In this post we are exploring two things about triggers: how to identify them and how to manage them so they don’t control you.
After we experience trauma, it is quite normal to develop triggers in our life that re-awaken past experiences from time to time. According to Psychcentral.com, “a trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma” 1 Personally, I’ve had many jobs in my life. Some jobs I left willingly to move on to greener pastures, while other jobs ended naturally at the end of a project. However, I remember, one time, when I was laid off … let go … told … I was no longer needed. Wow, I knew in my mind that people are laid off all the time. I also believe, that being laid off is nothing to be ashamed of. However, shortly following the event, I would transport back to the mixed feelings that I had towards being let go, when I would drive by the building where I used to work. To be transparent, the sight of the building caused me to zone out of conversations, become agitated or even mutter a few choice words under my breath. In this case, sight was my trigger. In your case, you might have a trigger that is tied to one of your other senses like: sound, smell, taste or touch. For instance, the song that was playing on the radio before a car crash might trigger you. When you hear the song now, it brings you back to the accident. Trauma comes in many forms: crimes committed against you, bullying, abuse, injury, accident, abortion, death and loss to name a few. Likewise, triggers vary by person. Simply put, what is a trigger to you may not be a trigger for me. Take a moment and examine the traumatic moments in your life. When do you most often find yourself thinking back on the events? Is there anything, you recall happening that may have triggered your thoughts? Who you were with? What you were doing? I encourage you to write your thoughts down. This may be hard to do. Please take your time and do your best. If you are struggling, ask God to help you identify your triggers. Great work, if you followed the above process, you probably uncovered some triggers in your life. So now, what can you do with this knowledge? The good news is that you have choices. Let’s examine two ways to manage triggers so they don’t end up controlling you: 1) Avoid the trigger or 2) Eliminate the trigger’s power to take you back to that traumatic event in your life.
Avoiding the trigger
A simple solution to some issues is, to avoid the trigger. For instance, the book of Acts in the bible, contains stories where Peter or Paul avoided certain cities and situations because the Holy Spirit told them that if they went, they would have triggered a riot. Let’s take a last look at, my being laid off example. The sight of the building was the trigger that caused me to flash back to the time of the trauma. So my solution in the early days was to avoid seeing the building. I simply changed my driving habits so I would not go any where near the building. This solution worked for me as long as I didn’t drive by the building. Avoidance doesn’t always work especially if your trigger is a person or a place that you have to be around. Let’s look at option #2.
Eliminate the trigger’s power
Another option is to eliminate the triggers power in your life. For example, about six weeks after losing my job, I was ready to tackle driving by the building where I was laid off. I didn’t do it on my own. For a time, I cried out to God, expressed my feelings to Him, and stepped up my devotional life. In addition, I had the help of a career coach and made a point of talking to other people who were unemployed and successfully transitioned to re-employment. The transformation wasn’t immediate, but when I re-routed my driving back so I regularly passed by the building again. I began to notice that the trigger had less and less of a disturbing effect on me. So today, I don’t have to change my route; I can drive by the building with confidence, knowing the trigger has no effect on me. Thank God! I’ve shared how I gained victory over a trigger in my life. The process I went through is not a formula. I don’t want to end by giving you steps to follow so you get victory over the triggers. That would be disrespecting both God and you because He doesn’t always heal the same way each time. What I do want to do is to stimulate your faith with a couple of bible verses that express God’s desire for us to live free from things that would control us.
Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God-what is good and pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:2 (GNT)
Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything [and brought under its power, allowing it to control me]. 1 Corinthians 6:12 (AMP)
So in summary, we’ve looked at how to identify triggers in your life. We also discussed two ways to manage triggers so they don’t end up controlling you.
Let’s pray, God please help us to identify triggers we have developed that we would be better off without. Help us Lord to work through them with your guidance, wisdom and healing power. Amen.
Thanks for reading! Jeff Weber Guest Blogger Note – Election season is upon us. If you have been traumatized by anything that is currently under national debate such as abortion, immigration, terrorism, violent crime, drugs. You may need to avoid TV shows and places where discussions of these events occur. You also may use the time to weaken the trigger in your life with God’s help. I wish you well and may God bless the steps you take towards Him. 1 psychcentral.com, Article: “What is a trigger?” by U. of Alberta, Sexual Assault Centre, http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-trigger/. Quoted: “a trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.” Originally published on PsychCentral.com on 30 Oct 2015. All rights reserved.