The Physical and Emotional Impact of Being Triggered
I have been triggered a couple of times in the past week. Both times, I was in situations that I felt safe in initially. Sometimes with trauma, there is no way to predict when the trigger may occur, so being able to self-regulate is VITAL. I’m grateful that I’ve learned how to self-regulate; it’s been life-changing. Through this process, I’ve come to realize that most people don’t understand what it means to be triggered, or how the experience of it feels in the body.
I had attempted to post this video on social media, but was limited by algorithms and timing constraints. To understand it fully, the video needs to be viewed in entirety. A word of caution to those who struggle with what may be considered “vulgar” language. This video is an authentic expression of my thoughts, one day after I had been re-activated from a trigger that 5 days previously, and then re-triggered that same evening after being re-activated. It was a hellish day and challenging, but it was the day of the video when the effects just slammed me.
Here is the first video I made:
There are 3 levels of functioning according to Stephen Porge’s Polyvagal Nerve Theory when dealing with stressful/challenging situations, and the degree of stress influences which level of functioning occurs based upon whether the situation is perceived as safe, dangerous or life threatening:
- “safe” (level 1) situations result in normal social engagement;
- “dangerous” (level 2) situations result in a hyper vigilant state, also known as “fight or flight”;
- “life-threatening” (level 3) situations result in immobilization, also known as “freeze or fold”; we completely dissociate.
As I mention in the video, I was a “freeze and folder” for most of my life. After a year of regularly practicing self-regulation techniques, I am able to stay in “fight or flight” which has been a huge success for me; maintaining a higher level of engagement.
I am also posting this 2nd video I created the same day, after I had an opportunity to properly self-regulate. I talk about the same things; I show it to demonstrate the noticeable difference in my demeanor.
I mention in the video that I was in nature and chilled out. What did that look like? Well, you know, I was fucking pissed off after I made the first video – righteous anger. Really feeling it. So I went to Barton Springs and did a couple of dead hang pull-ups (one overhand and one underhand for those who want the technical details) then followed that up with some handstand push-ups using a telephone pole. Yes upside down feet in the air push-ups; they release a lot. (You know this story wouldn’t be complete without a fire ant bite. Yup, only one this time.) I ended with a swim in the creek, because getting into that water is always a sweet and gentle release.
Self-regulation works! You can see this clearly from the 2nd video.
Yes I was exhausted, but I was embodied again. Grounded in myself instead of the experience that had passed. To all of those people who have experienced what I have: we are in this together. There are many of us out there, so know that even if you haven’t found your voice, you are not alone. This is why I do the work that I do. The medical system is traumatizing for people like you and I. We need Compassionate Touch to Heal. Period.
To those who have not had this experience, thank you for taking the time to read this article and watch my videos. I hope this has brought some awareness to the challenges that healing from trauma can invoke. We all know someone who has suffered from trauma. Healing is possible and support is needed.
Looking for self-regulation techniques? See my recent blog post: Trauma Self-Regulation through “Touch”.