18. May, 2017

When the "Giant" Awakens! - Triggers

Deep wounds need deep healing; for example, the woman at the well needed an encounter with the true Healer of her soul, because her emotional wounds were so deep and beyond the human capacity to mend.

The woman at the well had five husbands, who left her; in fact, she was living with a bloke by the time she met Jesus at the well. She was broken. Her deep emotional needs were hidden deeply; and indeed, contained within a bottomless pit, camouflaged by socially acceptable behaviours and self-protection reactions.  She was a bit prickly and deceptive, trying to hide whom she was behind defensive and challenging communication.

 

Similarly, those of us that have had deep childhood wounds, with trauma built upon trauma, with no-one there to protect or rescue us, learned to survive by learning new behaviours, and by burying the pain and hurt below the surface. Indeed, camouflaging them with socially acceptable behaviours, and keeping people at an arm's length, in case they discover what’s beneath the surface.  However, you can only hide things for so long, and that only lasts whilst life is at a comfortable/safe level.  It’s possible to keep the hurt hidden beneath coping behaviours whilst things are going well; that is until we are ‘triggered’ and it awakens the sleeping giant, within our “bottomless pit” of hurtful memories.

The more traumatic the childhood memories are the more likely the ‘triggers’ will always be just below the surface. The trouble is that we don’t recognise the ‘triggers;’ and likewise, we don’t recognise the memories, so we tend to blame the current person/circumstances for the pain we are facing in the present moment. Our past emotional pain is somehow brought to the surface and unleashed at the trigger point. However, we are never sure of what will flick the trigger.  It could be something a simple as a smell, sound, feeling, tone, stress, a challenge, or just being alone; or indeed, in a relationship. Many unnoticeable things may “trip the trigger.”

After I was diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress, I researched what happens to survivors when they dissociate. Why and how they dissociate? I ended up becoming frustrated that I couldn’t find full healing.  I know God has the power to heal but if we don’t know what we are to be healed from (because it’s hidden in the “bottomless pit) then how can we let Him in to heal us? I had spent most of my life running from it, hiding it and trying to survive it. I determined that if we had an understanding of what and why dissociation happens then it would prepare us for when it did happen. 

Many times we put a lot of self-effort into changing our reactions and our behaviours only to find that once a ‘trigger’ hits us we are back into our ‘fallout shelter’ and having to start from square one again. As a result, we need to repair damage to our relationships because those around us are confused by our actions and reaction. It is a never-ending cycle of surviving from a trigger to trigger. 

A few years ago, a ‘trigger’ sent me to a ‘bottomless pit’ that I would rate as one of the worst I’ve experienced. It took me to a depth of despair, which I had not felt before and I couldn’t find my way out. I decided to take notes on what I was feeling and the steps I took when I came out to try and bring some form of understanding to what I was facing. It rendered me powerless to take action to help myself. I couldn’t reach out because I had no way of explaining what I was feeling. Moreover, all I knew was that it was dark and I was afraid and felt hopeless. 

Being married created ‘triggers’ I never encountered while I was single. I didn’t want to live alone, yet I was more together and in control of my life than when I was in a relationship.

I didn’t want a relationship that caused such emotional pain, so I started researching how other people worked through their ‘stuff.’ As a result, all I found, that was remotely close to what I would go through, were the Vietnam Veterans who suffered Complex Post Traumatic Stress.

While I was not in a good emotional place to accept that I may suffer from C-PTSD, I could recognise that there were similarities when I went into my ‘bottomless pit.’ 

I never split to become different personalities; however, ‘triggers’ would send me into a deep well of despair, where I couldn’t function well, and indeed, I would shut down. During these times, I would isolate myself, because I couldn’t explain to others what was happening to me when I didn’t know myself. I also, was vulnerable to the manipulation of others, during these times.

I decided to keep a diary of how I reacted to situations and people, to try and find when and how I got triggered.

I researched and found myself a good psychologist, that worked with people suffering from C-PTSD and I prayed a lot. It was worth every moment, we worked to unpeel the hidden layers of my ‘bottomless pit.”

After six years of learning to recognise the triggers, why they happen and what to do when they happen; furthermore, to recognise the memory they are associated with. I have come to a place of keeping the ‘beast’ chained in the “pit.’ It’s not bottomless anymore because I know they have no power over my present life.

I won’t say that I don’t get triggered; I do. However, the beast is never unleashed without my permission.

 I could never have done this on my own. I needed help, I went after it and I got what I needed to live at peace with my past. Specifically, how I was designed to live; and as a result, similar to the woman at the well, I let down my defenses and allowed Jesus into those hidden places that brought me heartache and shame. I have come to accept and like who I am now, warts and all.

My next Blog will be to explain what a “Bottomless Pit” looks like. I like to call them “Fallout Shelters” and I’ll explain the different levels of shelters we build around ourselves.