Ep. 86: Dr. David Richo — How Triggers Can Free You From Anxiety and Pain

My guest this week in Dr. David Richo, who was on the podcast back in 2018 when we talked about mindfulness in relationships. This time we were focusing on his new book, Triggers: How to Stop Reacting and Start Healing (affiliate link). It’s a great guide for how to use your emotional reactions when you’re triggered as the starting point for identifying and resolving the underlying issues.

One of the things I love most about Dave’s approach is how he doesn’t pretend there’s some trick or technique that’s going to take away your difficult emotions or make life a breeze. He’s honest about the challenges all of us will face, and how accepting those challenges is the path toward becoming a full-fledged adult.

I especially want to draw your attention in this episode to Dave’s encouragement to make a commitment to working on yourself when you’re triggered, rather than blaming others or assuming the problem is with them. I’m thinking about this a lot more in my own closest relationships since Dave and I spoke, especially in my marriage, and trying to remember to be curious about my reaction instead of focusing on my feeling of hurt or injustice. As Dave and I discuss, there’s true freedom to be found in that approach, and it lets us let go of so much unnecessary tension in our relationships.

Topics we covered included:

  • What it means to be triggered
  • How our triggers can turn into tools for healing past issues
  • Using triggers as a trailhead to begin the “hike” into your unfinished business
  • A simple 2-step approach to starting to work constructively with our triggers
  • Blame as a reliable indicator of something in our own psyche that we’re not looking at
  • “Seeing your own stuff” rather than seeing what is wrong in the other person
  • Ways that authority figures may trigger us
  • Why it’s useless to try to talk yourself out of your triggers with the reasoning mind
  • The operation of triggers in the limbic system
  • Our ability to trigger ourselves internally
  • How to respond to our inner critic
  • Dealing with triggers in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
  • Letting go of the belief that we have ultimate control over our lives
  • Escaping the prison of fear by letting go of control (or false control)
  • How to exercise compassion for our loved ones’ “irrational” triggers

After our discussion, Dave shared this new affirmation with me:

I will do all I can to deal with this present predicament.
When the next thing happens I will do all I can to deal with that.
I will continue in this style, asking continually for the courage to change what can be changed.
When all avenues of creating change have closed, I will say yes to what is by the power of grace.
This will grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change.
Then a new door, unnoticed before, will open.
It will be the gift of wisdom, my true spiritual goal.

—Dr. David Richo

David Richo, PhD, MFT, is a psychotherapist, teacher, workshop leader, and writer who works in Santa Barbara and San Francisco, CA. He combines Jungian, poetic, and mythic perspectives in his work with the intention of integrating the psychological and the spiritual. His books and workshops draw from Buddhist and Christian spiritual practices.

Dave is the author of over 20 books, including (affiliate links):

How to Be an Adult in Relationships
How to Be an Adult in Love
The Five Things We Cannot Change

Find Dave online at his website.

2 thoughts

  • Thanks Dr. Seth for this feature, EP 86. I have his book TRIGGER, a great book to have, gift, share. Dr. Dave Richo is excellent…best wishes to you, yours and.. we will get through, be transformed, learn from covid -19.

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