a sense of personal strength and agency when we ask ourselves that question?



If you need help, please get in touch.

About Sally

As a former international opera singer, Sally Wilson knows a thing or two about being at the top of your field. And she’s discovered first-hand what it feels like to step away from the spotlight and lose your identity.

Through coaching, Sally helps her clients let go of their self-sabotaging beliefs and discover freedom, joy and fulfillment. As an accredited TRTP™ practitioner, Sally uses evidence-based practices to create changes that are quick, safe and lasting.

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