54 - Trauma Triggers
[00:00:03] Hey friend, this episode is for those of you who understand what it means to be trauma triggered and I am sitting in vulnerability and trying to decide if I want to turn off this mic and say, "Nope. I just gotta have that stay close to me and not go out to the world. "
[00:00:27] But there's a little voice in me that says, "There's someone out there who is experiencing this feeling that needs to hear these words. " So, here we go. I get to just be vulnerable because I care about helping you.
[00:00:42] I got gut punched today with a trauma trigger. And I've talked a lot about how your triggers are based on your present thoughts and it's true that what is going on in your mind changes how you experience a trigger. But I also want to take a moment to just validate how awful it feels to feel triggered. That part of your stomach that just clenches and you want to pull in emotionally and just push out any sort of vulnerability or connection.
[00:01:21] All you want to do is hide and just run away from the feeling. It is very real, very tangible, and very powerful. It's hard to just have a positive thought and not be affected by this feeling and this compulsive reaction that wants to take over your brain.
[00:01:42] So let's remember the primitive brain's job is to keep us alive. It wants to avoid pain. It wants things that are pleasurable and easy. And trauma triggers—not pleasurable, not easy, and definitely painful.
[00:02:01] So anytime something bubbles up or something happens and you feel that trauma response—that trigger, —your primitive brain wants to drive and wants to be in charge. "Go hide. Go eat ice cream. Don't talk to anybody. Be in control. "
[00:02:18] And I know how that feels. Today, that is what I feel raging through my body. It just wants me to pull away, hide, and do nothing.
[00:02:29] But here's the truth, my friend. I get to choose what I do next. I get to choose if I let my mind go to a place of fear, fast forwarding the "what ifs, " and feeling all of that worry about what could happen if the trauma trigger keeps going. It's a very tempting and slippery slope to go down those negative thought patterns. I also get to choose if I want to resist it and say, "Nope. I'm not going to feel this. I'm not going to be triggered by this. I don't want to go here. " And just plow through it and pretend like I'm okay. That's also really tempting. But neither of those two things are useful.
[00:03:14] Remember how I've talked about feeling fires before? That something happens and it sparks that energy. Whether it's that automatic thought that you have, or a purposeful, present thought something sparked a feeling for you, that's when a trigger happens—that spark.
[00:03:34] Whether you see something that's triggering or someone says something or shares some information with you that's triggering, your conscious or subconscious thought created that spark of energy and you are now feeling triggered.
[00:03:49] Now, just like with a regular fire, if you just run away and pretend like it's not there, it's going to burn things and cause problems and then you'll have to look at it and tend to that fire because you weren't responsible when it first happened.
[00:04:04] Also, if you give it more fuel and fan the flame had make it bigger and get all worried it also grows to be unmanageable.
[00:04:13] Instead, a fire has been created and if you have a match with a flame and that match starts, it will eventually burn out. If you give it space that's safe to feel, it will burn out. Or even if you have a small fire in front of you, if you've ever been camping and you start some logs, so you can roast some marshmallows over that fire, those logs need to burn for them not to be able to light again. You have to allow the energy to be released from that fire. Now, even if you put it out with water and stop it from burning, that fuel is there and it's easy for it to be lit on fire again.
[00:04:54] I love this visual because it helps me recognize that when there is an intense emotion, like a trauma trigger, it's not something you can just think away. *You have to give yourself space to *_*feel*_* it, to allow that feeling, to tend it, take care of it as if it was a fire with energy in your life. *
[00:05:17] *But you don't have to push it away or feed it. There *_*is*_* another option: to allow it. *
[00:05:26] So today, I had that trauma trigger. It was a pretty intense one. I've had a few things this week that have led up to it. And you know those moments where you know something is off and then you find out that it's off and you're relieved because you're like, "Yes, I'm so right. Something was off. " And then your subconscious is like, "But now we need to freak out because something was off and I need to control that it doesn't keep going this way. " And it just makes you want to worry about where you've been and where you're going. And I breathe. And I say, "Nope, we don't need to go there. "
[00:05:57] I like to picture that voice, that worry voice, as if it's a little tiny yappy dog, like a Yorkie. And I have this internal Yorkie, that when things get intense, it starts to shake. Have you ever seen a little dog who's nervous or has so much energy or is cold and it just shakes, right? So I picture my triggered pattern as this little dog, a little dog who needs to be taken care of. We don't just want to kick that dog away and make it fend for itself. That little dog needs things. But you also don't want to have it just running around your feet, yapping and barking at you all the time.
[00:06:37] You want to train that dog and teach it that you will help it be safe and take care of it so that it doesn't have to be so worried.
[00:06:45] And that's exactly what I did today. I took a moment and said, "Little trauma dog inside, it's okay that you feel worried. It's okay that it was hard to hear this sad news. "
[00:06:58] And I can empathize with and be compassionate for the part of me that went through the trauma in the first place that makes it easy for my brain to go to those worried places again. But I am not that same person that went through the trauma the first time. I am in a new, different place. I have a different perspective, different beliefs. And it's not helpful for me to try and control it.
[00:07:25] So instead, I see it for what it is: just a trigger. Something outside myself that triggered some thoughts that I've had in the past, but I don't have to keep believing those thoughts. I get to choose what to believe now.
[00:07:42] And I believe that I can still be vulnerable, that I can still create safety for myself. I don't have to worry about trauma triggers coming up and making me spin out and being off for a few days. *Once I recognize what's going on, like I did today, I can give myself that compassion. I can take care of myself so I feel safe and I can take any other needed action with other people involved. *
[00:08:12] There's a woman who I've helped in the past, it's been a while since I've coached her but her husband was struggling in addictive patterns. And she would come to me and say, "He's acted out again. What can I do to make him stop acting out? "
[00:08:27] I would tell her, "My friend, you cannot control him. That's not the goal. The goal is for you to find that safety and that peace from within and turn to God for that strength. And then God will guide you to know exactly what to do next in your relationship with your husband, but you cannot rely on his actions for you to feel safe. Yes, you can have boundaries to make sure that you are honoring your values, that you're inviting him to respect you. But you get to be in charge of you. "
[00:09:04] Same thing with any trigger that comes up. What do you want to do next to help you feel safe?
[00:09:11] Me? Today? I'm giving myself space to feel. I'm processing things that my brain is wanting to give me and seeing if they're true, if I want to believe them. I'm being kind and careful with how I'm spending my time today. And honestly, I'm purposely getting on a podcast and pushing play, because I need to hear myself say these things too.
[00:09:35] That it's okay to feel triggered we can all still be in charge of how we experienced that trigger depending on how we respond.
[00:09:45] Triggers can feel really scary for you and for anyone else involved.
[00:09:51] I promise you, that if you turn to compassion and self-care—where you are mindful of what you need and stay in truth, allowing yourself to feel—you will feel empowered on the other end, instead of chaotically trying to control it or ignore it or feed it. All of those things lead to more pain.
[00:10:15] Triggers do not have to lead to an elongated pain. It might be painful in the moment and that's okay. But you don't have to make it grow. That's my invitation for you today:
[00:10:28] *Compassionately recognize that you will have triggers sometimes, but remember to empower yourself through those triggers. You have the power to decide how you experience it. *
[00:10:43] I am committed to taking care of me today. And I can do that because I have practiced loving myself, knowing that I have value, and I can find that safety from within—no matter what goes on around me—because I have a strong relationship with God. And I know that I can consistently rely on that, even if the people in my life don't show up in a way that feels loving or supportive or safe.
[00:11:14] *True emotional health is building on foundations that do not move—foundations from within and with heaven. *
[00:11:24] And you want to know what I feel in this moment, as I'm talking to you, sharing my hope and my experience through the triggers that I felt in life? I feel so much gratitude. Gratitude that I'm not in a place where I'm fearful of triggers anymore. That I'm not worried about something popping up and making me spin out emotionally.
[00:11:47] Instead, I gratefully am able to ground myself, turn to God, and look towards the future that I want to create and not reminisce or worry about where I've been in the past. And believing the lie that I'm back there again. It's not true. It's just a trigger. And triggers are only what you make them.
[00:12:11] *Let's make them moments of learning and recommitting to what is true: that you are valuable, that God has your back, and that it's okay to feel. *
[00:12:24] You get to decide what to do next. Take care, my friend. Have a blessed day.
[00:12:29] Are you getting my TLC Tuesday emails? They are filled with tips, insights, and invitations to help you add light to your life. Go to www.thelightcoach.com/subscribe and make sure you're included. Because big things are coming and I don't want you to miss them. *Together, we can create confidence, connection, and clarity in life after therapy.*