When we get emotionally triggered, our safety system kicks off a sequence of biological responses to danger. This process prioritizes the fight-flight-freeze-tend/befriend-dissociate reactions in our body and reduces resources for non-survival systems, including our mental processes. As a result, once triggered, we often have reduced capacity for making thoughtful agreements.
I created a drawing to show how two people’s trigger sequences can create a negative fight cycle that escalates and produces angry, hurt conflict, and often takes a lot of effort to resolve. My goal was to help clients find the early markers of their trigger sequence. If we can identify ourselves starting to get triggered, we can interrupt the process, re-center, and make a different move that produces a different result. Take a look at the drawing and notice how each partner’s escalation sequence has early stages of the cycle. If we can create interventions early on, we can de-escalate, rather than escalate conflict, create a lot less harm, and require a lot less repair work in the aftermath.