What to do when you’re triggered due to a past traumatic event

A friend reached out to me yesterday who had been triggered and reminded of a tragic event from her childhood. (No, I don’t work with my friends, but I do offer suggestions, coping skills, etc., if that’s what they need.) When we’re a survivor of childhood trauma, this is something we experience at times, though as we do the work, the effect it has on us can definitely decrease. But it may still happen. So, these are the tips I gave my friend and they may help you as well. If you’re looking for help in healing from childhood trauma and want to do work customized to you, send me a message and let’s get you started!

My first step is to breathe. Depending on the memory, you may feel unsafe, fearful of being physically harmed, scared, or something else. Chances are you’ve gone into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode. What does this mean? When your body senses harm (whether it’s real or a stored memory), it goes into response. For some it is fight and for others it is flight. Some people freeze in the midst of fear while others go into fawn (appeasing the attacker to avoid being harmed). Whatever your response, taking a few deep breaths will calm your body’s nervous system.

Go to your safe space. This may be a real space, such as going for a walk in nature, near the water or perhaps you prefer the mountains. If you can’t physically go to your safe space, you can create one in your mind and go there. If you need help with this step, please reach out to me and we can create a guided meditation to take you there.

With my friend yesterday (who has given me permission to write about this), I sensed that it was the perfect time for her to write a letter to her attacker. Although it’s not a letter to be sent, it is a way to express and process feelings. It’s also a way to re-parent the inner child by imagining and writing about what you needed as that child going through that traumatic event. And that traumatic event can be anything! Perhaps you experienced serious abuse, but maybe you’re too anxious to learn to drive as an adult because as a child you were in a car in a minor fender bender. As an adult you may not recognize that as trauma, but if as a child your body went into a stress response (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) and you weren’t able to process that, it was a trauma.

That leads into my next step, inner child healing. I primarily do inner child work through meditation and take my clients back to their childhood and have them visualize themselves as a child. We tap into what may have been missing that they needed. Eventually they are able to incorporate this technique into their everyday life whenever they are struggling. Many of our triggers, large or small, can be alleviated when we go back and look at what needs were not met as a child.

My last suggestion is to find someone to work with if you struggle with past trauma, PTSD, complex or developmental trauma. There is a lot of encouraging literature on the subject and it is something that I specialize in and have had a lot of success with with my clients. I am a survivor of childhood trauma, so I understand your journey and I’m here to help you through it.



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