If someone were to ask you to list and describe things that trigger you, how would you answer? Would you disclose how immensely irate you become at the sight of black injustice? Would you disclose how the smell of Gucci Guilty cologne makes your eyes constrict and water instantaneously? Would you disclose how growing-up with an absentee parent left you a tad bit apprehensive to the ideas of trust and love? Would you disclose how crowds send you into a panic, because in one breath you somehow cannot recall how to locate the nearest exit? Or what about disclosing how paralayzed in terror you become at the thought of practicing your religion in a house of worship, because it may not be as protected as you once believed?
cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.
Here is the truth about triggers: They can literally be anything. They can be a smell, the way someone touches you, a location, an outfit, a person, a name, and even a song. There is no limitation to who and what a trigger can be. Triggers are the consequences of trauma. What that means is a trigger is our body’s way of emotionally reminding us of a familiar calamity. Think of it as a warning sign. When trauma has occurred, our brains do not process the traumatic event promptly. Instead, our brains dissect meager details from that particular experience. These details can be a smell (like the cologne), or a location (such as a mosque). Those details can become dormant or “asleep” until someone or something awakens them. AKA a trigger. For example: Someone whose mosque was burnt down as a result of a hate crime, may very well be triggered by returning to another place of worship. Respectfully and understandably it may give that person overwhelming fear and flashbacks. Another example is someone who was physically beaten and sexually violated getting tense and scared when around an individual wearing that same Gucci Guilty cologne. Those flashbacks are warning signs. Those flashbacks are triggers.
For me, one of my triggers is an outfit. Well, it’s really just a top. It’s this beautiful long sleeve, blue and white, opened- back top that I purchased two years ago from Zara in Spain. And I’ve only worn it once. I wore it on my first date with the man who sexually assaulted me. I never touched it again. I wore that top with a pair of dark denim jeans and tan heels. My hair was loosely curled, and I remember making my mom take about seventy pictures of me before I went off to dinner. I was so excited that evening. Now I cannot even stomach the sight of that top. And I know you’re probably thinking “ Then just throw it away sis.” But I can’t. I think if I throw it away, a part of me believes that gives him power. Agree to disagree but it is my truth. And you know what? One day I’ll wear it out again, and make new memories in it. But for now it hangs tucked away in the rear end of my closet. And that is ok. I know my trigger, and I am choosing to be in control of it.
So this is how you can learn to be in control of yours: Pay attention to your warning signs. Pay attention to your mind and body when presented with a familiar calamity. If you know a certain location brings you uneasy memories, then do not go. If being around certain acquaintances makes you anxious and stressed, leave them be. If there is a certain level of discomfort reached everytime you go on so and so’s instagram then stop going on their instagram. Try not to think of it as being avoidant, but instead proactive. You are in control of how you react to your triggers from here on out. You may not be able to discontinue them, but you can absolutely control your response in spite of them. If dating someone whose temper reminds you of a past domestic relationship, then walk away. If engaging with family members who contribute nothing positive to your mental state stresses you; disconnect. And if Drake’s song “Jaded” makes you cry because it reminds you of your ex, delete that song sis (or bro).
Readjust your focus, and look at this way: you would not want to relive the same trauma twice if you could help it right? Exactly. I’d like to add this: If the trigger(s) develop into something too overpowering to the point of daily interference, do not be ashamed to seek professional treatment. That’s what I had to do.