You may have heard the term ‘triggering’, but what does it mean in the context of childhood trauma?
Triggering is the reminder of a trauma or an unsafe event that occurs when a person experiences, through the senses, a reminder of a similar sensual experience at the time of the original trauma.
When we are triggered into a fear reaction through our senses, the brain produces stress hormones to ensure an instant response. In other words, we cannot access reason or logic, or even sometimes the ability to speak. We simply react.
This is what causes many of the emotional and behaviour problems that can be so debilitating for survivors.
Fortunately, it is possible to ‘de-trigger’. In fact, learning how to de-trigger is one of the greatest tools for survivors of childhood trauma.
But in order to do it effectively, you first need to identify your triggers and adopt a safe method to help you recognise when you are triggered. That’s the focus of this blog post.
Triggers come in many guises
When a survivor of childhood trauma is reminded of the original, painful and psychologically overwhelming event in the present, that person is ‘triggered’.
Meaning, they may feel like they are back in the original experience at the age they were when the original trauma occurred. This is because the fear is remembered through the same sense that originally experienced the trauma.
For example, if we grew up in a violent household, we may be triggered by the sound of raised voices or smashing china. Or if we see someone who looks like our perpetrator or is wearing similar clothes, then we may react.
Triggers come in many guises. Anything that you react strongly to, or are frightened of, is likely to be a trigger. A reminder of a trauma you have experienced.
Identifying your triggers is a crucial part of healing
It is very hard to identify our triggers because, when we are triggered, our thinking brain switches off.
Once triggered, we may react by being very angry, by needing to run away, or by dissociating or experiencing physical pain. Until we recognise some of our triggers, we can be very confused by our own behaviour or reactions.
Any of these reactions can be confusing and very irritating, and can stop us from enjoying life.
However, there is a way to overcome this.
A safe way to recognise when you are triggered
As stated above, it can be very hard to recognise when we are triggered. Here’s one approach that might help.
If there’s someone at home who wants to help you (like your partner or a friend), work out some sort of ‘code’ with them so that when they think you are triggered, they can let you know. This way, you can become aware of it as well.
For example, one person might say to the other something like, ‘What is happening for you right now?’ Or it could be something more abstract, like ‘yellow roses’ or ‘green cheese’.
If one person simply says, ‘You are triggered!’, it can cause the other person to act defensively. In contrast, a code or signal can work more effectively because it does not sound as if we are being told what we feel or what to do.
Discover how to de-trigger in 3 simple steps
Recognising that you’ve been triggered is just the first step in de-triggering. There are two more steps that follow.
All three steps are outlined in detail in Heal For Life, along with other knowledge and tools to help you heal permanently from childhood trauma.
Learn more about healing and trauma recovery...
Heal For Life, by Liz Mullinar
How to Heal Yourself from the Pain of Childhood Trauma and Abuse
This practical guidebook for survivors of childhood trauma or abuse, presents the Heal For Life model of trauma-informed self healing that has already empowered thousands of survivors to find inner peace and hope for a brighter future. This book is highly recommended by survivors and mental health professionals alike.