“Triggers” is a current buzzword that is often used in relation to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from abusive relationships, combat, car accidents, death and other traumatizing life events (and often misused to describe the horror of having someone disagree with your political beliefs, but that is a topic for another article). In instances where our bodies have experienced prolonged fight-or-flight and the trauma becomes so overwhelming to the central nervous system that we might actually die, our body saves us by short circuiting mid-trauma.
The after effect of this short-circuiting is PTSD. By halting the process, the trauma remains with us and it seeps out at inopportune times in the form of “Triggers”. For instance, if we experienced a car accident, we might have a panic attack while driving a car. If we were in a physically abusive relationship, we may project those fears onto our subsequent partners and sabotage our future intimate relationships. If we have PTSD from combat, we may stock pile arms and become terrified in crowds of people.
There are many scenarios from which PTSD manifests. But common to them all is the existence of occasional events that trigger those past, unprocessed events, back to the surface of our experience.
I frequently see and hear people claiming that they are triggered by something that someone said or did and demanding that person modify their speech to make the triggered person more comfortable.
How ridiculous is this? Instead of dealing with the healing of their own traumas, they expect the people around them to insulate them from THEIR triggers.
Not only is this counter-productive, but it’s just not possible to sustain.
The only person who can heal and soothe your traumas, is you. And yes, you have the ability to do this. The emotional pain from the event may never go away entirely but, as you would with the death of a loved one, the pain needs to be grieved and processed.
A trained therapist can help with this process. But ultimately, even with a therapist’s help, the difficult task of facing the trauma head on, remembering it, forgiving ourselves and others, grieving our loss caused by it, and feeling the righteous sorrow entailed, is what needs to happen if we are ever to be free of it.
The traumatic event can be grieved and processed so that you can go about living a normal life. One where you are driving the bus of your emotional well being.
Instead of hiding from the things that trigger your traumas, try viewing them as a sign of areas in your psyche that need (and deserve) to be healed.