Emotional Triggers vs. Big Emotions: Deciphering the Difference and Its Impact on Mental Health

Benjamin Bonetti Therapy Online Coaching

Emotions are an integral part of our daily existence, influencing our behaviour, decisions, and overall mental health. However, there's often confusion between two distinct emotional concepts: emotional triggers and big emotions.

Understanding the difference between these two is critical to fostering emotional wellbeing and navigating mental health challenges. In this blog, we'll delve into defining these concepts, their differences, and how to manage them effectively. 

Emotional triggers are external events or circumstances that evoke a strong emotional response. They can be anything from a particular smell that reminds you of a past trauma to a specific date marking a difficult event. These triggers are often linked to unresolved emotional issues or traumatic experiences and can cause significant distress when encountered. 

On the other hand, big emotions refer to intense feelings that are not necessarily tied to specific external triggers. They may arise due to a variety of factors, including hormonal changes, stress, mental health conditions, or significant life events. Big emotions can encompass a wide range of feelings, such as intense sadness, overwhelming joy, paralysing fear, or powerful anger. 

While both emotional triggers and big emotions can be intense and challenging, they are not the same. Emotional triggers are typically rooted in past experiences and provoked by specific cues, whereas big emotions can emerge without an apparent cause and encompass a broader range of feelings. 

Understanding the distinction between these two concepts is vital for several reasons. Firstly, it helps us better understand our emotional experiences and identify whether a particular emotion is arising due to a specific trigger or is a part of the natural ebb and flow of our emotional landscape. Secondly, this understanding allows for more targeted interventions and strategies to manage these emotional experiences. For instance, strategies for managing emotional triggers often involve identifying and processing unresolved emotional issues, while managing big emotions may involve learning to tolerate and navigate intense feelings.

Let's delve a little deeper into how we can manage both emotional triggers and big emotions effectively.

Identifying Emotional Triggers: The first step in managing emotional triggers is identifying them. Pay attention to situations, people, or things that consistently evoke a strong emotional response. Journaling can be an effective tool for tracking these triggers.

Seek Professional Help: If emotional triggers are rooted in past trauma or unresolved emotional issues, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing can be particularly effective in dealing with emotional triggers.

Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques: Mindfulness and grounding techniques can help manage the immediate emotional response to triggers. These techniques involve focusing on the present moment or on physical sensations to 'ground' yourself when a trigger occurs..

Managing big emotions can be a different challenge. Here are some strategies that can help:

Emotional Literacy: Understanding and naming your emotions can be a powerful first step in managing big emotions. This process, known as emotional literacy, can make big emotions feel less overwhelming and more manageable.

Emotion Regulation Strategies: Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualisation can help reduce the intensity of big emotions. 

Healthy Expression of Emotions: Finding healthy ways to express your emotions, such as through art, music, or physical activity, can also be helpful in managing big emotions. 

Seek Support: Just like with emotional triggers, if big emotions are consistently overwhelming or linked to a mental health condition, seeking professional help can be invaluable. 

By understanding the difference between emotional triggers and big emotions, we can navigate our emotional landscape with greater ease and skill. Both concepts, while challenging, offer opportunities for growth and healing. The process of identifying triggers can lead to healing past traumas, while learning to manage big emotions can enhance emotional resilience. As we deepen our understanding and enhance our skills in managing these emotional experiences, we are paving the way for improved mental health and emotional wellbeing.

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