How to Reduce Your Chances of Being Triggered: Use Boundaries of Self-Protection

Issue 38. September 1, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

When I first started learning about boundaries, the idea that boundaries are self-protective was the concept of boundaries that I understood first. That is, they’re about setting limits with other people about what I will and will not tolerate, what’s okay with me and not okay with me.

As I went along in my boundary-building journey, I learned there was a lot more nuance than that. They’re about taking care of myself and keeping out of harm’s way, as well as reducing my chances of being triggered. I can’t go the rest of my life without ever being triggered, but there’s plenty I can do to minimize those opportunities.

There’s a quote I learned many years ago that’s very fitting here. I thought I knew what it meant before I got into recovery but I really didn’t. Here it is:

“It’s easier to put slippers on your feet
than to carpet the world.”

This is a Chinese proverb and the idea here is that the world has sharp jagged edges. Instead of carpeting the entire world, we can put slippers on our own feet to keep from stubbing our toes on those sharp, jagged edges. This is a metaphor for trying to control the world around us to be the way that we want it to be. I honestly didn’t realize I was trying to do that before recovery.

I can’t change people, but I can put limits on them, or get some distance on them. Sometimes that distance is physical, sometimes that distance is with time. I can also stay away from “dangerous neighborhoods.” I can’t change what’s on the news, but I can stop watching it if it’s constantly triggering me. In fact, I stopped watching the news and engaging in politics a few years ago because it serves my mental health to do so. I prioritize the regulation of my nervous system over being an informed citizen. The way I see it, the world is better served when Barb has stable mental health than when she doesn’t!

The question is  – what are the slippers that I can put on my feet to protect myself, keep myself from harm, and reduce my chances of being triggered? Here are some of the “slippers” I’ve learned to put on my feet…

Time is a big one, which I wrote about here.  Here’s another example of how I use time for self-protection:

I’m the kind of person who likes consistency, it’s healthy for me to have a routine so I’m a planner. I like to plan things ahead of time, it makes me feel more calm when I have an idea of what’s coming up. I’m willing to switch a plan because, after all, it’s my plan – I made it and can switch it if I want to. I feel more secure in my life when I have an idea of where I need to go, what I need to bring with me. This includes food because I’m in recovery for compulsive over eating and I follow a food plan (which has helped a lot in building healthy boundaries!). Here are some other boundaries of self—protection I’ve developed over time.

  • If someone is triggering me, I don’t have to allow them to continue doing that. I  can block them on phone and email.  I can always unblock them at a later time if that makes sense for me.
  • If someone is yelling at me, I put my hand up to signal them to stop. This non-verbally signals to them, “Don’t talk to me like that.”
  • Mean people scare me because there’s no limit to what a mean person will say or do, so I don’t spend time around them.  I can’t change them into an un-mean person, but I can get some distance from them. I don’t need to try to work with them or change them into something I’d like them to be.
  • My family is pretty dysfunctional, so I spend very little (or no) time with them, and do so rarely.

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