Why small triggers can have a big impact
You know the saying, “the best things come in small packages?”
When it comes to trauma and triggers — the opposite can be true. Yes, big traumatic events are certainly triggering…but it’s often the small, unnoticed triggers that have a big impact on our recovery. I recently wrote a post about leaning into our triggers and how that’s part of our recovery growth.
The ironic thing is that just a few hours after writing that post, I had to follow my own advice. I want to tell you about the moment because it’s something that I think so many of us can relate to — a seemingly small moment that may not mean anything to anyone else — but to a survivor, it can be a big trigger.
Let me paint the picture for you.
I get home from my Advanced Certification Intensive and hop on a new app that a few of my fellow coaches have been using. [It’s a fun little app that lets you record video / messages for the people on your list. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your friends/family.]
Anyway, I log on and after laughing at the sweet videos my friends made, I click the button to add my husband to the app.
What popped up wasn’t a blank “add a friend” type of thing, though. What popped up was a pre-made list of people to add and right at the top were estranged family members of mine. Family members that had consciously chosen to ignore the abuse that happened to me and many other victims within our family. Family members that had chosen to take sides or remain neutral (to me, that is choosing sides). For my own sanity and self-care, over the past year, I’ve taken steps to remove these family members from my life. If they hadn’t already removed me from social media, I took that step myself. Deleted their numbers from my phone. As painful as this was, it was necessary. And I can say that it has improved my mental well-being.
So how did all of this careful removal of the toxic people in my life come back to haunt me on this little app that I knew nothing about?
Seeing their names and their smiling faces in their avatar threw me for a loop. I started to sweat and shake and I could feel the tell-tale signs of wanting to cry. I immediately wanted to direct my attention to something else. But instead, I sat there looking at their pictures and sitting with emotions… acknowledging the hurt and pain that this little moment brought up in me.
I sat with the sadness that comes with missing people you thought were your family.
I sat with the anger that they looked so damn happy while here I am, sitting with the pain they caused.
I sat with the longing of wanting to know my little cousins that I’ll never get to meet.
But then something amazing happened. As I was sitting with that pain and trying to reconcile where I was now versus where I was when they were in my life, I also sat with the knowledge that I became a Trauma Recovery Coach to help others learn from these exact moments. I sat with hope that the work I’m doing with survivors can someday prevent having to face a trigger like this.
And right as I was about to close out of the app, I got a video message from one of my fellow coaches. It was just a short “Hey you, hope you’re doing well,” kind of message but it also reminded me that for every toxic person I cut out of my life, I make room for a person who inspires, supports and loves me.