Ooops I meant triggers!
What are they?
They are situations or things, sometimes they can even be people’s behavior, which actually “re-trigger” an emotional reaction to a past traumatic event. So, when you are triggered, you are really not responding to the present situation, but you are responding as if you were now in the past and the past situation was recurring, and usually it is a very strong reaction. This sounds so weird and so surreal, but it really can happen. Until recently I didn’t know what they were or that I was capable of being “triggered.” I guess I could get angry at my parents, it is the trauma that both of them caused me that is now being triggered. Yes, I am angry, that not only did they abuse me in the past, but even now, 50 years later, I am still paying for it. How is that any kind of justice at all? Oh, well, I’ll get over the anger, because what I really want to do is to find a way to stop being triggered, by anything at all. That means people, places, situations, or things.
I have come to realize that my trigger is always when I feel (even if I really didn’t do anything) I have done something wrong, messed up totally, and now my friends or relations will leave me. This comes from having been afraid and panic stricken that I caused my father to leave, it is the fear in me that I did something wrong, made a mistake and due to that my father left and never had anything to do with me again. That is a fear from when I was 4-5 years old and some things trigger it and then my response to these innocuous things is extreme. My response is not to the things that trigger it, it is a re-trigger of the intense abandonment feelings I must have felt when my father left. Also, my baby brother Farooq’s departure was not easy and probably contributed to my trauma.
I’ve been reading all day about triggers, although I’d have preferred reading about Tiggers, haha 🙂
All the psychologists, therapists, and mental health websites are very encouraging, saying that these responses can be understood and overcome!
“1in6.org Getting Triggered” (1) says the following, and it is very, very optimistic and hopeful: “Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to greatly increase your awareness of your own unique triggers, and of what happens in your mind and body when particular things trigger you. With that foundation of awareness and understanding in place, you can learn how to avoid simply responding as you always did in the past, and instead respond in new and much more healthy ways.“
Also, I found a book called “Outsmart Your Brain: How to Make Success Feel Easy” (http://outsmartyourbrain.com/outsmart-your-brain-how-to-make-success-feel-easy/)
This is a book about how to control your emotions so you can be successful in your personal life as well as your work environment. I have it on my Kindle reader and have started reading it, I will post about the book after I’m done.
The blurb says: “Change your thoughts, you change your behavior” has long been the mantra for the personal growth movement. Yet no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to stop the negative mental chatter that leads to needless arguing, tension, frustration, and eventually a numbing process that restricts access to our joy and passion.
What is the reason we can’t stop the noise? We are under the spell of our over-protective brains.
To feel more energy, stimulate creativity, increase persuasive powers and live healthier, more joyful lives, you have to wage war against your brain. Once you know how your brain works, you can harness the processes and consciously choose how you want to feel and act. Knowing how to shift emotional states at will is the most important factor in achieving success and happiness. Outsmart Your Brain! is full of exercises, examples and guidelines that teach you how to tap into your hidden mental powers to make better decisions and influence those around you to create the results you desire.
Learn how your brain works, then outsmart it.”
I am seriously so sick of my unruly emotions and getting carried away by them that I will do whatever it takes to get them under my control. I don’t care what it’s called, being triggered, PTSD, trauma, what ever, it’s just going to have to go away and I will be in control of my own emotions, as god is my witness, I will! I am really serious. I am talking to my therapist, I am still doing “inner child” work… I am still doing breathing exercises, whatever it takes, I am going to do, whatever it takes to successfully deal with my emotions, heal, and be a normal effing person!
Suddenly In Defense or Survival Mode
When triggers hit, they’re usually unexpected and beyond your control.
And what usually happens next, right after the trigger: You react with old ‘defenses’ or ‘survival strategies’ that are no longer helpful or healthy (if they ever were), and that only make things worse.
Some simple examples of triggers and the ‘conditioned responses’ they unleash:
- Someone criticizes something you’ve said or done, and you instantly get defensive and angry, then verbally go on the attack.
- Someone criticizes something you’ve said or done, and you instantly feel crushed and defeated, then go silent and try to ‘disappear.’
- Walking into your childhood home, your body suddenly tenses up and your eyes scan for threats.
The Nature of Triggers
Triggers can be totally obvious, like someone touching you sexually when you don’t want or expect it, or someone threatening you or clearly trying to take advantage of you.
Or they can be subtle, like someone making a mildly sarcastic comment that reminds you of mean and shaming things a parent used to say, or someone giving you a look that seems to have some contempt in it.
Triggers aren’t always about other people and what they say or do. They can be something like a faint smell of alcohol (that used to be on the breath of an abuser). They could be the shape of a man’s moustache, a style of clothing, a wallpaper pattern, or the sound of a slamming door. They can be an ‘anniversary’ date of a traumatic event like an abuse experience or someone’s death.
What are triggers for a particular man depends on his unique experiences of being vulnerable and hurt in his life, and the unique details of the situations in which those experiences occurred.
The trigger is always real. By definition, a trigger is something that reminds you of something bad or hurtful from your past. It ‘triggers’ an association or memory in your brain.
But sometimes you are imagining that what’s happening now is actually like what happened back then, when in reality it’s hardly similar at all, or it just reminds you because you’re feeling vulnerable in a way you did when that bad thing happened in the past.
Just as triggers range from obvious to subtle, sometimes we’re aware of them and sometimes we’re not. Your body may suddenly freak out with a racing heart and feeling of panic, but you have no idea what set off that reaction. You may suddenly feel enraged in a slightly tense conversation, but be unable to point to anything in particular that made you angry. Sometimes you can figure it out later (for example in therapy), and sometimes not.
Also, though we may not realize that we just got triggered, or why, it can be obvious to someone who knows us well, like a partner, friend, or therapist. When you feel comfortable doing so, with someone you really trust, it can be very helpful to talk over situations where you seemed to over-react.
Triggers that involve other people’s behavior are often connected to ways that we repeat unhealthy relationship patterns learned in childhood. Things that other people do – especially people close to us and especially in situations of conflict – remind us of hurtful things done to us in the past. Then we respond as if we’re defending ourselves against those old vulnerabilities, hurts, or traumas.
But our responses usually just trigger vulnerable feelings in the other person, as well as their own old self-defense patterns, and we both end up repeating the unhealthy relationship patterns we that fear and don’t want in our lives.
As noted above, other common triggers include ‘anniversaries,’ that is, dates or holidays that remind you, at some level, of traumatic experiences, of how your family wasn’t and isn’t so happy and loving, etc.
Triggers’ Power and Effects
The power of a trigger depends on how closely it resembles a past situation or relationship, how painful or traumatic that situation or relationships was, and the state of your body and brain when the triggering happens.
If you’re feeling very calm and safe, the reaction will be much less than if you’re feeling anxious and afraid. If you’re feeling little support or trust in a relationship, your reactions to triggering behaviors by the other person will be much greater.
A trigger can bring out feelings, memories, thoughts, and behaviors.
Other people might have no idea that you’ve been triggered, but you could be struggling with terrible memories in your head. Or you could suddenly have all kinds of negative thoughts and beliefs about the other person and/or yourself, like, ‘I never should have trusted her,’ ‘Every woman will stab you in the heart,’ ‘What a loser I am,’ etc.
Reactions to triggers can be very dramatic and rapid, like lashing out at someone who says the wrong thing or looks at you the wrong way. In these cases, your brain has entered a ‘fight or flight’ state and the part of your brain that you need to think clearly, to remember your values and what’s important to you, and to reflect on your own behavior, is effectively shut down.
But responses to triggers can also creep up on you, playing out over hours and days, and get worse over time.
You may find yourself depressed and retreating from any contact with friends, or drinking a lot more every night, or smoking way more cigarettes than usual. You may find youself getting lost in TV, videogames, or pornography. Days later you may wonder, ‘Woah, how did I get back intothis?’
Awareness and Learning = Freedom and Control
Basically, if you’re reacting to someone or something much more intensely than seems to make sense, then the situation has triggered something deeper and older in your brain. You’re not reacting to what’s actually happening in the here and now, and you’re certainly not acting freely.
Instead, you’re feeling and acting, however consciously or unconsciously, as if you’re ‘back there’ in that old painful or traumatic experience, on autopilot and enslaved by old conditioning.
Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to greatly increase your awareness of your own unique triggers, and of what happens in your mind and body when particular things trigger you. With that foundation of awareness and understanding in place, you can learn how to avoid simply responding as you always did in the past, and instead respond in new and much more healthy ways.
In this way, you can free yourself from deeply ingrained conditioning, actually rewiring your brain to respond in new and much healthier ways to the inevitable triggers we all encounter in our lives and relationships.
For many men, understanding and reconditioning their responses to triggers will require, or be greatly speeded up, by help from a therapist or counselor. There are also self-help resources available, including those mentioned under Additional Resources below.