Triggers: What are they?
It still happens to me, every so often, that I get triggered by something around me. All of a sudden I feel very small and uncomfortable inside.
Nowadays I recognize the feeling. Something touches me subconsciously and it usually is related to the sexual abuse in my past.
Last time it happened I was in a department store, looking for a belt. I have Iost some weight, which is in itself good news for me, but I can’t afford to buy a new wardrobe every month. So I looked for a belt to help keep my pants up. At the lady’s department I couldn’t find any belts, so we headed to the men’s. They always have plenty.
About halfway down the aisle I felt very anxious. My girlfriend was already looking through the many belts displayed, trying to find the perfect one. “How about this one,” she asked me joyfully while holding up a small black belt with a simple buckle.
Suddenly I feel disconnected. I try to find any and every excuse to not buy this belt, none of which make any sense. Inside I feel like I want to run away and never come back. Luckily my girlfriend noticed my discomfort and knew we had to take my mind elsewhere.
Dealing with triggers
Step out of the moment. My friend suggested:
“Let’s go get a cup of coffee first.”
After we drank our cappucchinos I calmed down and I could look at what happened.
The man who abused me used to wear grey or black pants with a simple black belt.
Which I always had to unbuckle. Quite a chore for those little fingers. It’s not at all surprising that the belts in the store brought back those feelings.
Feelings came first. The images later, while drinking coffee.
It’s obvious that this type of belt reminds me of the sexual abuse. Now I have a choice. By seeing the belt for what it was, just another black belt, nothing out of the ordinary or threatening about it, I can choose buy it. Or leave it.
Make your decision in the here and now
“I actually think this is a very ugly belt. I want something more flattering to support my femininity.”
We set out to find a salesclerk, who directed us to the lady’s belts. I bought a beautiful small blue belt with a simple clasp. I was so happy! (and its 6th hole fits by now…. I’m still shrinking!)
Take triggers seriously…
It’s that simple to get triggered.
It’s also that simple to deal with triggers, at least, once you’ve been through the healing process. Thing is: In the past I would’ve probably bought the black belt. I was not in the habig of taking myself seriously. If I would’ve even connected my discomfort to my sexual abuse trauma, I would’ve suppressed this knowledge and forced myself to wear the belt regardless.
…Then let go
Fortunately I don’t force myself like that anymore and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying myself tremendously. Shopping happily and freely.