In our community, we often joke that “Trauma is the gift that keeps on giving.” And the gifts that show up repeatedly are triggers.
You might be wondering…
What is a “trigger?”
What does it feel like when you are triggered?
What can you do to help, especially when you may not even be aware that you’re triggered until you’re a few minutes into it?
A trigger is your nervous system set on high alert in response to its perception that it is in ACTUAL, IMMEDIATE, IMMINENT danger.
Triggers are our nervous system hijacking our body and brain’s responses to try to keep us safe. Our nervous system’s response to a stressful, traumatic stimulus is, physiologically, the same as it was a millennia ago on the plains, savannahs, and jungles.
A millennia ago, we needed to be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to flee for our lives from actual predators with teeth and claws out to get us!
You may not be in physical danger when dealing with betrayal, but something terrible happened like a disclosure from a cheating partner or sudden discovery that your relationship is not AT ALL how it seems.
Your brain builds associations with the physical feelings and emotions you experienced during disclosure and discovery and ties it to a specific person, place, or thing… often your partner.
Your brain has now wired together “danger” and “that thing.”
Maybe you drive by the specific restaurant where you know your husband took an affair partner. You pass by it, and, all of a sudden, your body’s like “Whoa.” It goes into fight or flight response. Your heart starts pounding, and suddenly, you can’t think. You’re nervous, upset, and feel all of those super anxious feelings.
What’s your thought at that moment? “Oh my God, freaking out, and I have no idea why.”
Let’s start to think about why.
Learning to recognize when that’s happening, and then piecing together “why” allows you to put your tools into action, and regulate your nervous system when those moments occur. And they will.
If you’re going to rebuild your relationship, or are going to co-parent, you will be around this person, and you deserve to feel safe when you can’t avoid contact.
For the next two days, see if you can identify people, places, things, and situations where you feel “triggered.”
Be the detective of your own life.
I will be back in your inbox on Thursday with specific strategies for coping with the sensations and feelings that arise when we are triggered.
In the meantime (especially if you already know who and what triggers you), download my free Surviving Sex Addiction Guidebook to learn techniques for calming and quieting your nervous system.
It is possible to cultivate a feeling of safety when working through betrayal trauma, discovery, and disclosure.
I am here with you to do it. Every step of the way.