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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Personal Triggers: Recognizing the Causes of Problematic Behavior

image courtesy Sam Himelstein

This activity is adapted from Mindfulness-Based Substance Abuse Treatment for Adolescents, by Sam Himelstein and Stephen Saul. With the authors’ and publishers’ permission, it’s been expanded to apply to a wider audience. 

Most of us have some type of behavior that’s gotten us into trouble. It could be overeating, drinking too much, using drugs, or responding with anger and aggression. 
Think about what triggers (causes) you to engage in this behavior: 

  • Is it a strong emotion? 
  • A certain person or group of people? 
  • A particular place, event, or situation? 
  • Some combination of all of those factors? 

What Are My Triggers?

Personal Triggers
Social Triggers
Environmental Triggers
Factors related to self-awareness, ability to cope with strong emotions, and motivation to stop problematic behavior.
Who you hang out with, what activities and interests they have, whether they overeat, abuse drugs or alcohol, etc.
What type of neighborhood you live in, how safe you feel, how easily you have access to drugs/alcohol/unhealthy food, etc.

Take about ten minutes to fill in the chart. 
Then, if working individually, write in your journal about your personal triggers. If working in a class or group, join with other group members to discuss your answers. 
  • What are your personal triggers?
  • Which of these triggers/influences can you control? 
  • Which can’t you control?
  • What is your plan to deal with those factors you can control? What about the ones you can’t? 

Note to teachers: As with any activity that involves self-disclosure, encourage group members to share their personal responses, but don’t push them beyond their comfort level. The activity may bring up trauma that isn’t appropriate to process in a group, or they might not feel comfortable sharing with this particular group at this time.