A Survivor's Guide to Reclaiming Control and Moving Forward (soothing triggered trauma)
Triggered trauma is often predicted but unexpected, it catches us off guard and can feel disempowering and upsetting.
So, let's fix that as this is baggage we really want to shed after we escape abuse.
As a Clinical Psychologist specialising in trauma recovery who has taken the recovery journey from an abusive relationship, I understand the complexities of navigating triggers and their profound impact on survivors of domestic abuse.
In this article, I aim to shed light on what triggered trauma is, how it manifests, and practical strategies to empower survivors in managing their trauma responses.
What is Triggered Trauma?
Triggered trauma, also known as emotional flashback or trauma trigger, occurs when a current event, memory, or environmental cue evokes intense emotions and sensations associated with past traumatic experiences.
These triggers can be subtle or overt, ranging from specific sights, sounds, or smells to seemingly innocuous situations that inadvertently remind survivors of their past trauma. For some they are more obvious, like seeing an ex, going to court or the physical injuries that persist after leaving.
It's essential to recognise that triggered trauma can distort perceptions, making the past feel like the present. Memories become intertwined with present experiences, leading is to react as if we are reliving the trauma in real-time. This phenomenon is not a sign of weakness or failure but rather a natural response of the brain's survival mechanisms attempting to process unresolved trauma.
Given this is 'normal' life for some of us, we need to plan for it...
Equipping Ourselves with a Rescue Plan:
One of the most empowering steps survivors can take is to develop a personalised rescue plan to navigate triggered trauma effectively. Here are some key components to consider when creating your plan:
Grounding Techniques: Grounding techniques serve as anchors to the present moment, helping survivors regain a sense of safety and stability when triggered. Examples include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, and focusing on sensory experiences like touch or sight (we created a whole library of meditations here that you can choose from to help).
Grounding Objects: Choose objects or symbols that hold personal significance and provide comfort during distressing moments. These grounding objects can serve as tangible reminders of safety and resilience, such as a cherished photo, a comforting scent, or a calming piece of jewelry. Alternatively, just choose an object that is easy to connect with physically. A pebble, a perfume, chocolate... something you can hold, smell and/or taste to remind your mind that you are in the hear and now moment of sensing this object... not in the past. Yes, the brain can forget this or get confused.
Support Network: Cultivate a support network of trusted individuals who understand your experiences and can offer compassionate validation and assistance during triggering episodes. Whether it's a friend, family member, therapist, or support group, having someone to lean on can make a significant difference in managing triggered trauma. Sometimes it can help to call a friend, who is primed, and say, "I just need some help being reminded that I am ok, I am free and I am getting strong".
Acceptance and the Recovery Process:
It's crucial for us to recognise that experiencing triggered trauma is a natural part of the recovery journey. Instead of viewing it as a setback, reframing triggered trauma as an opportunity for growth and healing can foster resilience and empowerment.
Acceptance involves acknowledging the presence of triggered trauma without judgment or self-blame. It's about embracing the complexities of the healing process and honoring the courage it takes to confront past wounds. Brains are weird, they communicate to us in weird ways.
Triggered trauma serves as a message from our brain that there are unresolved issues needing attention and healing. Rather than suppressing or avoiding these experiences, survivors can use them as motivation to engage in self-care practices, therapy, and trauma processing techniques to address underlying trauma and disconnect from its lingering effects.
It's a huge part of why we created the Get Out Get Love programme, to take us on this journey - responding to this need in us with an evidence-based journey.
Moving Forward into the Future:
As we learn to manage triggered trauma and integrate it into our healing journey, we gain greater freedom and power over their lives. Each encounter with triggered trauma becomes an opportunity to deepen self-awareness, cultivate resilience, and reclaim personal power.
By embracing triggers as messengers of unhealed wounds, we can harness our strength and resilience to navigate challenges and move forward with purpose and intention. With time, patience, and compassionate self-care, survivors can chart a path towards healing, reclaiming their sense of self, and envisioning a future free from the shadows of the past.
In conclusion, triggered trauma is a natural response to past experiences of domestic abuse, but it doesn't have to define or dictate survivors' futures. By equipping ourselves with a rescue plan, embracing acceptance, and viewing triggers as opportunities for growth, we can reclaim our power and forge a path towards healing and wholeness. So, start planning!