A wee while ago, I wrote a blog about triggering the poop outta myself – literally. I got a lot of nice feedback about it from kind people who wanted to help me stop doing that kind of thing. It was nicely meant, but it rather missed the point: I like triggering myself. I don’t enjoy the experience. It doesn’t feel good. I bloody hate it when it happens at inconvenient times or in inconvenient places. I find the fact that it happens cosmically irritating. I get very, very angry at anyone who triggers me on purpose without my consent, and possibly even angrier at people who, having triggered me, don’t back the hell up when I tell them to (seriously, don’t do that. It’s not big and it’s not clever and it’s not useful and it’s unsafe for everyone involved, and as far as I’m concerned there’s no rebuilding trust after that, ’cause a breach of consent is a breach of consent).
Still, I like triggering myself, for a very specific value of “like”. Although everything about it sucks, I find it useful.
Note: I am very aware of the fact that I’m coming at this from an incredibly privileged position, and that my statements are likely to vex a lot of PTSD sufferers and the people around them. I don’t have PTSD. The extent to which I get triggered is limited; I know where and when I am, and unless I’m really, really pushed I am able to modulate my actions accordingly, even though my emotional responses are disproportionate. If you have PTSD and what I’m saying sounds like a kick in the teeth, I’m sorry: I’m talking about the joys of having the sniffles to someone with pneumonia. Alas, the word “triggered” cover what you’ve got and what I’ve got and a lot of other stuff, too. That’s a problem, and I’m not helping with it. Sorry.
Note 2: There is nothing inherently therapeutic about getting triggered per se. A number of other factors have to be in place. I am not advocating self-triggering as a therapeutic tool for anyone else; I’m just saying how it works for me. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t go triggering other people “for their own good” unless they’ve consented and you really, really know your stuff. And even then, think twice about it. And then think again. And then ask an actual expert about it. And then think very hard about what they said.
Having said all that, I “like” triggering myself, for a number of reasons:
- I like knowing where my shatterpoints are; if I’m aware of them, I’m less likely to have them catch me by surprise. Knowledge is power, forewarned is forearmed, etc.
- I like to be reminded of how it feels when I start to fall down that emotional slide; the more I practice catching myself early on, before I’ve reached the point of no return, the better able I am to avoid coming untogether in inappropriate settings.
- I like to have a chance to manage the process. As often as not that just means being able to control where something happens, rather than what happens. For instance, every time I get badly adrenalised I get the weepies. I can’t stop getting them, but I can have them in a bathroom, or in my car, rather than in a roomful of people. That’s important to me (yeah, I’m weak like that), so being able to have some control over that makes me happier, if not happy.
- I like that I’m able to debrief the experience with friends. I’m extremely lucky in having the kind of friends I can talk to about this kind of stuff, even when it’s unpleasant or supremely weird (anyone else got triggered at Batman v Superman? No? Just me? Hmkay). Actually going through a debrief re-confirms that those resources are in place.
- More than anything else, I like to be reminded that, however awful the ride may be, I’m going to come through it. Particularly when it really sucks, I like the reminder that sooner or later I’m going to be on the other side of it; perhaps somewhat bruised and certainly royally pissed off, perhaps changed in some way, but I’m going to be there. That’s the important bit for me.
Getting triggered shows me how my brain functions (or malfunctions) under a certain type of pressure. And then it shows me that that’s ok, that I can bounce back from that, that I can deal. Actually going through the process is the only way I know I can prove that to myself, and I’m not willing to rely on anything other than solid proof in this kind of situations. I don’t need to feel good about my ability to deal; I need to know how much I can deal with, and what not being able to deal means. And I can’t find that out without going through the process, so I embrace it, even though I rail at it. It’s a love-hate relationship; we make it work.
It may be nice to have a brain without any bugs in it; I’m sure there’s happiness in that. But that’s not the brain I’ve got, and my brain is part of what makes me me. I’m not about to avoid parts of it just because they hurt. So this a game I play with myself, I guess, and when I ‘win’ it makes me happy, even though the winning could be constructed as nothing more than coming back from failure. If it was good enough for Rocky, it’s good enough for me.