Readers of my blog and books know that I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1990 and have been in recovery and active healing since that time.
Looking back to all those years ago when I began the journey to seek joy and love, I had no idea that I would be supporting others in their PTSD journey nor did I know the blessings that I would encounter in my life as a result of my healing service.
My story is one of victory. I lead a full and engaging life, and since 1998 I am able to be with people who seek healing but are not recovered from their unique traumas, and hold the space while sharing my medicine with allowing, non-judgment, and kindness.
Recently, I have observed that we seem to be having a harder time than usual…and it correlates with the political situation that we’re encountering in my country. We all know the lack of boundaries and ill intent that our current president-elect represents, so I will not rehash that here. What I will say is that he has triggered us, and that we are given an opportunity through this.
What is “Triggered”, and what does that do to our ability to be centered, clear, and a force of good in the world?
A “Trigger” can be an experience or event that opens us up to an earlier experience or event that was traumatic. Trauma is different for everybody; as I wrote in my most popular blog article, “The 5 Stages of Healing from Trauma“, trauma can occur physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Each of us is wired slightly differently to process the complex stimuli of the external world, and trauma occurs when that stimulation is too much for our system to handle. An event or experience that blows our circuitry is a trauma.
So a “Trigger” need not be frightening or traumatic to “tap” an earlier traumatic event that we experienced. However, it can truly feel that way. According to Judith Lewis Herman, MD in Trauma and Recovery (1992), trauma triggers are related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that can open up repressed memories or repressed emotions. When we’re triggered, we are in the hyper-arousal state that we experienced during the traumatic one. So we feel as if we are reliving the initial event, or at least reliving the sensation of danger that we experienced during the trauma.
Of course, if we’re walking around in a state of hyper-arousal, everything is ‘too much.” The slightest breeze of something negative can raise the ire of our triggered emotional condition. Each new slight we perceive then adds to our perception that we’re totally screwed. From the perspective of a trauma triggered person, the world is surely going to hell in a hand basket. And there’s not much that we can do to change their mind, until they are no longer in a triggered state.
So, what to do if you think you might be triggered?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you in a neutral position emotionally?
- Do your emotions seem out of proportion to what your are currently (in your immediate environment) experiencing? In other words, are you concerned for your immediate survival…is a tiger chasing you?
- Do other people who know you seem concerned that you aren’t yourself? Ask and listen to people that care about you…”Am I blowing things out of proportion? Do I seem like my usual self?”
Be aware that a triggered person will not want to hear that they are triggered. A person is a hyper-aroused condition truly believes that they are warranted in their feelings and beliefs, and challenging them only adds fuel to the fire. The best course of action to support a triggered individual is to wait until they are in a neutral emotional state, and gently support them.
I know all of this because I’ve experienced it. I know what it feels like to really believe the world is screwed and that we are in a dire situation. I also know that our current political climate does indeed pose major threats to our immediate and future longevity and well-being in this country, and therefore there are things that need to be done (activism and resistance).
But, I also realize that everything is temporary, and that I am no good to anyone if I am triggered. In the interest of being of service, I tend to my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual (PEMS) self and try my best to be clear so that I am adding a voice of peace and sanity in a world that seems to need it. My hope is that everyone can experience the kind of peace, joy and well-being that I do as a result of my healing. And that we can move forward together from a place of clarity and joined intent for goodwill and stewardship of our planet.
These observations are my own, culminating from my lived experience, extensive research and study, collaboration with psychologists, and observation of my clients. My prayer as I write and offer this up is that it is of benefit to the end of harmful action and behavior for the good of All Creation.
My books about this topic of women, healing, trauma, and finding our center and joy again:
a memoir of unapologetic healing