Phrases that Mislead, Part 5

By Greg Baer M.D.

March 14, 2016

In Real Love groups, conference calls, and other Real Love interactions, certain phrases have crept into use that are not consistent with the principles of Real Love, or that might cause confusion by their use. Recently I began a discussion of such phrases in the blogs listed below. Now we'll continue. In this blog we will discuss one such phrase, "I was triggered" and in subsequent blogs we'll talk about some others. 

Phrases that Mislead, Part 4 
Phrases that Mislead, Part 3 
Phrases that Mislead, Part 2 
Phrases that Mislead, Part 1 


As people describe their behavior, they often refer to “triggers”:

“I was triggered when he . . .”
“When that happened, I was really triggered.”
“That’s a real trigger for me.”

A trigger is an event that initiates a process that involuntarily produces a relatively larger effect than would be expected from the initiating event. When you pull the trigger of a gun, a series of mechanical and chemical processes occur that predictably result in a bullet being propelled from the gun barrel. So if a person is “triggered,” the very strong implication—or outright statement of fact—is that some event or person MADE that person feel or behave in a certain way.

I have written in many places about EJFR, or Event ➝ Judgment ➝ Feeling ➝ Reaction.

The statement “I was triggered” implies that when an event occurs, it CAUSES a reaction, and there is nothing between the event and our reaction. This is a dangerous lie. If it were true, you and I would be nothing more than billiard balls, bouncing around at predictable angles and speeds as we are struck by other billiard balls. We’d be only objects, to be acted upon. We’d only react, rather than making free choices. Yuck—and not true.

In our defense, when we have insufficient Real Love in our lives—and when we have not been taught how to make loving choices regardless of our circumstances—we really don’t have the ability to make choices freely. When we’re in pain, we can only react involuntarily, and in those cases we really are “triggered” by events. When a stack of ceramic plates falls to the floor, a combat veteran isn’t making a conscious choice when he drops to the floor in terror. He is simply reacting to past events.

As we learn about Real Love, however, and as we feel loved, we gain the ability to make real choices. We can see events simply as events. Then we can examine our judgments, to learn whether they are true. When we choose true judgments, our feelings are always productive—loved, grateful, happy—and our responses are a blessing to ourselves and others.

With sufficient Real Love, we can abandon the word “triggered” and describe what is happening with much greater accuracy. For example, let’s take an actual statement by Max:

“This morning my wife said something that I interpreted as critical. I’ve been criticized and belittled all my life, so in an instant I reacted fearfully not only to her but to the pain inflicted by everyone who has hurt me in the past. But then I chose to remember all the people who love me, as well as the efforts my wife is making to love me, and in the face of that gratitude, my fears disappeared.”

“I interpreted”. Max understood that what his wife said may or may not have been critical, but he recognized that his past made it more likely that he would perceive her comment as critical. (judgment)
Max realized that his immediate response was a result of a lifetime of pain. (judgment)
He didn’t blame his wife for his immediate reaction. (feeling and reaction)
Max CHOSE to remember the love he DID have, rather than focus on a minor threat—real or perceived. (judgment and reaction)
He CHOSE gratitude, which eliminates fear. (feeling and reaction)

Can you see how much more productive—and accurate—Max’s statement above is than saying, “This morning I was triggered by my wife”? The more clearly we see events and ourselves, the more wisely we can choose how we feel and respond.

In future blogs we’ll discuss more phrases that can be misleading in our discussions of Real Love.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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