Ways To Cope With Trauma – When we suffer traumatic events, the experience can stay with us in a variety of ways—even ways we may not recognize. Good trauma treatment helps us to increase our awareness of the triggers of trauma and to reduce the impact of those triggers on our daily lives.
From lingering emotions to disruptions in our daily routine, dealing with trauma takes work, especially in situations of complex trauma. This is even more true when it comes to navigating trauma triggers. What are triggers? Well, in a nutshell, they are the body, behavior, and emotional responses to trauma-related stimuli. Triggers can be sights, smells, sounds, or even written/visual content. They can be any sensory stimuli that cause an internal reaction to trauma. Learn more about trauma triggers and recognizing them in my detailed article on trauma triggers.
Ways To Cope With Trauma
Because the triggers of trauma can be so overwhelming, it’s not uncommon for people who have experienced trauma to avoid situations that might trigger flashbacks, panic, dissociation, or other symptoms of PTSD.
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Unfortunately, the nature of avoidance means that it tends to become increasingly restrictive. For example, if someone has experienced the trauma of eating blue M&Ms, after the trauma they may avoid blue M&Ms—but over time they also avoid all chocolate or even the color blue, resulting in a world that shrinks and becomes smaller as they we lose the freedom to live the life we choose.
Good trauma therapy provides a safe space to engage and calm triggers. Over time and with really good care, people who have experienced trauma can find the freedom to move on with the life they have chosen, even if it may lead them through potentially challenging situations because they know they have the tools to survive the impact. of the now mostly diffuse trigger.
After good therapy, people with trauma triggers develop the capacity to give themselves good, compassionate self-care when they need it most.
Because of the way that trauma affects the brain, it is not uncommon for someone who has experienced trauma to struggle with self-loathing. (Although some studies seem to suggest that those with good self-esteem
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To trauma tend to be able to process traumatic experiences with less self-loathing and PTSD symptoms – Source.)
The reactionary internal reaction fueled by the self-loathing of the triggers actually prevents recovery, because what we really need is kind, compassionate care.
Good therapy can help us access that compassionate care and begin to learn, as it is modeled for us, how to give ourselves kindness. By learning how to support ourselves with kindness, we can develop the confidence necessary to engage trauma triggers and quell their power to limit our lives.
Most of us use the coping tools we learned in childhood. The same coping mechanisms that our parents modeled for us (or that we realized were ways to help us survive) become our default method of dealing with difficult emotions as an adult.
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For many individuals, these coping mechanisms are more than enough to survive and thrive, but if we experience trauma, those of us with a toolbox of coping strategies that don’t work very well may experience multiple triggers. For people who haven’t had a chance to develop healthy coping strategies—or people who need some extraordinary coping skills to cope with the trauma—therapy can often help.
Good trauma therapy helps clients build a toolbox of ways to deal with triggers (and how to cope when our support systems can change at short notice). Learning how to cultivate relationships that provide emotional support, learning how to ask for help, learning how to ground yourself, and learning how to set boundaries can all add up to less intense triggers and an increased capacity to “bounce back” once activated.
After good trauma therapy, people often feel less blinded by their triggers—because they have worked to understand the trigger, its effects, and its context.
As shown in this illustration, even after really good trauma therapy and successful recovery, the triggers still remain a part of the survivor’s life.
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In this picture, the permanent presence of triggers is represented by the two puddles. In the “pre-therapy” puddle, the puddle is a deep trench containing a skeleton, an anglerfish, and shadows that hint at the presence of perhaps even more terrifying creatures. A character standing nearby has no equipment to move through this murky water.
Triggers never go away, but they change as we heal—eventually transitioning from fierce predators to mild, familiar irritants.
However, on the “after therapy” side of the image, you see how the puddle representing the triggers has changed. The monsters are gone, and the depth is manageable with the protection the woman now has. The puddle is shallow, with light that can penetrate the depths. Stepping stones (representing self-care strategies) offer a waterway to be used to march through the puddle in whatever direction she chooses.
While the triggers of trauma are often complex and persistent, good trauma therapy can give us insight into triggers and triggering situations. With treatment and recovery, avoidance can be transformed into engagement, self-loathing into self-compassion, and coping skills can be improved in ways that help us better navigate challenging experience.
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In short, good therapy can help us move toward living a more fulfilling life that is not limited by trauma triggers.
The first image has a background that is a light blue sky with green hills in the background, with gray earth below. The title of the image is written in black text and reads “Coping with Trauma Triggers”. The image has two components: the left side says “before treatment,” and those words are written on top of a gold banner. Below the title is a drawing of a person with dark blonde hair, fair skin and glasses, wearing a gray sweater, black pants and brown shoes. Their faces show fear as their arms are crossed over their chests and they are looking at the water hole. The hole is labeled “triggers” and has a skull and crossbones at the bottom of it, as well as an angler. The image has the labels: “Avoid”, “Self-loathing”, “No protection” and “Unknown depth”. The person has not participated in trauma therapy and, when faced with a trigger (unknown depth), feels unprotected, shunned, and filled with self-loathing. On the right side of the image is a gold banner that says “after treatment”. Below the title is a drawing of a person with dark blonde hair in a ponytail, fair skin and glasses, wearing a gold rain jacket, white shirt, jeans and rain boots. Their arms are crossed and they have a look of determination on their face. Their foot is raised as if they are about to step into a puddle on the ground which has an overturned bucket over it and gray stones and bricks around it. The image is labeled: “Engaging,” “Self-Compassion,” “Coping Strategies,” and “Not So Deep.” The person has undergone trauma therapy and can face the trigger with engagement, self-compassion, coping strategies and can see the reality of the situation.
The second image is of the same drawing with different labels. The person on the left has a headline above them that reads, “Encountering trauma makes for good trauma therapy.” The person, who has her arms crossed over her chest and a scary look on her face, has three labels written in white bubbles pointing at her: “Wastes a lot of energy avoiding triggers,” which points to their face, “Very little protection or coping tools.” pointing to the pants and flat shoes and “Self-Loathing”, pointing to the crossed arms. There is a fourth label pointing to a deep hole filled with water that reads, “Deep dark crevices of unknown depths,” pointing to the fisherwoman and the skull. The person on the right has a headline above them that reads “Encountering Trauma Makes for Good Trauma Therapy.” The person wearing a rain jacket and boots, with arms crossed and a determined look on their face, has three labels pointing at them: “Confidence that you are more than your trauma,” which points to the determined look on their face, Self-compassion, which shows of the crossed arms and “Tools and strategies that manage exposure,” pointing to the jacket and boots. Pointing to the puddle are two labels: “Ways to reduce the intensity of the triggers”, pointing to the bucket and brick, and “Still there, but not as deep”. Upsetting life events – whether expected or unexpected – can trigger a trauma response in all of us. Common unexpected events include an assault or robbery, a car or bicycle accident, a traumatic medical experience (eg, childbirth, invasive surgery), or bullying at work. Even where the distressing event is expected, as is the case with certain occupations, such as first responders (for example, police officers, firefighters, ambulance officers and paramedics) and frontline health care workers (for example, nurses, doctors), the events they attend can lead to trauma.
Trauma is psychological, emotional,
Amazon.com: Coping With Trauma Related Dissociation: Skills Training For Patients And Therapists (norton Series On Interpersonal Neurobiology): 9780393706468: Boon, Suzette, Steele, Kathy, Hart Ph.d., Onno Van Der: Books
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