My new friend, Melissa Ruff, is the director of Live Free Wives, an online community for women affected by betrayal trauma. She has walked the road of betrayal and feels called to come alongside women experiencing pain and trauma. She’s written some wise words regarding Triggers. ( I love how she keeps Jesus in the picture! ) Check out her two ways of coping—
Two Ways to Cope with Triggers from Betrayal Trauma
Triggers. I wish they were not a thing! But the reality is that triggers are a normal response your body has from trauma. A trigger can be from a certain smell, a specific food, driving down a familiar street, or even hearing, what used to be, a favorite song, to name a few. Basically, a trigger is anything that stimulates your senses in such a way that brings you back to a traumatic event in your life; like you are reliving it.
That’s when your body goes into high alert. Your fight, flight or freeze response kicks in. And, man, that is disruptive! If you are like me, freezing happens instinctually. I feel completely disconnected and almost like I am not in my body anymore. Or maybe you tend to fight. You want to tackle it head on and face the danger. Or possibly flight happens. You want to run away as fast as you can.
Then there is the option of multiple responses at once. Maybe you feel like you want to run and then you freeze after a while. Whatever your physical response is, chances are that your heart rate goes up, you start breathing faster, maybe get a little dizzy, and even further panic sets in.
While your body is reacting physically, your thought life tends to spiral. My old response would be to think of all the horrible things that my husband is doing or hiding. My mind would tell me all kinds of lies and I had no clue how to stop it. I would think that I am not good enough, that, oh man, I need to do something better. And once those lies creep in and settle for a bit, your emotions follow suite. Sadness, feeling out of control, anger, fatigue, hurt, isolation, among many others. You begin to feel hopeless.
BUT there is hope.
Triggers are a natural occurrence of experiencing trauma, but triggers do not have to rule your life. There are ways to cope with them. Triggers do not have to determine your day, your week or, for the matter, your worth and identity. While many different techniques are out there to help you navigate, I am going to go over my two favorites: deep breathing and mindfulness.
Deep breathing sounds super easy, right? Well, it does take practice believe it or not! When I was in counseling, my counselor taught my husband and I how to breathe. She had us sit in chairs, put our hands on our stomachs and take deep breaths in and out. She would count to three while breathing in,hold for a second, then breathe out for another three count.
That type of deep breathing is wonderful and helpful, but I thought that it could go further. As a Jesus follower, I need to have Him in everything. So, I thought why not in deep breathing too? Instead of counting to three while breathing in and out, I say Bible verses. My favorite one is 2 Timothy 1:7. This is what that looks like: I breathe in and say to myself “God did not give me a spirit of fear”, I breathe out and say, “God gave me a spirit of power”. I continue doing that through the verse or as long as I need. This helps to bring our bodies back to a state of calm and refocuses our eyes to Christ.
Mindfulness is another technique that helps us come back down from our heightened state. Mindfulness, essentially, is becoming aware your current surroundings and how your body currently feels. When triggered, mindfulness helps to bring you back to the current moment, instead of reliving the past trauma.
To practice getting into that mind frame, start to notice your senses when you do everyday tasks. For example, when you are folding laundry, notice how each piece of clothing feels in your hand, how the fresh clean clothes smell, if they are warm notice that. Practicing being aware in the present moment will enable you to better notice when you triggered and when your body is heightened so that you can more quickly begin a grounding technique, including deep breathing and mindfulness!
The whole point of these two techniques is to enable you to bring your physical and emotional being back to state of calm so that you can better assess what triggered you, what thoughts you are speaking to yourself when this happens and if those thoughts are true or if they are lies. Then, because you are calm, you can tell yourself the truth. For example, the lies of being not being good enough can be shut down and I can speak the truth of who I am: a worthy, child of God.
Try practicing these techniques today. The more you practice the tools in your tool belt, the easier it is to utilize them once you are triggered.
While this article is hopefully helpful to you, please note that this does not take the place of seeking out counseling and a solid community that can help you walk the path of healing. So please be sure to take those next steps if you haven’t already. Seeing a solid Christian counselor that is well versed in betrayal trauma is an amazing step in healing. Seeking out a community like Live Free Wives will help keep you on track with women that have been there!
Praying over you. You are worthy. You are a child of God.