I’ve been hearing a lot of people say lately say that something really “triggered” them so today I thought I’d deep dive into what this means.
What is a trauma trigger?
A trigger is when some kind of stimulus prompts a recall or flashback of a traumatic experience.
For example, perhaps when you were at primary school there was a particular teacher who always made fun of your weight when you lined up at the canteen for lunch. Whenever you were in the queue ready to buy your sausage roll, you jangled your coins in your hand and several times this teacher said “someone’s hungry aren’t they?”.
Now as an adult, let’s say you’re out at a work dinner. You’re having a great time, chatting away and just as the waiter puts your plate down, a co-worker sees your meal and jokes by saying ‘someone’s hungry”. The minute you hear it, your psyche takes you right back to being in the canteen line feeling embarrassed and belittled. The same might occur if you walk past a bakery cooking sausage rolls or hear the clinking of coins.
If you haven’t done the work on healing the hurt that little primary school version of you felt, chances are that you’ll be triggered frequently. When we’re triggered it’s difficult to act from a place of reason and most of the time our response is highly emotional.
How we can neutralise a trigger Ideally the first step is to figure out what general topics trigger us. To do that, have a think about what prompts you to snap back at someone, get teary or feel instantly angry. Once you’ve got that, you can work through a number of techniques to see which one starts to calm down your reaction as you discover more about the topic. Here are some practical techniques to trial (remembering that this might take some time):
Often there are many layers to trauma-based-triggers, so if you have any questions let me know with an email here.