“Trauma creates change you don’t choose; healing creates change you do choose.”
This last week I had the most interesting thing happen.
I was standing in the kitchen of my house, it’s about 8:00pm, I am working on making an evening snack of yogurt for myself and my husband is watching the TWINS game while sitting in the kitchen with me. He says, “Painting tomorrow?” I go straight to a level 10 response, with a raised voice and smushed face, “Why are you asking me this? I have it on the calendar, isn’t that what we are doing?”
He, being the smartest man, I know, says back, “I was just asking a simple question and maybe right now isn’t a good time for you.” Then he walks out of the room. Like I said, smart man. I, of course, did not think we were done talking. I now had a lot more I wanted to say.
In that moment I was able to realize that my reaction was off target from the question. I have noticed that at other times in my life, so not a total first. I had never noticed what at that moment had caused me to way overreact. There it finally was staring at me, one of my triggers. It turns out at times, with people I am really close to, I can overreact to questions.
WHAT IS A TRIGGER?
Triggers of the emotional kind, also called mental health or psychological triggers, are things (e.g., memories, objects, people, comments) that spark intense negative emotions. This change in emotions can be abrupt, and in most cases, it will feel more severe than what the moment would logically call for.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DEFUSE A TRIGGER?
Learning to cope with triggers you can’t anticipate or avoid requires emotional processing. That is most often aided by some therapy first.
- In-person or online counseling
- Inpatient treatment
- Outpatient treatment
- Group therapy or counseling
- Recreational therapy
- Medication management
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
And then the following are a few effective, healthy coping strategies for lessening the impact of triggers.
- Calling on your social support
- Deep breathing
- Expressive writing
- Keeping a journal
- Mindfulness meditation
- PQ Program
WHY ARE TRIGGERS TYPICALLY NOT SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM?
There are times when because of extremely traumatic situations in someone’s life that the people around them will choose to adjust their behavior so as to not trigger their loved one into having a reaction to the past trauma they experienced.
That said, for the most part, it is your job as the person being triggered to clean up your own mess and past. I point this out because even I hear from myself, friend and family members.
DEFUSING MY RECENT TRIGGER BOMB
1. What I did to defuse my trigger bomb and get un-hijacked.
- First, I stopped talking.
- Second, my food, being hangry can bring out my trigger.
- Third, I went to bed, since it was late enough in the day.
- The next morning, I got up a little early and took time to journal about what I believed was happening. By journaling, I had to focus on being introspective and making notes of my observations.
2. What was I feeling physically in that moment?
3. What was I feeling emotionally in that moment?
4. What do I think when I heard him say, “the story I told myself in that moment was…”
Here is a summary. My father’s fought with PTSD from being a combat veteran in my childhood transferred some of his PTSD and trauma onto me and I have some default survival behaviors that are not helpful and more harmful to myself and others.
This is the trigger I identified.
People close to me asking questions and I am feeling vulnerable. Typically, when this happens, I get really defensive.
I get defensive because in the past all critical feedback was in the form of interrogation-style questioning. An example would be 20 questions about how and why I shoveled the driveway the way I did, just to land at don’t shovel the snow towards the house.
So, in my example at the start of this story, when my sweet handyman asked me if I would be assisting him with a big painting project in the morning and I got all upset. My brain heard a question and thought there was a threat to my wellbeing going to happen and a fight might be coming so my fight, flight, freeze response kicked in (which it didn’t need to do) and all of that adrenaline rushed to my legs and brain, and I went into fight mode. In fight mode with a verbal situation, you bark first and louder or you are not going to win that fight. Lessons I wish I didn’t know, but I do.
After journaling, I did a 5 min PQ mindfulness focus. Then I went and worked out for 30 minutes and just shook out all off. You see the chemicals that adrenaline stirs up in the body just sit there, not being helpful, but being harmful to the body. Sweating it out works really well at extracting them. During the next two days, I told three people about what I had learned and that helped me to further own, and process throw the trigger.
I have since identified and felt myself getting triggered and descaled it on the spot about five times in four days. It has been pretty cool to not go there and to catch it in advance.
This story is a classic example of being triggered. Now it is not my sweet handyman’s job to change who he is, so I don’t react that way. In this situation, it is my job to work on healing and deactivating my trigger bomb. Doing the things necessary to change the neurology in my brain to not think that a question from a friend or family member is the start of a fight.
We are all walking around with trigger landmines from our childhoods. It is normal. Some people just have more landmines and bigger ones than others. We can all be triggered and hijacked by our emotions.
The question I am asking is, “Do you know your triggers and what are you doing about them?”
Let us continue to learn,
Business Owner, International Neurodiversity Coach, and Speaker