Daily Archives: June 8, 2016

Tiggers

Tigger_flowers Tigger_flowers Tigger_flowers

Ooops I meant triggers!

What are they?

They are situations or things, sometimes they can even be people’s behavior, which actually “re-trigger” an emotional reaction to a past traumatic event. So, when you are triggered, you are really not responding to the present situation, but you are responding as if you were now in the past and the past situation was recurring, and usually it is a very strong reaction. This sounds so weird and so surreal, but it really can happen. Until recently I didn’t know what they were or that I was capable of being “triggered.” I guess I could get angry at my parents, it is the trauma that both of them caused me that is now being triggered. Yes, I am angry, that not only did they abuse me in the past, but even now, 50 years later, I am still paying for it. How is that any kind of justice at all? Oh, well, I’ll get over the anger, because what I really want to do is to find a way to stop being triggered, by anything at all. That means people, places, situations, or things.

I have come to realize that my trigger is always when I feel (even if I really didn’t do anything) I have done something wrong, messed up totally, and now my friends or relations will leave me. This comes from having been afraid and panic stricken that I caused my father to leave, it is the fear in me that I did something wrong, made a mistake and due to that my father left and never had anything to do with me again. That is a fear from when I was 4-5 years old and some things trigger it and then my response to these innocuous things is extreme. My response is not to the things that trigger it, it is a re-trigger of the intense abandonment feelings I must have felt when my father left. Also, my baby brother Farooq’s departure was not easy and probably contributed to my trauma.

I’ve been reading all day about triggers, although I’d have preferred reading about Tiggers, haha:-)

All the psychologists, therapists, and mental health websites are very encouraging, saying that these responses can be understood and overcome!

“1in6.org Getting Triggered” (1) says the following, and it is very, very optimistic and hopeful: Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to greatly increase your awareness of your own unique triggers, and of what happens in your mind and body when particular things trigger you. With that foundation of awareness and understanding in place, you can learn how to avoid simply responding as you always did in the past, and instead respond in new and much more healthy ways.

Also, I found a book called “Outsmart Your Brain: How to Make Success Feel Easy”                (http://outsmartyourbrain.com/outsmart-your-brain-how-to-make-success-feel-easy/)

This is a book about how to control your emotions so you can be successful in your personal life as well as your work environment. I have it on my Kindle reader and have started reading it, I will post about the book after I’m done.

The blurb says: “Change your thoughts, you change your behavior” has long been the mantra for the personal growth movement. Yet no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to stop the negative mental chatter that leads to needless arguing, tension, frustration, and eventually a numbing process that restricts access to our joy and passion.

What is the reason we can’t stop the noise? We are under the spell of our over-protective brains.

To feel more energy, stimulate creativity, increase persuasive powers and live healthier, more joyful lives, you have to wage war against your brain. Once you know how your brain works, you can harness the processes and consciously choose how you want to feel and act. Knowing how to shift emotional states at will is the most important factor in achieving success and happiness. Outsmart Your Brain! is full of exercises, examples and guidelines that teach you how to tap into your hidden mental powers to make better decisions and influence those around you to create the results you desire.

Learn how your brain works, then outsmart it.

I am seriously so sick of my unruly emotions and getting carried away by them that I will do whatever it takes to get them under my control. I don’t care what it’s called, being triggered, PTSD, trauma, what ever, it’s just going to have to go away and I will be in control of my own emotions, as god is my witness, I will! I am really serious. I am talking to my therapist, I am still doing “inner child” work… I am still doing breathing exercises, whatever it takes, I am going to do, whatever it takes to successfully deal with my emotions, heal, and be a normal effing person!

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(1) https://1in6.org/men/get-information/online-readings/self-regulation-and-addictions/getting-triggered/

Suddenly In Defense or Survival Mode

When triggers hit, they’re usually unexpected and beyond your control.

And what usually happens next, right after the trigger: You react with old ‘defenses’ or ‘survival strategies’ that are no longer helpful or healthy (if they ever were), and that only make things worse.

Some simple examples of triggers and the ‘conditioned responses’ they unleash:

  • Someone criticizes something you’ve said or done, and you instantly get defensive and angry, then verbally go on the attack.
  • Someone criticizes something you’ve said or done, and you instantly feel crushed and defeated, then go silent and try to ‘disappear.’
  • Walking into your childhood home, your body suddenly tenses up and your eyes scan for threats.

The Nature of Triggers

Triggers can be totally obvious, like someone touching you sexually when you don’t want or expect it, or someone threatening you or clearly trying to take advantage of you.

Triggers can be obvious or subtle, in our awareness or not.

Or they can be subtle, like someone making a mildly sarcastic comment that reminds you of mean and shaming things a parent used to say, or someone giving you a look that seems to have some contempt in it.

Triggers aren’t always about other people and what they say or do. They can be something like a faint smell of alcohol (that used to be on the breath of an abuser). They could be the shape of a man’s moustache, a style of clothing, a wallpaper pattern, or the sound of a slamming door. They can be an ‘anniversary’ date of a traumatic event like an abuse experience or someone’s death.

What are triggers for a particular man depends on his unique experiences of being vulnerable and hurt in his life, and the unique details of the situations in which those experiences occurred.

The trigger is always real. By definition, a trigger is something that reminds you of something bad or hurtful from your past. It ‘triggers’ an association or memory in your brain.

But sometimes you are imagining that what’s happening now is actually like what happened back then, when in reality it’s hardly similar at all, or it just reminds you because you’re feeling vulnerable in a way you did when that bad thing happened in the past.

Just as triggers range from obvious to subtle, sometimes we’re aware of them and sometimes we’re not. Your body may suddenly freak out with a racing heart and feeling of panic, but you have no idea what set off that reaction. You may suddenly feel enraged in a slightly tense conversation, but be unable to point to anything in particular that made you angry. Sometimes you can figure it out later (for example in therapy), and sometimes not.

Also, though we may not realize that we just got triggered, or why, it can be obvious to someone who knows us well, like a partner, friend, or therapist. When you feel comfortable doing so, with someone you really trust, it can be very helpful to talk over situations where you seemed to over-react.

Triggers that involve other people’s behavior are often connected to ways that we repeat unhealthy relationship patterns learned in childhood. Things that other people do – especially people close to us and especially in situations of conflict – remind us of hurtful things done to us in the past. Then we respond as if we’re defending ourselves against those old vulnerabilities, hurts, or traumas.

But our responses usually just trigger vulnerable feelings in the other person, as well as their own old self-defense patterns, and we both end up repeating the unhealthy relationship patterns we that fear and don’t want in our lives.

As noted above, other common triggers include ‘anniversaries,’ that is, dates or holidays that remind you, at some level, of traumatic experiences, of how your family wasn’t and isn’t so happy and loving, etc.

Triggers’ Power and Effects

The power of a trigger depends on how closely it resembles a past situation or relationship, how painful or traumatic that situation or relationships was, and the state of your body and brain when the triggering happens.

Reactions can be big and fast, or creep up on you slowly.

If you’re feeling very calm and safe, the reaction will be much less than if you’re feeling anxious and afraid. If you’re feeling little support or trust in a relationship, your reactions to triggering behaviors by the other person will be much greater.

A trigger can bring out feelings, memories, thoughts, and behaviors.

Other people might have no idea that you’ve been triggered, but you could be struggling with terrible memories in your head. Or you could suddenly have all kinds of negative thoughts and beliefs about the other person and/or yourself, like, ‘I never should have trusted her,’ ‘Every woman will stab you in the heart,’ ‘What a loser I am,’ etc.

Reactions to triggers can be very dramatic and rapid, like lashing out at someone who says the wrong thing or looks at you the wrong way. In these cases, your brain has entered a ‘fight or flight’ state and the part of your brain that you need to think clearly, to remember your values and what’s important to you, and to reflect on your own behavior, is effectively shut down.

But responses to triggers can also creep up on you, playing out over hours and days, and get worse over time.

You may find yourself depressed and retreating from any contact with friends, or drinking a lot more every night, or smoking way more cigarettes than usual. You may find youself getting lost in TV, videogames, or pornography. Days later you may wonder, ‘Woah, how did I get back intothis?’

Awareness and Learning = Freedom and Control

Basically, if you’re reacting to someone or something much more intensely than seems to make sense, then the situation has triggered something deeper and older in your brain. You’re not reacting to what’s actually happening in the here and now, and you’re certainly not acting freely.

You can change how you respond to triggers.

Instead, you’re feeling and acting, however consciously or unconsciously, as if you’re ‘back there’ in that old painful or traumatic experience, on autopilot and enslaved by old conditioning.

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to greatly increase your awareness of your own unique triggers, and of what happens in your mind and body when particular things trigger you. With that foundation of awareness and understanding in place, you can learn how to avoid simply responding as you always did in the past, and instead respond in new and much more healthy ways.

In this way, you can free yourself from deeply ingrained conditioning, actually rewiring your brain to respond in new and much healthier ways to the inevitable triggers we all encounter in our lives and relationships.

For many men, understanding and reconditioning their responses to triggers will require, or be greatly speeded up, by help from a therapist or counselor. There are also self-help resources available, including those mentioned under Additional Resources below.


Denial, DBT Skills, and the Onset of a Non-Typical Summer Vacation

dog happier

Without planning and without, really, even a second thought, I placed myself on summer vacation a few weeks ago.  I had been putting a lot of time and energy into DBT and using the skills, and I was getting frustrated with the other participants in my group.  It was (is) chock-full of people who don’t do their homework, who don’t complete their diary cards, and who are disruptive at any chance.

One of the women frequently gets angry and storms out, never to come back.  Why she is allowed to do that over and over and over, I do not know.  We DID all sign a contract that DID put some limitations on maladaptive behaviors (or therapy-avoiding behaviors, in this case).  While the storming out is, at best, quite disruptive and unsettling, it is mostly just annoying to me that this person walks out instead of using skills which she clearly should have something of a grasp on, one year into the program.  I mean, even a limited grasp, I would say.

But, don’tcha know, DBT is all about not being judgmental and meeting people where they are, and it is not I that am leading the group (although I have had enough DBT I could probably give a fairly good whack at it, and have already been told I have enough knowledge and experience to be a peer leader).  I decided that, while I have  mostly been focusing on distress tolerance and floating with emotion (rather than fighting), and doing urge surfing, I need now to focus on nonjudgemental stance.  That means focusing on not being judgmental of other people and, even trickier, not being judgmental of MYSELF.  Let’s just say it has not been an easy row to hoe.

My life outside of DBT has offered up plenty of opportunities for me to be harsh and critical and judgmental, as well as plenty of opportunities to leave me in complete hysterics for days on end.  I am happy to say that I have not succumed (much) to said hysterics, and am only indulging myself in small amounts of FTFO (otherwise known as “freaking the fuck out”).

I am allowing myself to ask LarBear and my dad for help, and I have been using interpersonal skills from DBT to get my needs met as far as setting boundaries and asking for what I want and need from pretty much any relationship I have at the moment.  It works, and if you don’t use it, you lose it, with the latter part of that being so very true, and the reason I always find myself back in formal DBT groups every few years.

Many a boulder of big news will roll down the proverbial hill in the next year or so, I would say.  Most of it is good, and the rest can best be classified as “unknown” for others, but neutral for me.  Because I have so many wonderful family members that read, I can’t go into too much detail at this very moment, but big changes are coming to my life, and so I find that I am using the start of my own “summer vacation” to just chill out a little bit.

You know, enjoy the good things in life and flat-out pretend that the bad are not happening.  Sometimes a little denial is all you need to get yourself through a day peacefully, and while it isn’t necessarily a coping skill that one should employ on an every-moment basis, it sure does make me more tolerable to be around and also keep me from hyperventilating about all of the stuff running around in my mind.


Filed under: Life Worth Living Tagged: anxiety, bipollar, break, DBT, DBT skills, depression, dialectical behavior therapy, life worth living, PTSD, vacation

I Hate Hubby Being Away

I don’t even have a shirt of his that has his scent because we washed all the laundry this weekend.

I’m sad and non-motivated to even write my blog today. Sorry.