Archetypes Personal Growth

Triggers that send us spiraling

“Carey.” Who would ever think my name would be a trigger. Just hearing the word in that tone would send me spiraling.

My sister’s tone had that familiar there she goes again quality that made my face automatically snap into its ewww that smells terrible expression. Her eyes bored a hole into my forehead as if the effort could rearrange my brainwaves. 


“Seriously. If you don’t come to the engagement party, it’ll prove you don’t want to be a part of your cousin’s life. It’s your choice, but know what the consequences of your actions will be. It’s simply not right to not show up,” she said.

Her rigid sense of what’s right and what’s wrong drives me nuts. 

From my perspective, love and caring isn’t demonstrated by whether or not I drop all my responsibilities to attend an out of town (and very inconveniently located) three-hour party. Am I wrong? Or is this just a trigger to a bigger, unresolved issue? 

My sister and I were both getting annoyed (panties in a wad, as we used to say as kids). Both of us were sitting more and more steadfastly in our corners, loathe to give in to the other. And as usual, she argued with razor-sharp logic that I couldn’t respond to. 

My breathing became shallow. My heart rate quickened. My thoughts got muddled. I couldn’t adequately explain myself, but I felt that I was right. 

Her metal “must do’s” came right up against my Fire “feel like doing’s,” and I lost my sense of agency.

In interpersonal challenges when I’m able to continue breathing and stay present I can learn a lot about myself by observing what specifically the triggers pushing my buttons. We could all do the same if we were quiet enough to acknowledge the opportunity for interpersonal growth instead of jumping into our reactive states. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t always quiet myself enough to notice and accept the lessons of personal awareness. Especially in conversations with close family where we have very well traversed patterns of interaction. Most of the time I just feel the discomfort. And react. With a thought, an eye roll, a groan, or worse. I hate to admit it, but nope – I ain’t perfect 😉


Triggers block us from insight and clarity

If I’m not present with myself, I can easily slip into critical thinking or judging people who behave in ways that trigger me. It’s so much easier to be a victim of circumstance than it is to acknowledge an unmet need inside myself, or a skill or behavior I need to improve upon. 

With my sister there was an opportunity to explore her perspective, to honor what she was bringing up, and to simultaneously introduce the possibility that there were other great ways to nurture familial bonds that were equally meaningful.

But we chose neither. We held onto our perspectives, chose not to empathize and humanize the other as the pain and suffering grew between us. Our choice to dig our heels in drove us further apart until the distance was more painful than the initial reason for it. 

We reconciled, but the ache lasted longer than it needed to.

So, what is your biggest pet peeve? What triggers you into your own version of digging in your heels and peering critically at someone else?

Spoiler alert – your triggers will just about always align with your Five Archetypes scores. While there are some mitigating factors, your pet peeves will usually line up with your primary archetype, the one you scored highest in on the assessment.


Triggers for each archetype

I asked a few people what they perceived as their biggest pet peeves and here’s what they said. See if these resonate with what annoys you the most!

  • Wood: People that are inflexible and refuse to learn, listen, accept new ideas and ways of doing things. Why? It’s about freedom. Those types of people restrict freedom, they are fixed – my way or highway folks. They’re not open to new ideas and don’t change, they dig in emotionally and it feels personal.
  • Fire: People who I can’t cheer up! Why? Life is to be lived with joy and hope. When we lose hope and only see the down side, life feels pointless and sad.
  • Earth: People who complain a lot. Why? I don’t think it’s helpful – and I feel responsible for others’ complaints. Even if it’s a minor complaint it feels like they are adding a burden to my plate. 
  • Metal: People who make a mess and don’t see disorderliness as a problem. My boyfriend drops his dirty laundry beside the hamper and puts things all over the place where they don’t belong. Why? I know where everything is – what shelf it lives on and where it goes – I feel on edge if things are disorganized.
  • Water: People who are arrogant. Why? Arrogance is impenetrable. You can’t reason with it, or talk to it. It supersedes reason and I feel more comfortable with people who have the ability to reason.

Have you taken your assessment? Do you know your scores? If not, here’s the link

I’d love to hear from you. Did we peg you in these examples? If not, send me your scores and tell me your biggest pet peeve. I’m curious 🙂