Now that I’m managing a group I can see how lots of people are getting repetitively triggered throughout their healing so I decided to write a blog about it and tomorrow I’m going to jump into the group (Screw you! I’m choosing me) and do a Facebook Live about it to recap.
First of all – let’s start by defining a trigger – because if we don’t know what it is, how are we meant to avoid it? A trigger is something that you see, read or hear that causes you to feel distress because it reminds you (as in – takes you back) to a prior bad experience that you have had. As a result of being triggered you may re-experience some very overwhelming feelings caused by memories associated with a particular traumatic experience.
Triggers are the best and worst thing that will happen to you while you’re healing. It’s the worst thing at the start because obviously it triggers the addiction, it makes you feel stuck, overwhelmed, confused, disorientated etc. But it’s great for once you’ve healed – because when you experience a trigger that before you found really difficult and now it’s not affecting you in any way at all, you know you’ve healed.
It’s important for you to also acknowledge that there are two types of triggers:
– There are the triggers that are within your control: seeing posts on social media, hearing about them through mutual friends, seeing them at work, talking to them on the phone etc, turning up to events you know they’ll be.
– There are the triggers that our outside your control: nightmares/dreams, seeing a car that reminds you of theirs, walking past their work, dealing with someone who looks similar/talks the same/has the same mannerisms, reading someone else’s story and it reminds you of yours etc.
So how do we manage all of this? First, let’s take a look at some of the top mistakes people do:
Trigger mistakes you may be making:
1. Refusing to let them go
2. Forgetting to forget them
3. Speaking to mutual friends
4. Looking them up on Social Media
5. Reading their messages/emails/letters
6. Hearing their voice on the phone
7. Listening to their voicemails
8. Looking at old photos of happier times
9. Giving them a chance to have their say
10. Keeping in contact with their family
11. Letting them in when they come to visit
12. Walking out with them when they drop in at your work
13. Wearing jewellery they gave you
14. Going to places you used to frequent together
15. Reading or listening to other people’s bleak stories
16. Chasing the need for closure from them
17. Doing the “exchange” (swapping keys/collecting personal effects/co-parenting)
Sometimes you’re going to get triggered in your healing journey and it’s important that you know all about triggers and how you can handle it – so you can manage these situations assertively and quickly with as little discomfort as possible (that’s the aim)!
Depending on how traumatised we are after our experience, everything can trigger us. In fact, if you can think of Robbie Williams in the film clip for Rock DJ (around the 3:00 mark – and it’s incredibly gruesome), we are raw like that. There’s no protection (or skin) on us at all. So even the smallest thing can set us right off. This is normal. Think of it like being a burns victim – if anything touches the burn, you’re going to lash out and respond to try to protect it and voice your pain … same thing. It feels crap – but it is normal.
So how can you avoid these triggers as much as possible?
– Go No Contact (as in completely No Contact)
– Make sure you’re only a member of group that protects and genuinely cares about its community
– Stay in the present moment as much as you can (mindfulness is a skill worth practising in your healing)
– Practice Yoga or Pilates – it’s good for you! No, just kidding, it’s a great way of keeping healthy while being mindful and focusing back on your breath. All you need to do is breathe through the hard times and get through the next moment
– Do plenty of self-care: this is the one time in your life you really need to spoil yourself. If you have been triggered – do one of your particularly distracting self-care activities and keep getting through to that next moment
– Watch your self-talk about what’s happening. When you’re triggered, be gentle and supportive towards yourself. Stop and say “It’s ok…” and explain the situation to yourself “That’s their story, not yours”, “They’ve gone now”, “It’s ok – it’s over”, “Tonight you can have a really nice dinner”. Focus on the present moment and getting to your next self-care reward
– Sometimes triggers can make it feel like “Oh lordy is this how it’s always going to be? Does it ever get better/easier?” Yes it does! So you need to focus on the future and sometimes it can help to get a card reading or even just checking in with your horoscope. I know it sounds woo-woo but where you can’t picture the future yourself, it can really help. If nothing else, it will give you hope, and can restore some inner peace, to get you through to the next moment
– Have FAITH! Your subconscious is just keeping you safe by triggering you. It’s saying “Alert! Alert! Action stations! Action stations! This human is going into meltdown!” And that is not a bad thing. Instead of dismissing it or trying to get rid of it as fast as it occurs, ask yourself what your subconscious is trying to say. Is it saying: “Don’t read that stuff right now”? or “It’s too soon for that”? or “That person is a bad person”? A big part of the healing journey is learning to listen and trust yourself so this experience won’t repeat. It’s important to make ourselves feel heard and understood. Be open to receiving these messages, even when they appear really scary at the time
– Focus on rebuilding your self-trust. Focus on what commitments you’re making. While you’re healing, try not to make too many commitments to others, instead, keep making (and following through with) commitments to yourself. Start with going on a positivity diet – only allowing good, healthy, positive things into your life. Healthy food, healthy tv, healthy music, healthy friends/people, healthy thoughts, healthy words
– And finally, do a massive declutter of all the spaces you frequent: your bedroom, your kitchen, your dining room, your car, your office … anywhere that may trigger you. Get rid of anything toxic or anything that is triggering you. Be bold! If you can’t bring yourself to throw it out, or you can’t sell it – store it or swap it. If your house is triggering you, rent it out for a year or two. Although some steps in healing may be inconvenient, they can be very necessary for your sanity, security and peace of mind