April 8, 2021

Trauma Triggers & Avoidance Coping: I’m not Moving on, I’m Moving Through.


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My heart started racing, and I could feel it beating too hard.

I stared into the distance and had a flashback—a painful event that happened last year and another one five years ago. I could see them as if they were happening at that moment.

Of course, they weren’t really happening. They were mere, painful memories that kept replaying in my mind. How did that happen? How could I feel them so strongly?

It was a trauma trigger.

Just a few minutes earlier, something happened that triggered me. Well, not really me—they triggered painful memories from my past and what just happened earlier was pretty similar to them.

But I was aware, I promise. I was mindful. In the past, I would blame the person who caused my trigger for hurting me. Now, before anything else, I pause and I look within. And in that moment when my heart was racing and I was digging within myself, I realized that a past pain had resurfaced. Hai.

I kept my silence and watched the trigger dissipate in my body. My heartbeats slowly went back to normal, and the flashback quietly vanished into the unknown.

I couldn’t help not thinking about how I expected that I had healed myself from that particular trauma—that any similar event wouldn’t trigger me or hurt me. I’ve been so darn wrong.

Trauma lives in the body; I’m sure of it now more than ever. And whenever we are triggered, we can feel it moving through our cells and veins all over again. We have flashbacks that we had never anticipated and memories that we thought had been dug deep in the back of our minds.

It’s ironic how a few-second event or a 10-word line can revive a whole past scenario.

And when we are triggered, it’s funny that we think we need to do something about it. We think we need to react or do anything—like anything—to help us cope.

It’s normal to react. When we touch a hot object, our physical reflex is to pull away. The same happens to our mental “body.” When our mind is emotionally triggered, its reflex is to do something about it to stop the danger. Consequently, we either blame the other person, get angry about it, hurt ourselves, or meditate for the next five days.

The old me would have wanted to heal every wounded part fully—that was my way of coping. I wouldn’t have accepted less than a perfectly calm body at such triggered moments and a crystal clear mind. That was one of my many mental reflexes, but I’m not sure anymore if that’s possible; or healthy.

The truth is, nobody knows the fate of trauma triggers—they could stay, they could vanish into thin air, or reappear when we least expect them. Whatever the future holds for me and my long-lost traumas is unknown. But I do know one thing. Healing myself doesn’t mean ridding myself of memories, triggers, pain, and remembrance. It doesn’t mean I scream at the top of my lungs: I moved on.

Healing means I’m moving through my trauma. I’m moving from a phase to another, welcoming each one with open arms.

It means I understand and fully realize that my body could (and will) react at certain events. I can’t stop it from reacting. I can’t tell my brain not to bring up a certain memory that’s been waiting for me to acknowledge it. But I can recognize that I’m being triggered and deal with what’s happening day by day, and minute by minute.

Yesterday, I chose to remain silent, acknowledge the feeling, and breathe it out. Tomorrow I might deal with it differently—I might want to talk it out or shout it out. And who knows what’s going to happen after tomorrow, or the day after?

Trauma triggers happen. Avoiding them or giving ourselves a hard time for experiencing them doesn’t in any way bring us closer to healing.

To heal means to feel.
To heal means to acknowledge.
To heal means to allow.
To heal means to face.

We might never fully recover. And. That’s. Okay. For me, recovering is when we incorporate the good and the bad into one single part of life. We don’t omit the ugly or force the beautiful.

What does healing mean to you? How do you react when you are triggered? Or maybe, not react?



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