How to Talk to Your Family About Your Triggers

Therapist talking to girl on couch

‘Tis the season to visit your family and face old triggers. While you may have spent the year going to therapy or generally growing as a person, returning home can reopen old wounds. So take a moment and assess…What do you need to have a happy holiday break? 

It’s hard to explain why certain things trigger you. The answer is never neat and simple. After all, your triggers are deeply personal. But you don’t have to share the whole truth in order to get the support you need from your loved ones. Vaguely explaining that certain topics or people upset you can make all of the difference. No matter how curious people get, you do not owe anyone a full explanation. People are naturally nosey. But so what? Just because they want to know everything does not mean that you have to tell them. Your life is your own, and you deserve privacy.  

For some of us, visiting family for the holidays means revisiting the places where we were mentally at our lowest. Sometimes, the environments we may be returning to can be somewhat triggering. If this is the case for you, it may be wise to have a game plan in mind.  Backsliding can be easy if you don’t put preventative measures in place. It’s hard to separate feelings from places. If you can, it’s a good idea to meet with a therapist before you arrive in said triggering location. Having a plan for how to act or what to say in certain situations can save you from falling apart. If you’re unable to meet with a therapist, however, that’s okay! Meet with someone you trust and come up with a plan together. What’s important is that you don’t feel like you are alone in your battles.  

If I find myself faced with potential triggers, what helps me is to have a buddy to check in with. This person can be your therapist, a close friend, your significant other, or a family member. Having a person to back you up makes all of the difference. People need advocates. While it’s important to fight for yourself, the fight can be tiring. It’s okay to rely on others every once and a while. Two voices will always be stronger than one.  

You’re not the same person you used to be. A lot of the family dynamics and patterns we encounter at home have been set since childhood. Trying to change these dynamics can bring up a lot of old insecurities. Instead, focus on making room for your feelings in the midst of family chaos. Don’t suffer in silence just because it’s easier to ignore your needs. 


Written by: Hannah Morley

Instagram: @HannahZMorley

3 comments


  • SCOTT WYCOFF

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  • Clara Smythe

    This helps tremendously, and I have emotional and mental wounds and scars that are still healing, and sometimes I tend to pick at them, and reading this helps tremendously.


  • Nick Freedson

    Really helpful. Thank you.


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