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  • Writer's pictureDr. B

What I tell my friends about trauma...

One day, I was "triggered." I know that has become a buzzword over the past few years, but it's totally a thing. It seems more people are aware of trauma and how it affects our lives. Various things can be traumatic, and we each react to trauma in different ways, though there can be some commonalities amongst reactions. A difficult aspect of triggers is that we are not always aware of what they are and when we will encounter them. It may be that we each try to avoid things that will upset us, but don't realize that the list is longer than we realize. When I speak with my non-therapist friends (yes...I have a few), I provide psychoeducation about trauma and try to explain various aspects in laymen's terms. A few metaphors have stuck with me over the years and have become part of my lexicon.

Here's one: Imagine your life as a body of water. It can be small, medium, or large. A traumatic experience is like a stone that is skipped over that water. It will disturb the water, cause ripples, but eventually sink to the ground. Triggers are the things that come up and kick that stone around. It could be another trauma, it could be a random event, or it can even be a person (In this example, I guess it would be some sort of sea creature?). The ripples may be small, medium or large. Those ripples are our reactions to the trauma being triggered. Inevitably, that stone will fall back to the bottom...and the process starts again.

Here's another related to trauma memories: Imagine you are at a desk taking notes, but you are writing them on post-its. Something comes along and bumps the desk and the notes go flying everywhere! You decide to try to find them and put them back in order. The thing is, you may be unable to put them back in; some may be torn or unreadable, and some you may never find. This is how trauma memories work...we can't always access them or put them in the right order with clear and concise precision.

I've always found it easier to understand things when metaphors and analogies are used. It allows me a way to really grasp the concept and ingest the provided information. These examples are ones I also use within my clinical practice. It helps me and my friends, and I hope it helps my clients also.

What's your understanding of trauma and triggers? How do you explain it to yourself and others? - Dr. B

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