I suffered from seizures from age four to almost six. I was in and out of the hospital and was given at least one EEG to try to figure out what was wrong with me. Those experiences were traumatic. My mind forgot the worst memories (although I do remember the electrodes attached to my scalp) but my body remembers. Our body often remembers past trauma and that memory surfaces in different ways.
One way that memory might surface is through triggers. Needles are a trigger for me. Needles always made me feel sick, light-headed and no matter how skilled the nurse, needles are always physically painful. Triggers, like a needle, are real whether you remember the past trauma or not.
Triggers remind us to pay attention to something. The reminder is likely related to "danger! that ____ hurt you before,". If you've experienced family abuse, for example, a visit from a parent can be triggering. When you pay attention to that trigger, you are in a better position to manage it. We can manage triggers in a few ways:
1) Create better boundaries. We may not be able to drop triggering people from our life but we can create rules for ourselves about them. Your parent doesn't stay at the house or we always meet a former partner at a neutral place instead of home.
2) Get present. Remind yourself that the danger has passed. You are healthier and safer now than you ever have been. Saying aloud to yourself, "I'm safe, I'm okay," can go a long way.
3) Practice self-care. Triggers remind us that we need extra support and/or love. Give that love to yourself in the form of special self-care or get it from a trusted person.
We can't always know why we are triggered and even when we do know, we can't always eliminate that trigger. But we can recognize it when it's happening and remind ourselves what we can do about it. That goes a long way toward feeling more successful and confident in all areas of our life.
Speaking of family abuse, I start a new Domestic Violence Survivor Peer Support group on Wednesday March 15. Click here to learn more.