Triggers and Trauma as Portals to Growth with Susan Campbell, Ph.D.

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Susan Campbell reminds us that “Our unprocessed emotional wounds and the reactions that arise from them are what makes us go to war, blow up at our children, get hostile on the freeways, hit “send” on that email rant, walk out of meetings, argue with loved ones, and make shortsighted decisions.” None of us can avoid getting emotionally reactive or defensive or overwhelmed when it comes to relating with others. The hurts and disappointments that we suffered in childhood often leave lasting scars with respect to our inner sense of safety and security. They show up later in our adult relationships in the form of trigger reactions. However, these insecurities are not necessarily a bad thing. Campbell describes the ultimate goal of inner work as making effective decisions that come from the higher brain versus the knee jerk tendencies of our primitive, lizard brain. She encourages and teaches that a better plan is see how reactive incidents can help us understand the deeper layers of our own conditioned mind. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Susan Campbell, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and the author of close to a dozen books on relationships and conflict resolution. She leads seminars internationally, is a couples therapist, relationship coach and trainer of professional coaches. She also works with private clients through her relationship coaching practice. 

Susan Campbell’s books include: 

  • Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life (H.J. Kramer 2001)
  • Saying What’s Real : 7 Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success (H.J. Kramer 2005)
  • Five-Minute Relationship Repair: Quickly Heal Upsets, Deepen Intimacy, and Use Differences to Strengthen Love (John Gray) (H. J. Kramer 2015)
  • From Triggered to Tranquil: How Self-Compassion and Mindful Presence Can Transform Relationship Conflicts and Heal Childhood Wounds (New World Library 2021) 

To learn more about the work of Susan Campbell go to 

Topics covered in this dialogue include: 

  • Why when the nervous system is in reactive mode, it is not a good time to process conflict with others
  • Why it is important to know your own triggers
  • How the primitive brain is quick to respond and we often go into automatic reaction to our partners
  • What is the importance of finding our “trigger signatures”
  • By knowing our “trigger signatures” we can notice the warning signs more quickly before going on automatic pilot of reaction
  • What is an exercise we can do in order to catch ourselves before we go into reaction mode
  • How can we go into pause and self-soothing
  • Why it is important to notice when your partner is triggered
  • How couples often have reactive cycles of co-triggering
  • What does Campbell advise regarding setting up a mutual agreement for pausing and taking a break
  • What is the importance of non-controlling language
  • What is her best advice regarding repairing after we’ve been triggered
  • What are some scripts that Campbell suggests that we follow after we’ve paused
  • What can we do when we’ve been triggered in the middle of a business meeting
  • What is the handkerchief technique that Justine has experienced in circle
  • What are some of Campbell’s techniques to use in a group meeting
  • How to move “conditioned reactions” to our response to perceived danger 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 11/24/2021   Program Number: 3746

Music Playlist

From Album: Affinites
Artist: Christian Lemaitre And Jean-Pierre Le Cornoux
2007 Celtic America B00027X3NM

Opening Essay: Track 03 Stibidenn
Music Break 1: Track 05 Air Du Pays De Bubry [Air]
Music Break 2: Track 05 Air Du Pays De Bubry [Air] (reprise)
Music Break 3: Track 07 A Brat Chomh Deas Glas (Her Mantle So Green) [Air]