Unveiling the Unconscious: Understanding and Managing Hidden Trauma Triggers

After experiencing a traumatic experience, we are often aware of triggers related to this and do our best to avoid them.  For example, if we experienced a traumatic event related to water, we might avoid going to the beach or going sailing.  But what about unconscious triggers?  The ones we don't readily recognize, but they pull us into flashbacks, nonetheless.  

Sensory Triggers

We are constantly taking in our environment, sounds and scents.  We are sponges for sensation and this could make us more vulnerable to trauma triggers, such as a sensory experience.  Sometimes we don't know why we're experiencing a trigger. And we don't realize it came from a sensory experience.  Our senses can sometimes be the culprit of trauma responses.  For example, a small increase in the volume of someone's voice could be a trigger. 

Emotional Triggers

Another unconscious type of trigger are emotional ones.  This is what we feel or how we respond that triggers the trauma response.  It could be someone talking down to us or treating us like a child.  That feeling of being lesser than or not as important could trigger us to fight back. Or shut down (leave the situation altogether).

Another common emotional trigger is when we feel someone may leave us.  If we grew up without consistent love and support, this can be a trauma in our life. When we are little, we depend upon others for our health and safety.  Therefore, the sensation of someone leaving when we need them can pull us into a trauma response. 

Identifying Unconscious Triggers

Since these triggers are inevitable, we first need to work to identify them.  We cannot change what we do not understand.  Notice if your reactions to events are greater than it should have been.  You can begin to take stock of situations or even arguments where you may have overreacted.  It might be that you've stepped into a trauma trigger.  

Working Through Unconscious Triggers

Once you identify your unconscious triggers,  it is important to reframe what happened.   Instead of letting our mind run away with negative thoughts, can we talk about it as a trauma trigger? And explain why it is that we acted the way we did?  Can we show ourselves some compassion and understanding?

It might be helpful to work with a therapist to help come up with new language to describe that overwhelming experience and the urge to react.  Finally,  it's important to find healthier outlets for the fight flight response that our body is giving us.  Moving that energy out will reduce many of the symptoms of PTSD, like hypervigilance or feeling on edge.  Maybe this means we go for walks, do full body shake a few times a day, or even join a trauma focused yoga group.  Any way that we can safely move our bodies and let that energy out of our system will be beneficial to us.

So when you are pushed into a flashback or feel overwhelmed, think back to see if you can recall any of the stimuli around you; What song was playing? Who was near me?  Did they say something in particular? Are there any smells that come to mind?  Doing this personal research will allow us to be more aware of what's in our environment and potentially what could be causing our trauma response.

Next Steps

Are you processing through trauma triggers? Need a helping hand to walk this journey with you?  Thrive for Life Counseling is committed to providing accessible, high-quality mental health support tailored to the diverse needs of our clients. As a 100% virtual counseling practice, our team of seven experienced clinicians offers comprehensive services to individuals residing in Florida, Illinois, and Indiana. Our hybrid model ensures flexibility, with some counselors accepting insurance while others operate on a self-pay basis, making mental health care more accessible to all. Whether you're seeking therapy for yourself or a loved one, we're here to help you thrive. Visit our website at www.thriveforlifecounseling.com to learn more and schedule an appointment today. Your journey to a thriving life starts here.