Why I embrace my triggers

“Trigger warnings” don so many posts on the internet these days. Which I believe shows a real upsurge in compassion and understanding of what others’ have been through, of knowing there is so much we can’t know. But it sounds so scary. A trigger releases a bullet from a gun. A moment which can stand between life and death. But emotional “triggers” are not scary to me anymore.

I used to run from them. I avoided anything with a “trigger warning” and when I couldn’t, I would often fall into a heap of myself. Crying, but not for the memory, for the fact that it wasn’t doing what I asked it to. I had shoved it down somewhere and asked it not to return. I still avoid movies that depict violent rape, but I also avoid ghost stories. These are just things I don’t want to watch. But when something in my life “triggers” the memory of a past trauma, I now embrace it.

I think of these moments as when my body is asking me to remember something. Every time I have walked into the memory with an open heart, I have found healing and not more terror. The worst of those memories has past. I have already experienced these things in real time. What’s left doesn’t have to haunt me, as I let my body guide me to what I need to know.

Often times we think we are “over something.” But the truth is there are layers and layers to go through. My body worker talks about this a lot as she is regularly talking with people about emotional blockages in their bodies from troubles they believe they are “over.” I have talked before about how I thought I was “over” my assaults, only to realize there were more I hadn’t identified. When I felt I had forgiven those men and thus should be “all better,” when I allowed my body to remember I found the hurt I was still living in was that “no one came for me.” Soon after I did the emotional work around that pain, my friend Jennie’s krav maga work felt painful to watch. Which resulted in working with her for an amazing emotional release.

Is this a lot of work? Yes. But I’ve found again and again when I work with my body, I always come out feeling better. When I allow myself to “go back” as I am lead to, I find more healing. And I fully believe the alternative is not ‘blissfully ignoring your past,’ but rather living in the hurt you haven’t addressed. Unconsciously experiencing that pain all the time. Bringing it to your everyday present.

I don’t believe you can really ‘shove’ emotions anywhere without consequence.

There are certainly times I want to shake my fist at the sky about all this. That those men (in my head) are living without having to think about me at all, and I’m still working through the collateral damage of their actions. It’s not fair! And it isn’t. But that resentment doesn’t help me anymore than ignoring my own pain. I deserve to honor my pain, my hurts, my past so that I can move forward in a more empowered space. It can’t be about what’s fair, it’s about what I deserve now. Which is my own time, compassion, patience and love.

I won’t pretend to know what is best for everyone. For someone experiencing acute PTSD, triggers may be rehabilitating. I certainly know that paralysis. But for me, thinking of them as simply my body asking me to have a memory is so much more comforting. I trust that my body is working on behalf of my best interest. That deeper healing is available to me. And that the other side of deeper healing is always more ease and more of my own power restored.


Erin Brown