Everything we do, say, or feel as adults is intertwined with years of conditioning as a child. The effects of childhood trauma can last well into adulthood. Trauma can impact future relationships and lead to other issues like depression and low self-esteem. This is because as children, we’re blank slates and each of our new experiences teaches us what to expect of the world and the people in it.
When our needs aren’t met or we face bad experiences we start to build up triggers meant to protect us and warn us if we feel like we’re facing the threat of repeating those experiences. However, those triggers aren’t always known by the mind like they are by the body.
This advice is not to be taken as an assessment or medical advice.
The Slighest Confrontation
As children depending on how we form social interactions with our parents, first authority figures, and even friendships, we develop two types of attachments. If our needs are met and we experience stable social interactions, we form secure attachment styles. When our parents are hot and cold, sometimes loving and affectionate while other times dismissive or aggressive, we form an insecure attachment style.
An adult with an insecure attachment style often becomes a people pleaser who feels like they have to hustle for love. confrontations are too scary since they trigger their fears of abandonment and rejection.
They would rather hold in their pain than confront the person causing it and if they’re put in any sort of situation where they have to speak or stand up for themselves, they can feel triggered.
Someone Else’s Pain
Those who experience a lot of pain as children understand firsthand what it is like to be vulnerable, powerless, and treated unfairly. Seeing someone else experience any sort of negative feeling or unjust treatment can remind them of their own feelings.
Childhood trauma can create adults who are extremely empathetic. Coming from a place of deep pain themselves, they mature before they’re due and form an experiential understanding of the consequences of negative behavior on a person.Those in caretaker positions, , which they gravitate to naturally, need to be extra careful to not personalize and take on the baggage of others on top of their own.
A Familiar Sound
Often trauma is associated with a specific sense. Because it can be really overwhelming for the brain to process, it often represses all senses associated with it, and blackouts as many of the painful memories as possible. However, sometimes all it takes is a sound from the traumatic events to trigger back vivid flashbacks of trauma. This can be the sound of an alarm, a car honk, a whimper, or a scream.
Often for those with PTSD, a familiar sound is linked to a trauma memory so every time they hear the noise, it automatically triggers the “fight or flight” response and fear, anger, and anxiety.
A Specific Scent
The sense of smell is quite powerful. It can be soothing as it can be triggering. “An emotional memory, like the smell of home cooking, can trigger feelings of comfort, while for those with PTSD, an odor associated with a traumatic experience can trigger a negative response and PTSD symptoms,” explains Filomene G. Morrison, a neuroscience PhD candidate.
Even if the smell itself is pleasant like perfume, if it reminds you of the smell of your absent mother’s perfume, it can be quite upsetting to be reminded of the way her absence made you feel.
The holidays, and festive dinners, in general, aren’t a happy time for everyone. There are many triggers associated with these events that could cause even someone who has healed to relapse or regress in their journey.
Everything from shopping and large crowds to the attendance of parties and events where drinks are present can bring back unpleasant feelings. Sometimes these events also mean having to share space with the very people who caused childhood trauma, even if it wasn’t intentional.
An Area Of Touch
Physical touch can be a trigger if the child grows up to be wary of everyone around and develop a strong guard and trust issues. It doesn’t have to be a full hug, sometimes even brushing their shoulder against a stranger’s accidentally in the supermarket can be a trigger if it feels comfortable.
Those with an avoidant attachment style, so children that grew up to cope with their trauma by wanting to avoid any situation that risks making them feel upset, are especially sensitive to touch. It can even be hard for them to want to be intimate and affectionate with their romantic partners.
A Certain Word
Children who got yelled at, called names, compared to other children, or made to feel small in any way can grow up to be triggered by words that make bring back the same feelings of rejection. These words aren’t often obvious insults but can be innocent remarks that get interpreted as the worst-case scenario by their defense mechanism.
Sometimes the tone of voice while speaking can also be triggering. The sound of yelling can be triggering and puts a person who experienced trauma in a freeze response where they’re not even able to answer.
You Are Not Stuck In Your Past
If you identify with any of these triggers, know that you’re not alone and we feel for you. But, you’re not a prisoner to the actions of people who wronged you. The human mind is capable of unlearning conditioned behavior and adapting new expectations through new positive experiences.
We encourage you to seek support and help from a professional.
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