How to manage my emotion when I am triggered be my past trauma?
Last Updated: 06/01/2020 at 7:48pm
Paola Giordani, Psychoanalyst
I have helped and am helping people cope with loss, divorce, anguish and parenting. Depression is also a major issue that comes up.
Top Rated Answers
An intense fear of abandonment that interferes in forming primary relationships in adulthood. Intrusive insecurity that interferes in your social life and goal achievement. Tendency toward self defeating behavior patterns that sabotage your love life, goals, or career. A tendency to repeatedly subject yourself to people or experiences that lead to another loss and another trauma. Intrusive reawakening of old losses; echoes of old feelings of vulnerability and fear which interfere in current experience.
I used to avoid situations where that would happen, and I in no way would recommend that. It is a fairly common way to deal with feeling triggered but it cooped me up and restricted what I could do and in the end made everything feel so much worse. In the end I sought help from a psychologist who taught me ways to avoid the thoughts and feelings which came with being triggered. She told me that those feelings are different for everyone, some people may feel sick, have panic attack and may get very uptight and angry (like I do), others may feel extraordinarily sad, may cry, may want to curl up into a ball and block out the world. The way I learnt to manage my emotions was to acknowledge them for what they were (using statements such as "I am feeling (emotions) because of (trigger)" and "I am triggered because of (situation) and this is making me feel (emotions)") these statements pushed me to deal with what was going on rather than to hide and avoid the situation. I would then follow those statements with plans ("I am feeling (emotions), and I can do (action) to help me feel better") sometimes those actions were to remove myself from the situation, change the topic of conversation, go away with one or two friends if there were a lot of people, go sit by myself for a little bit, read a book, anything that I found comforting and safe. The emotions came with a lot of feeling unsafe and so the best way for me to deal with them was to make sure I knew that I was safe and that there was no danger. I was taught to tell myself that I was safe in most situations I faced in my life until I didn't need to say it any more. The one thing she really focoused on was not thinking in depth about the trauma. If there are thoughts and feelings that are directly associated with thinking about the event specifically, replace them with new truths. This means pretty much accepting the thoughts, stating why they weren't true and following it up with a statement that was. So instead of thoughts like "I deserved it", I stopped and told my self "I don't deserve it because (reasons)" and replaced it with a "I am strong, I can get through it" and other positive messages. Changing my thinking was the most helpful thing I did.
If I am worried or triggered I take some time out for me and allow myself to think through my worries with the help of 7 cups of tea :)
Breathing and focusing on my body helps me the most. I just try to look on it from the distance. Why am I feeling this way? What do I feel? Is it pain? Itching? Speeding heart? And When I analyze the situation I always relax and the things become easier.
Excuse yourself from the situation, and use relaxing techniques that work for you to clear your head.
It is best to refer someone to another listener if you feel you may be triggered or are otherwise not able to help them effectively. If something can trigger you, you need to make sure you are in counseling yourself. If that is not an option, then you can talk to a listener here or join the listener support chat room.
Better self-talk. Try to replace negative thoughts with reminding yourself of the present. You are not a prisoner of the past, you are slowly moving past your trauma. Give yourself time.
By remembering to stay present. Try looking around the environment for three objects and start to describe them to yourself. Notice also physical sensations and sounds around you. Remember that you're present with all of this and that you're safe now. Breathing exercises and visualisation techniques are helpful as well.
The fact that the past trauma still triggers you shows you haven't dealt with it fully. There's a sign right there that a bit of that trauma needs to be processed and healed. Talking to listeners/therapists on here would help, and also meditating to find out the underlying root memory that is causing the leftover trigger would help in unearthing your trauma and healing it to the core.
There are two possible strategies that certainly work to manage emotions in such scenario. One tactic is on external level which consists of quickly change the environment you are in and taking five to six deep slow breaths to be in control of the way you feel. The second strategy is to either talk it out with a emotionally close and reliable friend or someone in family, coupled with internal deliberate self talk, saying that the present uncomfortable emotion is not going to last forever. These are not super quick ways in terms of feeling better, but very reliable, effective and practical ones.
Whenever I feel my emotions getting out of control, I use some skills that I learned for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Breathing in for four counts, holding for 8, and breathing out for 4 counts helps stabilize your breathing. Pressing a damp, cold cloth on your eyes lowers your pulse by tricking your brain (mammalian diving reflex for the win!). These skills can help you bring your emotions back down from a crisis level, and allow you to work on the issues that caused you to be triggered. As always, you are important, and your illness does not define you. If you need help, we're here to help
This is a great question. It's really positive that you're able to identify your triggers in this manner. There's a few things that you can try next time you feel triggered and unable to manage your emotions. First of all, you could try grounding techniques. An example is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. You look for 5 things you can see, 4 that you can hear, 3 that you can smell, 2 that you can feel, and 1 that you can taste. This can be helpful if you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or like you are beginning to re-experience the traumatic event. The second thing to try is to repeat positive affirmations. The affirmations will be unique to you and your situation, but people commonly use ones like "I can do this." "I am enough" or "I am safe now" if those are a helpful starting point for you. If you feel uncomfortable repeating the affirmations out loud you could write them on sticky notes so that you have a physical reminder of them, or you can find asmr affirmation videos on youtube that might help you relax. The final thing to consider is connecting with a listener on 7 cups. This may seem daunting but it's really just like chatting to a friend! If you prefer you can find a listener with training and/or personal experience of the issue that you're currently facing. I hope this helps you. Look after yourself -emi
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