Trauma triggers are any type of experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory. The trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and may be only indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.
And one of the most important tasks in trauma recovery is to start to spot our triggers that lead to various symptoms and behaviours. To start to spot patterns, early warning signals, to look at what was happening in the moments, hours, days beforehand. It is often possible to go back over a series of events and see how one step led to another and another. Once we have spotted patterns we can find ways to disrupt them, to find alternatives. My previous blog post looked at some possible types of trigger and may give you some hints, but your own triggers will be entirely unique to you.
A Trigger Log
The following exercise is designed to help you to spot your triggers and to start to get a sense of control over those triggers. Take a few minutes out when you won’t be disturbed and have a piece of paper and pen to hand:
- First of all, can you identify what your triggers are?
- Now start to keep a log. Think, if you can, of a recent triggering episode. Note down the following information in a TRIGGER LOG
- What was your trigger?
- What were you feeling? (Describe your emotions, such as angry, anxious, angry, sad, lonely or abandoned)
- How did your body react? (For example were you sweating, heart racing, feeling weak)
- What did you do? (Describe your behaviour, be as detailed as you can. For example “I was very angry and threw my phone across the room and smashed the screen” or “I went out and got very drunk” or “I curled up on the chair and cried for a long time”).
- How was the situation that triggered you different from your original trauma?
- How difficult was the trigger to handle? (0=easy, 10=extremely difficult)
Now that you are aware of what might trigger you in future, how might you use this information to do things differently? For example, are there situations (or people) that you might need to avoid? (Such as noisy places where people are drunk). If avoidance isn’t an option, how might you approach the situations differently? For example, rather than immediately reacting, taking a few seconds “time out” to slow down your breathing and say to yourself “it’s OK, I’m being triggered, it’s reminding me of an unpleasant or traumatic episode in the past but there is no need to react to what is happening right now. I can CHOOSE not to react.”
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!