TRIGGERS: SURPRISE ATTACKS
You are well on your healing road. Life is moving along smoothly or smoothly enough. You, as a survivor of abuse or trauma, most probably have insight regarding what triggers you. One day you realize old behaviors have returned. Maybe you are drinking more alcohol than normal, or you are turning to food or away from food, or you reenact part of the past abuse/torture, or suddenly you have a dream (or dream segment) that contains parts of what occurred during the abuse. Maybe you are irritable and less tolerant than normal. You realize that triggers have attacked you by surprise!
What do you do? How do you cope?
First, sit and breathe ….. More insight is available! You are growing and healing further.
As you sit and breathe, relax. Let go of preconceived notions. In fact, let go of all thoughts for 5 – 10 – 20 minutes. Hear the silence as your noisy thoughts move in and out of your mind as clouds move across the sky. Pay little notice. Sit with yourself, your true inner being.
Now, as calmness and clarity becomes prominent, reflect on the last days or weeks. Triggers can be subtle as we heal more. At the beginning of your healing process, triggers may be quite obvious. If you were abused by a clergy member, churches may trigger you. Obvious. If a certain song played during incest or rape, the song bothers you. Obvious. Each survivor who heals eventually recognizes the persons, places or things that may trigger them.
One by one, we deal with triggers or they fade away as we heal through therapy and/or by using other methods. We heal. Triggers affect us less and less.
Surprisingly though, a person, place or thing may bother us on a deeper level than we realized. In the past, after much healing and growth, I had a very short segment of the sexual abuse and torture appear in a dream that was regarding a benign situation that had nothing to do with any abuse. I had not experienced that type of dream in a very long time. My unconscious was telling me something. I realized that I experienced a surprise attack. Triggers. As I took time in silence as well as wrote, further insight into my own situation was given. Growth continues ……
Days before the dream, I was dealing with food issues that were more extreme than usual. The abuse and torture I experienced as a young person in my family of origin contained times when I was blindfolded and fed distasteful foods. Part of the extreme abuse I suffered at the hands of my former husband, Tom M., and the other perpetrators consisted of being forced to ingest consecrated as well as unconsecrated hosts and wine (the Eucharist – Body and Blood of Christ – in the Catholic faith) that were often combined with feces and/or urine. This along with the abuse (human trafficking) of being forced to service men and women sexually contain a strong oral component.
I found myself eating more amounts of foods in the evening quickly and without truly tasting the food items. As I reflected and also noticed the intuition from my gut, I knew this consumption of food was not just overeating due to stress. Knowing that PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms can lessen and disappear only to reappear at times is helpful. It is normal. I realize the temporary return of various PTSD symptoms does not have to be a huge concern. My body and body memory were giving me signs that I needed to sit … breathe … write … and take time to gather more insight, heal, and grow further.
I thought to omit the previous two paragraphs or to present a sanitized version. Abuse and torture are not pretty. Abuse and torture are degrading and dehumanizing. These subjects are not typical topics of conversation. Yet, we as a society cannot ignore issues and the ugly truths if we ever want to find solutions and to prevent abuse, torture, and ritual abuse (extreme abuse) from occurring.
How our bodies and minds react and process the past are to be noticed. These times are learning experiences. Whether we reenact portions of the abuse or if we punish ourselves …. shame does not have to be part of the equation. Acknowledging and dealing with what is … healing more … that is what is important. The insight I have gained on deeper levels helps me to identify triggers sooner and to use my tools to let go of unhealthy occurrences or reenactments. Reaching out for help via a life coach or therapist or a survivor support group are options for each of us.
The holiday season is here. Many survivors (even those well on their healing paths) might find themselves dealing with triggers – obvious ones and not so obvious. Just because we have dealt with a trigger does not mean it won’t come back to haunt us. Chances are though, we are now able to deal with the trigger more easily this time.
President-elect Trump and the issues surrounding him are triggering points to many. Learning to deal with that fact and keeping informed on the news of the country are quite important (to each of us as individuals and to us as members of the United States).
Reach out for help and support, if needed. Talk to others. Do not stay silent and alone.
I, as a life coach and survivor, am here to provide support. Please do not hesitate to contact me.