Identifying triggered feelings…?

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My T isn’t big on setting ‘homework’ but last session she suggested an exercise for me to think about for next time.

It’s this:

1) Make a list of stressors/triggers in my family

2) Identify what is triggered in me (eg a feeling/a somatic response) by that thing

3) See if I can join any dots and identify past experiences (maybe to do with my family, but maybe not) where that same feeling/response was triggered.

I love a bit of list writing so quite liked the sound of this exercise. But, jeez…I’m finding it harder than I expected.

In particular, I’m tripping up on the second step - what feelings are being triggered by the here and now family behaviours/dynamics.

I usually describe family stuff as ‘stressful’ or sometimes ‘upsetting’ or ‘distressing’ or I say that something ‘bothers me.’ There’s a lot of anxiety.

But I’m finding it very difficult to actually identify a more specific response. It’s all just stressful. It all just feels…ugh!

I’ve even looked at one of those ‘emotion wheel’ things to try to get inspired. But I just don’t connect.

I’m starting to feel like I’m making stuff up…trying to think ‘what would logically make sense for me to feel in this situation?’ Rather than actively feeling it.

I made another thread here recently about how do you connect with a split off/dissociated part (non DID) and I wonder if this is connected to that. Can’t really connect to that part of me, can’t feel these feelings…?

Any ideas on what might be useful?

I’m not bothered about having to get my homework ‘right’ and will happily tell her that I had a go but drew a blank on feelings if I can’t find a way through this aspect of the exercise.

But, I want to give it a good go as I suppose this feels like quite a barrier to therapeutic progress…if I can’t actually get in touch with emotional experiences/responses?


If you go with "distress", just as a generalised starting point, does that get you any closer to answering the 3rd question? Or brainstorming the 3rd question?

For example:
1) Ringing the doorbell when I arrive
2) Distress when ringing the doorbell
3) What's connected to that-> thoughts, memories, feelings, behaviours (past, present)...

Identifying the issues in the 3rd bracket may help with "what kind of distress is this? Particularly if "stress/anxiety" is your go-to secondary emotion whenever you have an uncomfortable emotion.


But I’m finding it very difficult to actually identify a more specific response. It’s all just stressful. It all just feels…ugh!
You realize that IS a helpful description of emotional response?

Because, sometimes, there IS NOT a specific response… but a global one.

Global responses? (Usually) Fall into one of two camps; crystal clear & clusterf*ck. Because either everything is pulling in the same direction, all at once… or a person is being pulled 50 different directions at the same time.

Add in a stress-cup-RISING!!! aspect, with SUDS kicking off; on top of a global response? There’s likely a foggy overlay, on top of an already volatile situation, with patches of numbing & other delightful forms of disassociation, as symptoms are rising in response to stress levels rising… further diluting a foggy view of a complicated clusterf*ck.

My advice? Ditch the emotion wheel, for now. It might be useful -in the moment- to write down a giant list of EVERYTHING you’re feeling, as you feel it. But in retrospect? Work with what you’ve got. A pattern will still undoubtedly emerge. Even if it’s “just” when the switch happens from feeling things individually to IDFK it’s too big and messy to parse? That’s useful. And provides valuable tools for dealing with those triggers and stressors, as you become more aware of when things start to blur, and how.


Sorry, after my OP I think I went into major avoidance!

@Sideways I like your idea of starting with the last category and then working backwards

@Friday that makes sense. Perhaps I had been more focused than I thought on coming up with a ‘good’ answer when the less specific truth (eg ‘it feels stressful’ is perhaps still valid and useful.

Thank you both.

I’m away for a few days and will park this until I’m back and then have another go…
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