What are Triggers?
Triggers are key events, people, places, smells, touches, anything that creates in you the reliving of a certain emotion or moment. For example, for a very long time, I could not be hugged from behind. If someone came up from behind me and grabbed me, whether it was playful or loving, I would scream bloody murder, shove them back and in extreme cases drop to the floor. I couldn’t handle it. Why? Because it reminded me of the surprise I was taken by when my abuser reached around from behind my back while I was sleeping.
Many people will tell you that if you’ve been abused then triggers are just a way of life. Those people are the ones who have given up. If you work on it, triggers can be a thing of the past. Now are there still times every once in a blue moon, when I have a trigger response? Sure. But I have learned how to identify, regulate and change those responses. Most days, and for about 4 years now, I have not had to suffer the debilitating pain of triggering my trauma.
Let me say that again. Most days, and for about 4 years now, I have not had to suffer the debilitating pain of triggering my trauma.
It’s not impossible. You can do it.
Aren’t Triggers For Life?
What about all the people who say you can’t get rid of triggers? What about all the people who say triggers are just a forever result of trauma? Well, those people either didn’t see the need to change, because they believed someone who told them that, or they started working on themselves, decided it was too hard and that it just wasn’t in the cards for them.
With hard work, consistency, and perseverance there isn’t anything you can’t do.
But the road ahead is long, hard and exhausting. It is going to require every ounce of willpower, strength, and heart you have. So if you are going to accomplish your goals. If you are going to free yourself from the chains of trauma, you have GOT to know what they are holding you back from. You have got to know WHY it is important to get rid of them. Because if you don’t see the problem, you’ll never solve the problem.
With that being said, let’s break it down, shall we?
1. Triggers Affect Your Health
ooooooo boy. If I had known about this I would have worked on my triggers so much sooner. But I just have to be grateful for what I did, when I did it.
Scientists are realizing that episodes brought on from triggers can cause heart issues and raise your chances of heart disease. Watch this Ted Talk to have your mind blown! (Skip to 7:40 to hear about what I will discuss below, or just keep reading)
When you are triggered it probably goes something like this, right? Your heart begins to beat so fast you can hear it in your ears and feel it in your chest. Your breathing so heavily and quickly it’s like you can’t decide if you want air or not. In, out. In, out. Your hands get shaky and your legs feel weak. You want to run, and maybe you do. Or maybe you’re frozen.
Your fight or flight response has been activated.
The fight or flight response is deeply rooted in the human body as a means for survival. This skill was created for the most daunting of situations. It was meant as back up. You were never meant to have this reaction several times a day, or several times a week or even several times a month.
And every time your heart goes through this routine of fight or flight, your blood pressure is rising, your hormones are shooting through the roof, and the extreme consistently of these internal reactions are harming your health.
So reason number one to fix your triggers. You are literally drawing yourself closer to death every time you allow yourself to remain buddies with your triggers. Constantly activating that fight or flight response is health damaging and learning to reduce this response will help your health.
2. Triggers Keep You From Life Experiences
When I was in high school I was very aware of what every single social gathering might entail. Would I have to be around a large amount of men? Will there be a woman to be my safety net? Would I be left alone at any point? Will I be too vulnerable to an attack that I knew my fear would keep me from protecting myself?
I wasn’t living. I was surviving.
And survival is not the same as living. When you look back on your death bed, you won’t be proud that you made it this far. You’ll be proud of the wonderful things, people and places you saw. You’ll be proud of what you made of your life.
So break up with your triggers. Break up with just surviving.
3. Triggers Hurt Your Relationships
6 years ago I dated a boy who I had made a villain in my head. He was a little too pushy with the physical advances. While that’s certainly not okay, my history of abuse made me equate him to an abuser. That relationship quickly ended because I couldn’t function in a relationship that pushed me to confront my issues. I also couldn’t stay in a relationship with a guy who punched a car when the argument got heated, but that’s another story.
Now, I still would not have ended up with this guy. While he isn’t as terrible as I originally colored him, he still wasn’t the greatest boyfriend. He was too pushy and he did spread a lot of rumors about me being a prude (little did he know I was terrified of sex because of being molested at age 4).
But that’s not the point. The point is, that relationship could have been a lot healthier if I had dealt with my trauma and triggers.
In the beginning stages of my engagement to my now husband, I had to very carefully navigate the triggers of intimacy. It required a lot of work and patience not only by me but by my husband.
When his hand placement made me freeze in fear, I had to stop him, gain composure, reassure myself of my surroundings, who I was with and try again.
Openly and fiercely attacking the root issues, fighting through triggers, reframing my mindset and easing my way into experiences that historically sent me into full anxiety attack is what has made a 97% normal person (no one’s perfect).
But the truth of the matter is that until you figure out your triggers you are hurting your relationships. How many times did I overreact and hurt my husband because my fears made me lash out in anger? Too many.
Our triggers don’t just affect us, they affect our loved ones.
4. Triggers Hurt Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is a hot button issue regardless of the surrounding context. But let’s just look at it from the framework of trauma. I know personally every time I would freak out at a seemingly harmless gesture or movie or event, it always ended with my cheeks burning hot with embarrassment wondering what the heck was wrong with me.
Does that sound familiar?
I spent a lot of time battling identity issues in my younger years, because I couldn’t pin down why I was so “weird”. I couldn’t fix it and I couldn’t understand it. Until 10 years later when I finally learned about trauma and inner-healing.
Having high self-esteem is the greatest gift you can give yourself. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. He is so proud of the creation he made that is YOU. Love yourself. And a step towards loving yourself is addressing and taking care of your triggers. Healing from your trauma is the road to do that.
How Do I Get Rid of Triggers?
The best way to get rid of triggers, or a better phrase would be to restrict them, is to find healing. Gaining closure and finding inner healing from all the pain and abuse is the best way to take control of your life again.
Closure is the first step after acceptance. And if you’re reading this, then you have already accepted and faced the truth of your abuse. So go ahead and take that next step. Click on the button below to get your Gaining Closure Workbook. It’s 10+ pages of my most honest work. I took everything that helped me gain closure and compressed it into 6 steps, combined with thought-provoking questions to help guide you through the process.
You deserve to be set free, all you have to do is take the first step.