January 30, 2010
I know that feels like a bit of a stretch: PTSD triggers not making life unbearable for hours and days on end? Wow. Could that really be true?
Yes. Yes, it’s true, it’s possible. We do not have to feel stuck, helpless in our negative triggered responses.
We start making the shift when begin to see triggers as messages calling for our attention, not “the truth” about what is happening now. The nature of triggers is that they are loaded with a lot of charge, they feel electrified with power, they reach out and grab us. In an instant our bodies are caught and plugged into terror, horror, anxiety, distress… there are many names for that.
So, how, I know you are asking, how do we shift this crazy pattern?
1. When your reaction is out of proportion to the event in front of you it is almost certain that the reaction you are having is not about the current moment. Sometimes just naming it helps: “I’m triggered. I’m triggered.” Stay away from the content of the trigger and keep focusing on naming it for what it is — you’re triggered.
2. What that automatically does – but needs endless repetition – is separate out the trigger from you. Something is happening to you but you are not that blow apart or numbed out experience which is exploding in your body. This provides a slow and steady effect of helping you dis-identify from the symptom: You are not the anxiety that is coursing through you.
3. At this point you can engage with the anxiety/terror/distress/unease and ask it to slow down/give you some room so that you can listen to it. It’s important not to be doing this in the attempt to fix it, change it, get rid of it!!! Yes, that might be an ulterior motive, but the more neutral you can stay, the better off you will be. Having a healthy curiousity will make a world of difference
4. At this point in the process your body might have slowed do so much and taken such effort and concentration that you might want to take a break! Understandable. And that is fine. This might be exactly where you want to stop.
Sometimes this is the perfect thing to do – retrain your body and your mind and your nervous system to not be so automatic in response to your triggers. We can, in fact, learn to harness that energy that gets triggered inside and work with it rather then being dominated by it.
That’s the goal of the Becoming Safely Embodied Basic Skills Course that will be coming out in the next six months. If you’re interested in more information click here to put your name on the list and I’ll keep you posted!