: 16 July 2015

3 Steps to Return to Love When You Get Triggered

Last week I got an email from my ex boyfriend. He asked me for a favor — he wanted to get in contact with someone I know. And in his email, he spelled my name wrong.

To some people, this may not seem like a huge deal. So what, he made a mistake. But for me, this experience totally spun me out.

The reason I was so affected was because this interaction triggered my most vulnerable insecurities: feeling unseen, unloved, and totally overlooked.

Even though I no longer have romantic feelings towards this man, that wasn’t enough to stop the trigger. Because when we get triggered — no matter who it’s with or where we’re at in life — the truth is, it’s not about the other person.

What’s really happening is our old wounds are coming to the surface.

My deepest wounds center around neglect and abandonment — they always get triggered when I feel unseen and overlooked. And as shitty as it feels for these insecurities to come to the surface, I know they create a perfect opportunity for me to grow.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had no idea what to do when my insecurities got triggered. I would villianize my partner, feel like a victim, try to change his behavior, and in general, just feel horrible. But none of this made me feel better.

The only thing that did make me feel better was finally learning how to love myself through the experience, so that’s what I’m going to teach you to do.

In this article, I’ll walk you through 3 steps to restore yourself to confidence when your insecurities and wounds get triggered in relationships. Learning how to soothe yourself through insecurities will bring you back to peace, so you can get back to being the confident, beautiful, incredible person that you are.

Step 1: Notice that you’re triggered as soon as possible.

Awareness is the key to growth. Without awareness — especially when we’re triggered — we’re screwed.

The reason awareness is so crucial is because it separates you from the pain you’re experiencing. When you’re triggered, you’re totally overcome with feelings. The only way to get out of the overwhelm is to notice what’s happening in your body. When you notice, you step out of your reaction and into witnessing.

So how do you do this? All you have to do is recognize that something happened and now you feel horrible as a result. Don’t analyze it, don’t try to figure it out, and don’t try to fix it. Instead, feel the experience in your body.

Here’s what I did when I got the triggering email: I realized that I felt very reactive to the email, and I noticed how horrible it felt in my body. Because I’ve done this before, I also realized that this was my old wounds coming to the surface. Abandonment and neglect —the feelings I want to avoid the most. And that was it.

I continued to breathe, I stayed in the witnessing mode, and felt the feelings.

This is not easy to do, but what you’ll find as you practice witnessing is that it’s enough to take the edge off of the pain. The more present you become, the sooner you’ll be restored to your normal state of being.

Step 2: Do not entertain the stories your mind is telling you.

Ok, here’s the deal about our minds: they lie. Or… they bend the truth. Our minds (or egos) love to categorize experiences into stories that you’re used to telling yourself.

For example, if you have similar wounds to me (centering around neglect), then anytime something feels remotely neglectful, you’ll go into a huge story about what’s happening. “This person doesn’t see me, this person doesn’t know me, this person doesn’t care…”

The pain of being triggered is so acute that your mind wants to figure it out. But the more you buy into these stories, the more they’ll make you suffer and the more they’ll keep happening. That’s right… our stories hold us captive to our wounds.

In the case for me, whether or not my ex remembers how to spell my name really isn’t about me. My ego (or wounded self) wants to make it about me — it wants to say that he never really understood me and that I’ll always be overlooked — but that’s not true. The less power I give to the story, the less power it has to take me down!

When you feel triggered, don’t indulge the stories because they’re just your wounds speaking. They’ll only make you feel worse.

Instead, keep breathing and bringing awareness to what the experience feels like. When you’re focused on how you’re body physically feels, your mind does not have the power to take you down.

Step 3: Feel compassion for this vulnerable part of you.

The final step of dealing with being triggered is opening your heart and feeling compassion for yourself.

Anytime you get triggered, all it means is a wounded part of yourself has surfaced. We all have wounds from the past; this is part of being human. Your wounds are not something to condemn or stifle — they’re something for you to care for.

The way I do this is I think of myself as a little girl — the little girl who at some point, felt really overlooked and alone. When I’m triggered, it’s her who’s coming to the surface, cute curls and all. She’s scared, she’s hurt, and she wants to feel loved. It’s my job to do that for her.

If I can open my heart to this image of myself, relief washes over me. I become the one responsible for seeing her (which is not my ex’s job); I become the one responsible for giving her love and care.

We each have a little one inside us who gets triggered when we feel hurt. When you give that aspect of yourself the thing she or he is looking for, your insecurity will literally melt away, and you’ll restore yourself to being you.

The bottom line is this: Triggers suck, but they don’t have to take you down. Instead of resisting the experience or condemning your partner, turn towards your feelings, let go of your stories, and use this as an opportunity to show yourself unconditional love. In doing so, your sense of self will get stronger, your relationships will heal, and you’ll continue to evolve into the greatest version of yourself.

Please leave a comment below telling us how you’re going to approach your insecurities next time they surface.



  1. Roberta Smith on July 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I understand this wonderful idea completely and look forward to using it

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:45 am

      Great Roberta. xo

  2. Shuchi on July 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Well said. If we can imbibe this suggestion, we can achieve harmony in every sphere of our lives. Thanks for sharing with us these insightful thoughts.

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:45 am

      You’re welcome. xo

  3. Petrina on July 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    This came at a very serendipitous time as I started reading it and then was triggered by my ex overstaying his welcome in my driveway to pick up our son and talk to our oldest daughter. Trying not to over analyze and return to this moment. Thanks for mentioning the neglect theme. It’s something that resonated with me even though I hadn’t been able to put a name on it before.

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:45 am

      Beautitul Petrina.

  4. Melanie on July 18, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Hi Shelly. Good article! I was going to pin it to my Relationships board, but with the way it’s coded we can’t copy-paste the title for Pinterest. Just wanted to let you know that deters some from sharing. 🙂

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:44 am

      Thank’s Melanie. I wish I knew how to change that but I don’t. 🙂 Glad you want to share, though. xo

  5. A J on July 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Awesome!! Such a great post! After years of healing through a bad relationship where I was treated horribly, his name was brought up by others when we were out in public, and surprised me how bad it triggered me! Even though I have no romantic attraction, all my insecurities came flooding back (even though ironically people brought his name up in a negative light). It still happened.I realized what was happening – then came home to my safe, peaceful environment and thought about what bugged me so much about it all. And yes, as you said — it has everything to do with us! Not them.
    Those tips above are so fabulous. I would also add – to do something nice for yourself right after something like that happens! I made an awesome bubble bath, cleaned up my house (being organized helps me always feel better), and just remember that the feeling that was triggered will pass.

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:44 am

      Very sweet, AJ. Love all that.

  6. Linda Fairchild on July 18, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Interesting post, you follow the same process as Barbara Stanny. I am a great admirer of her. However, if someone you had an intimate relationship with misspelled your name in the same sentence he was asking you for a favor, why would you not delete the email and laugh?
    Why would that trigger any other response? “Everything to do with us and not them?” The comment writer must be kidding. Need a hot bath to recover? I doubt it.

    What I find misguided about “relationship advice”, from men or women, is that it is all about what we have to do to make ourselves confident and desirable to the new mate coming into our lives. How about experience is the greatest teacher and instant deletion is the best way to prevent repeating an old mistake? We get all the information about a person in the first five minutes.

    How about more humor, swift action, and moving forward?

    There are many exciting new ways of thinking emerging about where women are in the continuum of human history, e.g. a new publication about one of the greatest inventors of all time, Tesla. http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/10/nikola-tesla-when-woman-is-boss/

    Instead of “regrouping” after an experience with a rude, disrespectful man, how about spending that same amount of time thinking about Tesla?

    I love how you are moving forward, Shelly, and I suggest you pick up a mightier sword! That is unconditional love.

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:43 am

      Hi Linda, I totally disagree to your approach above, however I respect you’re opinion that this is what works for you. To me “deleting” anything isn’t honoring – it’s denial of my feelings, wounds and the parts of me that haven’t been seen. That definitely wouldn’t have felt good to me, but again, I respect your opinion.

      • Melodysoul on July 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

        well said Shelly

      • Lulu on September 15, 2015 at 6:11 am

        You’re a good and wise soul Shelly. The comment by Linda Fairchild has a hint of judgement and ego. She sounds like she’s saying “she’s above it all”. Clearly she’s never walked in your shoes and might want to come down from her pedestal. Just saying. With that said, the one thing we can probably all agree on is the humor part. Trying to put a positive spin on her indignant comments. Must be nice being so mighty. Good to be her. From the words of great philosophers past, “it takes wisdom to understand wisdom”…God help us all as we strive to learn, grow and become better human beings. All the best to you.

    • Ty on July 19, 2015 at 10:28 am

      I agree on the basis that some people are just rude, her name is easy to spell, and he was her BOYFRIEND ,! To the author, I think you are just too good for him, I respect your views but some people are just self centered and those are people good women and men don’t need

    • Lisa on October 26, 2015 at 4:13 am

      What I find misguided about “relationship advice”, from men or women, is that it is all about what we have to do to make ourselves confident and desirable to the new mate coming into our lives – I find this comment amusing.
      I’m not interested in bettering myself for a new mate. Regardless of that, we all desire to be at peace with our feelings. Sometimes that takes some work. Being dismissive and shutting things down or people down (how is that unconditional love) will rarely accomplish that. It will likely make it difficult for us to understand ourselves and others.

      Also this: Why would that trigger any other response? “Everything to do with us and not them?” The comment writer must be kidding. Need a hot bath to recover? I doubt it.

      Umm if we feel we are over reacting to the email (which according to you Linda, we would be if we did anything BUT laugh and delete) – does that not indicate it IS everything to do with us. You contradict yourself 🙂 And the other poster did not say recovery will be gained by a hot bath, but as most intelligent people realize it can be helpful to be kind to ourselves rather than berating ourselves. We need to be our own champion and our own best friend. No this doesn’t meant going easy on ourselves all the time. It means being brutally honest with ourselves as well as accepting ourselves in spite of our faults while we are working on them 🙂

      • Lisa on October 26, 2015 at 4:16 am

        Oops that was in response to Linda’s post. I wont comment further as it may just be feeding a troll. Suffice to say the article was very well written. Not everyone has the insight to look inside themselves. Thank you Shelly.

  7. FM on July 18, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    Shelly (I went back to the top just to make sure I spelled it right),
    Thank you so much for writing this post…It brought to mind a process I experienced a few months ago and I began using some of the methods you described without knowing exactly why, or how it came to me…It was a deeply touching experience for me, but I found that when I was asked about it I did not have the words to describe exactly what I had done, but just had a sense in the deepest places within me that it needed to be…I went through the process you described and now you have given me a way to understand the mechanism better…I especially found the method of experiencing the emotion without buying into the stories helpful…hit the nail on the head with that one…
    In life it seems like more than one difficulty comes from this habit of forcing events, and people and things into categories…It brings to mind the fact that before children are taught the names for colors, they actually see a huge number of slight variations in the range of colors, but once they are named and understood by those names then they are less able to distinguish those variations…our experiences are like colors, but even more varried…each its own, with its own distinct wavelength…and the ability to take in each one as it comes will help me to live more fully in my present.
    Thank you…
    You have really helped me,

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 12:41 am

      Fern,Ah, this is so beautiful… everything you wrote. I love the piece about children and colors… I’ve never heart that before. Wow. Incredible. Thank you so much for sharing with us. xo

  8. Ty on July 19, 2015 at 10:21 am

    I get the idea of what. You’re sayinh but also,,…. He sounds like a not so nice guy,. Why even email you? Why not just cut off careless people?

    • Shelly Bullard on July 19, 2015 at 10:30 am

      He actually is a nice person. I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make in the article… we project all these stories onto people that actually aren’t real; they’re our judgements and they’re related to our wounds. He was an very important person in my life and for that reason I would never cut him off.

      • Melodysoul on July 19, 2015 at 3:42 pm

        good job!

      • Ty on July 20, 2015 at 5:00 am

        Oh okay…so he was a good man to you. I am speaking from my experience with people, both men and women, that I thought were nice, caring people, who turned out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
        They pretend to care about people while silently exploiting their good and sweet natures. I’ve learned a lot about narcissistic traits and how common they actually are. So me personally, I have little tolerance for what I perceive as slights or insults toward me, because narcissits always blame the victim and try to get them to introspect. I learned this very well, yes I do know the tactics of narcissists. It’s always you, it’s never them. But secretly, they are envious and full of hate for their targets/victims. They are the first ones to say, “You need to love yourself more”….very sneaky people. An abusive ex boyfriend said that to me… In fact every abusive person in my life used to say that, which is why I cut them off. Unsolicited advice is abusive. and to me self respect is not tolerating foolish advice from “helpful” narcissists with messed up lives. These people even will criticize me while their lives are falling apart. As you can see, I do not like narcissists. Anyway, somewhat of a vent. Be well Shelly

        • VILady on January 24, 2016 at 3:06 pm


  9. Natasha on July 19, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience and the different strategies that you incorporated into your life to redirect the negative thoughts and “triggers” in regards to our past relationship. I would love to join your ecourse, however I am going through hardtimes and can’t afford to pay for anything extra at this time. Will you be offering the course in the future? If so, when?

    • Shelly Bullard on July 20, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      I have a few courses so I don’t know which you’re referring to. But yes, they’ll all continue to be available in the future.

  10. Natasha on July 19, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    *excuse the error, I meant to say your past relationship (error found on second line).

  11. Lynn on July 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Do you have any more posts about triggering? I am in a new relationship and am having this issue. Once I get triggered I tend to shut down and feel nothing or want to push away my boyfriend when he hasn’t done anything wrong.

    • Shelly Bullard on July 20, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      I don’t think I’ve written anything else specifically about triggering. Sending love. xo

  12. Linda on July 21, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    This is wonderful, practical advice. My question is: what does one do about the guilt associated with lashing out at one of these times? Yes, offer more self love, but what about the poor soul who was subjected to the melt down?

    • Shelly Bullard on July 21, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      In this case I didn’t subject anyone to my meltdown, so there’s no guilt involved. When someone is subject to it, it’s appropriate to apologize about it and also to be in conversation about it. Both partners are going to get triggered – talking about it afterward is the best approach I’d say.

  13. Shelly on July 22, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you! This is so good. I was triggered a few days ago myself. I guess it’s been a week now. I’ve struggled with trying to figure it out and let it go. I was reading Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life, yesterday and came across MORE loving myself wisdom. Oh to have compassion on self and give me the love I need. It’s never about the other person. What am I supposed to learn from this? How can I grow from this? Wayne

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:25 am

      Love yourself. That’s always the lesson.

  14. Melissa on August 20, 2015 at 3:28 am

    Gosh, if my ex spelled my name wrong I would assume it was a typo or I would think he was the idiot for not remembering, lol!
    But that point aside … triggers are painful & it took me many years & losing a few good men to finally own my pain, control my anger, and master my hurtful tongue.

    It was a choice I made one day when I realized the only person I was really hurting was myself. It then took me a bit longer to understand that I needed to own my pain & listen to it, let it percolate before I understood the real issue & only then would I talk to my partner, with patience & the ability to actually listen.

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability, your wisdom is spot on.

    • Shelly Bullard on August 20, 2015 at 11:34 pm

      Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Melissa. xoxox

  15. Shashank on August 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    I felt the same way…Had a relationship a few years before.. which did not turn out well.
    Now I try to re visit my wounds when I feel some one is suffering with similar… I try to heal them or atleast think about how to heal them and in between keep on remembering my previous story. In retrospection it seems, sub conciously I am just trying to heal the wounds I suffered… The spiritual self need to overcome the little self… Its the time…!

    Thanks for your post! Appreciate it…!

    • Shelly Bullard on August 24, 2015 at 12:52 am

      You’re welcome, Shashank.

  16. Samantha on August 23, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Any person would probably be upset if their Ex spelled their name wrong. Even if the error was the result of a spelling error and being careless with mistakes. The degree of upset may reflect an attachment that is still there or how strong the feelings were. The best way at times is to switch up the mind. With all the starving children in the world and poached animals like Cecil the Lion, an Ex misspelling one’s name for whatever reason: if that is the worse thing to happen in a day, count yourself Lucky. Could be much worse.

  17. Amit Upadhyay on September 3, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Well said Shelly Unconditional love towards ourself and others will heal our most of Wound.Great article for self condifence.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:28 am


  18. Ally on September 16, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Great article, Shelly. I am the poster child for triggers. I’ve been on and off with a man for 3 years. He had a horrendous divorce that left him wounded and I at the age of 8 saw my mother and sibling die in a car crash.
    So our go-to triggers are: When we get close he bails so as to not ever get close enough to get hurt again. When he bails, I panic and hold on tighter so as to not be abandoned like I was as a child. It’s taken years of therapy for me to figure this out. I’m trying to recognize it and work through it when it happens, but it’s more difficult than you’d think!

    He recognizes it but isn’t ready to work through it with me. We’ve just hit our 3rd time around–same result. Although this time, he communicated that he’s taking time for himself to make massive changes and he suggested I do the same. I was offended at first and hurt but then thought he may be right.

    I hope he really is taking the time to make necessary changes but I also realize that I am only in control over my actions and emotions. Thus, I enrolled in one of your courses and I’m hoping it will help me to identify my wounds and hurtful beliefs so I can start the process of healing.

    By doing so, I’m hoping to have a healthier relationship with myself and my abandonment issues, while at the same time bring me into a more healthy relationship with him in the future or someone else who is on the same page as me. Thanks, Shelly, for all you do to help people xo

    • Shelly Bullard on September 19, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Ally, you are very awake to your patterns and wounds, which is HUGE. I’m so happy you’re taking one of my courses – it will help you continue on the path of connecting to deeper love within yourself, which will automatically strengthen all the love in your life, too. xoxoxox

  19. Niamh Sheridan on October 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Probably the best article I have read which deals win this experience. Thank you.

    • Shelly Bullard on October 24, 2015 at 12:24 am

      I’m so glad it resonates for you Niamh! xo

  20. Alexia on November 1, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    This is brilliant insight for anyone with trauma in their past. Thank you for the beautiful healing path.

    • Shelly Bullard on November 28, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      You’re welcome!

  21. Annette Gallagher on January 17, 2016 at 3:40 am

    Powerful. I’m going to do my best to use this. Thank you.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:28 am


  22. VILady on January 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Ive been learning to not feed into my thoughts. But at the same time we can’t continue to be blind from certain red flags..no?
    Anywho, Thanks for what you do!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:28 am

      You’re welcome!

  23. Rachel on April 22, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I shamefully admit that I just lost a relationship because of an outburst I made, which your article made me realize came from the hurt and sadness of insecurities I had that were triggered by something my ex said. I tried to step back and reconnect with him but never got the chance and by the end of the evening my anger had built up and I exploded. My anger was justified but my reaction and its extreme was not … this article will help me move ahead in the future and really evaluate why I am feeling what I’m feeling when I do. And most importantly, that what I’m feeling is about me and should not be taken out on someone else … I wish I had read this article a week ago and I may have never lost him.
    Thank you

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:26 am

      Yes. This happens to a lot of us. I’m coming out with a course to manage our triggers so we don’t have outbursts like this (which, by the way, is very common). Stay tuned for that…

  24. Phyllis Wilson on May 13, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    I got triggered when I sat with my bf and spoke with a woman that I thought in my mind he did not talk to.. When we were talking it came to me that he was ringing her and had been talking with her without telling me. After the meeting I became so angry that I could not talk to him, I just went and had a shower and went to bed. The anger in me comes from somewhere I have never felt before. I am currently awake and cannot go to sleep.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:27 am

      Yes. It’s really painful to get triggered. I totally understand.

  25. Duncan on July 26, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Thank you so much Shelly. I go to a ACA group regularly and have heard about feeling invisible and the pain it has caused but I haven’t been connecting and I have been afraid to commit to intimate, wholesome relationships and to feel my pain and loss and to see myself, be myself, love myself and trust myself.
    Shelly I hit my rock bottom in 2013. I was 18 years old. I was schitzophrenic and I didn’t have a relationship with anything. It has been a long and sometimes slow and painful process of healing and growth.

    Thank you and may you grow from strength to strength.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 23, 2017 at 7:27 am

      Beautiful Duncan. Thank you.

Before you dive any deeper...

Hi, I’m Shelly!

I’m a relationship coach, licensed marriage & family therapist, wife, girl mom, world traveler and… a damn good manifesting teacher.

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