A Time of Triggers: Finding Freedom after Trauma

If you are like me, with a history of early trauma, then this is indeed a challenging time–at least for many of us living in America. When it became clear that Trump would win the election this past November, I regressed significantly. It was as if I curled up in a ball or dove into a burrow. Another way to put it–I froze.  I went into panic mode. My amygdala, that alarm in the brain, was having its way with me.

Since that day, I’ve turtled inward a number of times as a way to cope with perceived danger. Despair and depression began to manifest. Many who have experienced infant or early trauma, or any trauma at all, may react this way post-election. Some though who have experienced early trauma may feel protected by an imminent Trump presidency. I can only speak for myself. His denial of climate change, his hate speech against Muslims and Mexican immigrants, his incitement of violence at rallies, his predatory attitude with regard to women, his hysterical tweeting, and more, trigger my early trauma. How automatic my regression is in this climate of hostility!  I become that helpless baby operated on without anesthesia at one-month old.

It’s uncomfortable though to remain in this triggered state of panic and helplessness, and the sooner I realize that I am feeling helpless or panicked due to a trigger, the sooner I can find my way to my power and my sense of agency. Just recognizing the fact that my panicked, frozen state results from my fear of America being ruled by a tyrant helps me recover myself. I’m not this helpless baby; I’m a mature adult, managing myself with effective tools. One of the ways I’ve climbed out of my burrow again and again is by choosing an activity to engage in from my list ways to cope. 

Here are a few items on the list:  

  1. Take care of my home
  2. Strengthen bonds with like-minded people
  3. Go outdoors
  4. Reach out in support of Muslims and immigrants and those marginalized
  5. Read about those impacting the world in a loving, healing way
  6. Learn facts about history and consciousness, deprogramming propaganda 

These activities set me on a path of peace and stability.

To me, Trump is a living representation of the trauma state–a hyper-aroused amygdala. He projects fear, suspicion, alarm, and anxiety, spreading insecurity, but I don’t have to buy what he’s selling. Though I am more susceptible to his bullying as a result of my infant trauma, I have the power to unplug my somatic response of panic and my emotional response of terror.

Breathe. Sense the aliveness of my body. Awaken to my ability to create peace and stability. Re-contact the confidence in myself that I’ve cultivated over the years. The idea is not to ignore the very real dangers of a Trump presidency but to respond to it, not react. Live not from fears due to the triggers of the past but from a sense of power in the alive present. In this time when triggers abound, find freedom.

2 Responses to A Time of Triggers: Finding Freedom after Trauma
  1. Fred Vanderbom
    December 28, 2016 | 3:21 am

    The sadness, panic, and helplessness you feel, Wendy, are being felt by countless many around the world. Thank you for putting into words something of your both troubled and mature response to Trump’s election. We do well to recognize and embrace both.
    Because outside the USA we are not quite as directly and fully involved in what has happened in your country (in Australia we have our own self-made failures and shame), I have not (yet) experienced triggers related to Trump. But I have other things that are unwanted or unexpected and trigger my ptsd-related emotions.
    But all of us (regardless of our location and political and other convictions) do well to be “mindful” as often as we need to be of our personal responsibility to be the best ambassadors of wisdom, goodness, peace and healing we can be.

  2. Wendy
    December 28, 2016 | 11:44 am

    Thank you for this beautiful response. I feel your sympathy and am comforted by it. I hope others feel this, too. I love your point about our “personal responsibility” to be “the best ambassadors.” If we can stay fast to our principles of friendship, we will weather the storm. We must remain not only friends to others but friends to ourselves–compassion within and without. If we react to politics because of past trauma, let’s forgive ourselves and respond when we can in “goodness” and “healing.”

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