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An emotional trigger is a word, activity, or behavior that elicits a strong emotional reaction, either positive or negative, in an individual. Some people may learn to recognize and manage their own emotional triggers in order to function well in their day-to-day lives. Concern about emotional triggers is especially relevant for the BDSM community where an exchange of power regularly happens. Dominants should become aware of the emotional triggers of their submissives.
Emotional triggers are also sometimes called emotional buttons.
The best dominants are aware of their submissive's emotional triggers and successfully manage them. They use emotional triggers that elicit positive reactions to enhance a submissive’s pleasure, or to reward them for good behavior. They may also use emotional triggers that elicit negative reactions for punishments, although sparingly and with consent from the submissive. For many, play involving negative emotional triggers is a hard limit. It is also a dominant’s responsibility to care for the submissive after negative emotional triggers have been activated.
Emotional triggers can include words or names such as "princess," "sweetheart," "daddy," or "slut." Behaviors such as body language, tone of voice, and even objects, like certain foods, stuffed animals, and images can be emotional triggers.
Often these objects produce an emotion in an individual because of their association with a particular memory or experience. For example, if your mother always made apple pie on Sundays when you were a child, the sight, taste, or smell of an apple pie may continue to trigger feelings of comfort, safety, or love even though you are an adult. Emotional triggers can also be traumatic when they are attached to traumatic events like sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. If a person once experienced abuse on a particular street or while a particular song was playing, that location or song might trigger memories of that experience, thus producing a difficult emotional reaction in them.