Triggers, Anger and Coping Mechanisms
I have spent a decent amount of time, as a special sort of layman, dealing with anger and abuse issues. In that context and in general, I have seen a lot of the use of the word: “Triggers”. This gets short shrift at times as political correctness and oversensitivity, often because it has been over generalized. To be clear, this is an example of what I mean by Triggers:
For people with PTSD, it is very common for their memories to be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions, such as raised heart rate, sweating and muscle tension. Because these memories and feelings are unpleasant, you may have the urge to avoid the triggers. Avoiding things that make you uncomfortable is normal and will make you feel better in the short run.
Things are also complicated by our views of PTSD and our still growing understanding of both PTSD and C-PTSD. To a person actually being triggered by, for instance, the smell of a spice that they associate with their rape; the power of such things is not a matter of being oversensitive. If you had a diabetic friend who inadvertently had an insulin reaction, you would not blame them for it and would help them. Granted, if it happened many times, you might begin to question their management of their problem. (I am choosing not to link detailed definitions for PTSD and C-PTSD here as they are easily searched.)
Rage and anger, like fear can also be triggered reactions as a result of trauma. For instance, defensiveness could be a common result for someone who always felt under attack in conversations. The trauma or behaviors that gave the person those triggers in the first place can be complex and not just the equivalent of a firefight.
So, how does all of this tie to what I have called Fires Path and coping? Well, in addition to whatever therapeutic solution with professionals which you pursue, you can find ways to use spiritual and meditative techniques to help. As my spiritual path ties heavily to anger and berserk themes as a way of finding calm through a form of personal acceptance and recognition, here are things that work in my experience:
- A regular, ideally daily, form of prayer and meditation. Here is mine: https://facingthefireswithin.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/an-article-on-the-power-of-meditation/
- Moving meditation or exercise as prayer: https://facingthefireswithin.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/exercise-as-prayer/
- Tying to #2, I find that an active and visceral style of punching such as boxing or something similar can be very powerful. Punching is actually the first thing I teach anyone working with me and it can be very transformational. As a warning, do NOT focus on a specific image or person. That can create a system in your brain that actually increases your anger.
- Distance running also ties to #2. For me, that needs to be at least five miles and I have to tie it to some of the prayers and mantras from #1.
- Concentrate some time on your friends, family and “tribe.” You will need them, especially when you fail. Tell them and frequently demonstrate to them that you love them.
- Tying to #4, have confidantes who can counsel you and whom you trust. Our perceptions are often our problem. Also, if you are victim of C-PTSD, which can include the results of gas-lighting, false accusations and other similar things, your baseline of what is reasonable is often off kilter. Friends and family become critical then. It can be mildly embarrassing to have a child point such things out to you but it is better than the alternative and is teaching them to be a good friend later in life. (Not that I would do that deliberately but your children WILL read you.)
- Again tying to #4, engage in regular shared rituals. I favor blot and symbel but my path may not be yours. Shared rituals tie us together.
- Forgive yourself – Someone else harming you is not YOUR fault. It is actually much harder to achieve than it sounds.
- Finding a purpose. This may be your family or a calling or a mission. I clearly work a lot with anger and abuse as mine. Focusing on something larger than ourselves can make a huge difference and prevent us wallowing in our troubles.
- Having a code. I favor this line from Rob Roy: “Honor is a man’s gift to himself.” If you do not have one, I highly recommend that you find one.
- Document your patterns so you can see how behaviors impact your triggers. You need to know your limitations and problems before you can address them.
- As you are able, actively work on dismantling your known triggers. Some methods include: Increased exposure, ordeals and re-framing triggering encounters. (This item is actually rather complex and I will work on writing more about this at a later time.)
Our belief system is one of active and direct action where possible. Don’t sit back after you have been knocked down, get back up and figure out how to keep going. If you are doing well, put your hand out to help someone else.
Oh, and if you need a graphic description of triggers and dissociation, here is one: