Aug 17 2009

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Triggers Inform You

Many abuse survivors are hyper-sensitive to things that remind them — or trigger a response in them — of a danger or grievous wrong that happened long ago. It feels fresh, though. It may appear quite innocently, as in a song not heard in years, or a certain smell from the kitchen or someone’s perfume. And if you don’t know why you are feeling it, your confusion and anxiety grow.

I used to run from triggers because I point blank did not wish to feel whatever was triggered yet again. I would put up a wall (literally, inside) to put that “bad” feeling or memory in a locked box. All that negativity was forced inward, and then always seeped into nightmares, inappropriate behaviors, and isolation. To avoid that set of consequences, I would just eat myself numb.

It works until it doesn’t.

Even now, when I’m 99% sure I know why I am being triggered, I zoom into the conditioned responses — which are really counter-productive and frustrating. The overriding need to control my diabetes has been a helpful stop at the “eating myself numb” place. But then I’m stuck with a swirl of feelings which need to be addressed and resolved. Sometimes many, many times, depending on how deep the wound goes.

The wound doesn’t just go away by itself. Facing those fears, and coming to healthy resolution about them, is part of the hard work of therapy. The process really sucks at times, and requires what feels like endless repetition to get it. But the lightness you feel when you get to the other side of it is liberating.

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