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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.

EMDR Works!

After my EMDR session last week, I walked through the aisles of Sprouts Farmers Market, feeling super UN-self-conscious! I felt large–large in the sense of being fully present in myself–and free–as in gliding through air, curious at all the wonderful colors and people and sights and sounds. It’s not like I don’t ever experience these… Continue Reading

EMDR on the Horizon: Wish Me Luck!

This coming Friday, I will be doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).* Don’t ask me what it really is–I’ll tell you after my first session. As I understand it though, from reading an interview with the trauma expert Dr. Van der Kolk and hearing people’s reports over the years, it’s a way of desensitizing… Continue Reading

To Thine Own Triggers Be True: The Power of Self-Awareness

I am walking down the fifth-floor hallway of the Superior Court of Sacramento at G and 8th, on jury duty for the fourth day. The tiled floor, black with gray and white flecks, is meticulously cared for and shines with a recent polishing. The round ceiling lights reflect brightly in the black squares below, and I… Continue Reading

Life in Traumaland: Working with Triggers

Ah, time for relief from stress and for much-needed exercise–a refreshing dip in my neighbor’s pool. Late afternoon is perfect–a quiet, sunset time with a slight breeze gently swaying the treetops. The water is clear and clean and at first toe-tip feels too cold, but I remember my friend’s words: “The river is 66 degrees… Continue Reading