What are trauma triggers and how to identify them.
When it comes to identifying a trauma trigger first we need to understand what a trigger is, what trauma is and how they relate to our emotions as a human.
Humans are very emotional creatures. We don’t like to admit it, accept it or deal with it, but we are. And we currently live in a society that teaches very little about our emotions other than to hide most of them, amplify a few and cope with the rest.
This has left us as humans with little understanding and no tools to process our emotions. This becomes an even bigger problem when it comes to how to deal with trauma.
Trauma is usually thought of as a very horrible event that occurs in one’s life that leaves a mark. We often think of things like abuse, accidents, and very scary things. But an event in one’s life doesn’t actually have to be big and scary for it to cause trauma.
Trauma can be caused by a horrific event, but it can also be caused by a seemingly minor event that was perceived as horrific by the brain and body and never fully emotionally processed. Trauma is just the after effect, the wound that is left behind, still open, still bleeding and still causing pain and discomfort in one’s life. Trauma is a result of unprocessed emotions that are dying to be heard, felt and released.
A trauma trigger occurs when you have an emotional reaction to something currently happening in your life, but the root of the emotion is actually from a trauma that occurred at a different time in your life. Trauma triggers can be hard to identify and sneak up on us without our knowing.
A trauma trigger is any event that reminds the brain and body of the trauma and invokes a reaction, either physically or emotionally. Trauma triggers are in fact our friends. They are showing us where we have unprocessed, stored, emotional trauma in our body that needs to be processed and released. The tricky thing about trauma and identifying it and its triggers is that we are so good at hiding our emotions and making everything seem ok, that we often don’t believe we have trauma when we actually do. And even if we do believe it, we often do not know how to fully process it, only cope with it.
Let me give you two examples. One that will be very clear to most that it was a trauma with a very clear trigger and another more subtle but very relatable example.
Let’s say you were in a car accident. You were injured. You lost your job. It was a really hard time. Now every time you get into that car you panic, your whole body takes over and you feel horrible. The car is the trigger, the trauma is the car accident. This was an easy one to identify, but let’s look at something a bit more subtle.
Let’s say you were supposed to go to a party and as the time to go to the party neared you felt your old friend, anxiety creep up. Fear, nervousness, all sorts of things start bubbling to the surface. You even lashed out at your partner for trying to rush you to get ready. You know it wasn’t warranted. You even wonder why every time you go to a large party you end up in a fight with them… it’s odd, but it always seems to happen.
In this case the trigger is the party. It’s bringing up all sorts of emotions, emotions that are so deep you don’t even know what they are, you just know something is off. Often we can tell a trigger shows up in our life because we just feel off, we feel unsettled, our anxiety is peaking and we are lashing out and displaying our emotions all over the place.
Here’s the thing, emotions aren’t bad, none of them, but in our world they are often very displaced. We really shouldn’t be coming at anyone in an emotional state. In our world we always say, “check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
When something occurs in our life and we all of a sudden find ourselves in an emotional state, angry, flustered, panicked, overwhelmed, frustrated, there is ALWAYS a trigger involved, and that trigger always leads to unprocessed trauma. The interesting thing about unprocessed trauma is that when it’s there, we can’t see clearly. We often see the event or conversation in a completely different light than it was intended. We see the world through our experiences and our emotions, including our unprocessed ones, so if there is unprocessed trauma in there, you are going to see this party very differently and through an emotional lens than you would if the trauma wasn’t there.
So, what type of trauma could be lurking behind this party that is triggering your social anxiety and making you lash out on the ones you love? Trauma that might not seem to many like ‘actual’ trauma, but is trauma nonetheless.
Things like being a kid and always being told how to act or feeling like you had to be a certain person to fit in. Being made fun of or bullied at school and feeling like you didn’t belong or would get hurt for being you. Trauma can be big, scary, traumatic events or it can be small subtle life occurrences that affect us deeply.
So what’s a human to do? Let’s learn how to deal with trauma in a different way. The first step is to identify that trigger. Be a detective. When you notice yourself in a state of anger, frustration, stress, ask yourself… What’s up? What in my world is triggering me? What am I wanting to just lash out about?
It doesn’t matter if lashing out makes sense or is rational… emotions are never rational and very often don’t make logical sense. What they are is your indicator that something is off in your world and it might be time for you to evolve past it and see your life and the world differently. So don’t try and make sense of them, just see them and try to see what brought them about. Then feel them… and we REALLY mean feel them, all of them, and not on your partner or kids or that girl on social media you just can’t stand. By yourself, alone. This is an exploration process to see where they take you. If you give yourself enough time and space you will see that they lead you back to an initial trauma. Once we fully feel and release the emotions around the initial trauma, your trigger my friend will magically disappear!
Need help with this? That’s our jam! Go check out our Rapid Relief Technique and learn how to truly feel, heal, and find your happy! And if you are looking to become trauma informed, look no further than our certification, where we not only teach how to deal with trauma differently but also how to be trauma informed in a much more comprehensive way.
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