‘Triggers’ - what are they and how do they affect us?


Even if you have never been horribly traumatized by rape, war or natural disasters, memories and past events can haunt our present day life. Not to belittle the horrific things that have happened to some people, but I feel like the word ‘trigger’ is everywhere these days, and is worth talking about here.

Many news stories, and articles, TV shows and documentaries come with ‘trigger warning’ at the beginning in bold letters. What does this mean? Are we becoming more and more fragile as a culture? Do we need to protect each other from potentially re-traumatizing material?

The answers to these questions are definitely not simple, and the process by which we can heal to a point of not being re-traumatized by a similar scenario to something we experienced in the past, is not an easy fix either. My own feeling on this is that for me personally, I don’t want to have my current life curtailed by my past trauma.

I don’t want to have to avoid certain scenes or types of people, particular smells, a touch on a specific part of my body, words, or the myriad of un-integrated memory fragments, that bring up flashbacks of past traumatic events. But this is the reality for many people these days. More and more people are carrying around dozens of these ‘triggers’ and finding that everyday life is bumping up against these in a worrying way.

So do we, as a society, keep barricading ourselves into ‘safe’ zones, finding ways to keep our nervous systems from having to deal with potentially re-traumatizing things? Put warnings on everything, stay away from new experiences in case we are triggered? Is this even a realistic possibility?

To be clear, I definitely am not in favour of throwing ourselves in harms way, just to prove we can do it, only to be re-traumatized. This is not helpful. My curiosity is to explore what is possible, in a more conscious and embodied state. To help people re-pattern their overly sensitized nervous systems and re-engage with life.

I believe this is possible, and I believe the work we are doing as Somatic coaches is helping.

I believe we do not need to let past experiences define our present life. We can integrate and become more resilient.

How do we learn to do this? Working with a trauma-informed, body -oriented therapist or coach can definitely lay the groundwork for this type of healing. I recently also was introduced to the idea of having a ‘trigger plan’ in place, that we know how to use when we need it in the moment.

A trigger plan might be a unique set of thoughts and actions, depending on your particular needs, but here are some ideas to get you thinking. If you find yourself triggered in an activity, such as being intimate with your partner, the first thing would be to stop and take a pause. (It is helpful to go over this plan with your partner beforehand, so they can be aware of your needs). Breathe and be aware of your physical body, notice something in your environment, pay attention to your sensations, check in with yourself. Then from this place, you can choose whether to change the activity, agree to do some healing work (perhaps with your partner’s help), or to continue, but aware of being in the present time, and not in a painful past memory.

This kind of conscious practice is something we can work on in a series of sessions. Finding your own personal sense of safety is paramount and a crucial part of moving beyond past trauma and learning to live and feel pleasure again.

If you would like to book a complimentary consult with me, please go to my website www.pleasureforhealth.com and book under ‘book time with Ailsa’. I look forward to speaking with you.

In pleasure,