This week, quite unexpectedly a current event triggered an emotional reaction due to a past experience. As a young adult, this would be a common occurrence for me however, these days, not so much. I don’t know what the original experience was as a lot of my memories are repressed and although I gave it some time and energy, it didn’t surface this time and so I just put it down just being part of my life sentence. In this article, I share what my life sentence is and how I deal with these situations when they show up.
My life sentence
As a child, I endured not just one instance of sexual abuse but over ten years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by the people who had been put in charge of raising and protecting me. A lot of my memories have surfaced and I have dealt with them but because there were so many experiences, they may never all show up, and that’s ok because I don’t need them to in order to live a happy and fulfilling life.
If they do show up, I have done a LOT of work on myself to ensure that these triggers no longer effect me more than they should. I have also come to peace with the fact that they will continue to be a part of my journey for the rest of my life. So, although the perpetrators were never charged and continue to live out their life in freedom, I live mine with what I call, my life sentence.
5 steps to managing triggers
The good news is that these trigger experiences are quite rare these days and I now have the knowledge, tools and support to minimise and manage the effect they have. Here are the five steps I take when one shows up:
- Be aware of your behaviour – I recognise when I am triggered by the change in my behaviour. If I suddenly feel anxious, nervous for no apparent reason, agitated or angry unnecessarily. If I begin to people please, or apologise profusely, or feel the need to be submissive. These are all symptoms that I have been triggered.
- Have support available to you – being fearless and facing these triggers and past memories that may surface at any time isn’t easy when you are doing it on your own so I recommend having a small group of people that you can call upon to support you to come back to your true self. These can be friends, family or professionals.
- Let people know – there is no point having a support group if you don’t actually tell them what is happening for you. By voicing your feelings, it can help you to gain clarity and to bring you back to the reality of the present day. It’s also important to let those close to you know what’s going on so that they can understand your behaviour and have the opportunity to support you too.
- Build your skills – I now have an arsenal of skills and tools that I am able to use to manage these episodes that I have gathered over the years. Some of my favourites are journaling, meditation, exercise, hypnotherapy, EFT, hugs, helping others, and other nurturing things like spa appointments.
- Do the work – you can’t brush off these situations or they will keep showing up. You must do the work that is necessary so that you can learn what it is you need to and put that trigger to bed once and for all. This is something that you may be able to do yourself using the skills and tools you have but don’t be afraid to book in to see a professional if you need to. There’s nothing wrong with getting help and you might learn a new tool to add to your toolbox for next time.
I know that there will continue to be trigger experiences throughout my life and these are just part of my life sentence from a childhood that wasn’t my choice. But it is my choice how much I let them effect my current life. These days I am no longer trapped or held back by my life sentence and my ball and chain are so small I barely know it’s there and I use these situations when they show up, to remind myself of just how far I have come.
I hope this article has been helpful to you if you are dealing with similar experiences. If you would like to hear how one of The Fearless Females Podcast interviewees dealt with her repressed memories surfacing many years later, you can listen to her interview here.