Some more thoughts on triggers
I’ve been pondering a bit more on triggers and more specifically what role triggers play in our lives, or possibly could play in our lives. I wrote a few weeks ago about triggers but more from the perspective of what they are and what we can do with them (if you didn’t see that one, click HERE). One of the questions I’ve been really digging deep into since then is the idea that maybe when we’ve worked through our trauma(s) using some effective psychotherapies (e.g. EMDR, IFS, SE, EFT, Schema) we might expect to not get triggered any longer. I really have been thinking about what purpose triggers really play in our lives and whether when we’ve either experienced traumatic events in our lives or have attachment traumas it’s reasonable to expect that we get to a point when we live trigger-free.
As a reminder, a trigger might be explained as something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the us back to the event or a moment during the original trauma.
Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. Sometimes it means experiencing a flashback to the original trauma or a space or place that connects to that trauma, and often the trigger results in an emotional dysregulation with an intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. Our triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
I’ve shared before that much of the inspiration for these blogs comes from themes, topics and questions that come up in session with clients, and I sometimes experience this strange phenomenon where multiple clients will raise the same thing in the same week. When this happens, my curious mind pays attention and I’m always intrigued that we are all often navigating similar pains or struggling with similar questions. Last week triggers were a big recurring theme in session at both practices and in one particular session I was inspired to write this additional blog on triggers.
Let me just be super clear with something. What I’m exploring here is not the kind of debilitating effect of triggers that we can experience when our trauma is untreated, unresolved, or unmanaged. If we’re knee-deep in that kind of dysregulation, then we’re at a different stage of trauma work and I would encourage you to see out therapies and therapists that specialise in this work. I’m really wanting to explore the triggers that might occur after that work has been ongoing for a while.
Once we are able to operate more consistently within our window of tolerance and we’re finding our emotional regulation skills have improved to a place where we aren’t experiencing as many of the symptoms or effects of our trauma in our daily lives then I want to suggest that triggers could be thought of in a different light. Could we see emotional triggers as an opportunity for growth? Could they be an indication that yes, something is happening at an emotional level or a reminder of our trauma history, but if we are responding from within our window of tolerance those triggers are now an opportunity to explore a different way of responding, the chance to choose an alternative pathway out. Using ‘parts’ language (IFS, Ego State work etc.) when we are operating from our Self (adult self, whole self) we are able to be curious of our triggers, to react compassionately, creatively, and calmly and for me this is the true goal of therapy – to bring clients to a place where they are operating from their in-the-present-selves rather than from their traumatised places.
If you are struggling with triggers right now, we have a team of therapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing and we have IMMEDIATE availability – please reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org / 03 9077 8194.