The Importance of Positive Triggers: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
Our senses play a powerful role in memory. Often times the simplest of things can serve as a trigger, causing us to remember a time or experience. Unfortunately in many of our circumstances, these triggers are not always the positive kind; they can tie to harsh memories and stories we wish we could forget.
In the art of my recovery, I learned this early on. At the time I found out about my assault I was being stalked and black mailed. The method of this came through letters describing my experience, about which I had no memory. Thus, the mail became a large trigger of mine. Opening my mail box was a frightening thing, unmarked letters received created feelings of dread and fear.
I quickly learned that mail was one of the worst triggers I could ever experience. At a point I needed to find ways to handle and heal, to learn and to grow. The path to this came at the advice of my therapist and support groups. I needed to find new sensory triggers that empowered me, that calmed me, and helped me heal.
The process of finding theses new sensory triggers was one that often times took me stretching outside of my comfort zone and many times catering to old memories that could empower me to a better mindset. The art of transforming my emotional triggers came through identifying the actions, things, or events that would cause me peace of mind and heart, that were completely unrelated to my assault, and had the ability to vastly shifted my reality.
Enter into the equation cherry coke, swimming and music. Each of these represented a different type of positive emotional trigger that I was able to build into my life.
Before finding out about my assault, I had given up soda, trying to be healthy of course. There was one vice I had however, something I always knew I loved, and that vice was cherry coke. It used to be my greatest guilty pleasure. In an act of reclaiming my life through sensory control, I reintroduced cherry coke. Not all the time, but in increments.
When I had particularly bad days, when another trigger emerged, and even sometimes in the darkest of places of mental pain, I would drink a cherry coke.
It was simple yes. Sometimes it felt foolish or mechanical, but it always grounded me. It was a healthy way of reminding myself of a little pleasure in life and a good reminder of why I was drinking the soda, what it was about the cherry coke that was significant. This little soda provided great opportunity to re-tether my mind towards healing. To me, cherry coke always was an immediate jump start to try and change my perspective.
The next positive trigger was swimming. Swimming is something I again, used to do before the assault, but was a habit I had fallen out of. I had used to love swimming for its ability to distract my mind, but never made time for it. After the assault, I spent an unhealthy number of hours in my head, figuring out circumstances and trying to make sense of the new world I lived in.
Swimming was my consistent escape from this. I swam because it was a distraction. It was a way of stress release. Every day after work, I always swam. It was something I did on a daily basis, a return of an old habit that allowed me the pleasure of decompressing, by figuring out what my new reality was. Swimming replaced much of the anxiety of the day by replacing it with an activity built to relieve stress. Swimming was my method to remove the smaller still consistent, burdens of the day.
The last of these new positive triggers was music. Music, despite my inability to play, has always played a large role in my life. It has greatly defined my days and is the perfect outlet for my emotions.
The right song has the power to drive me to the right places. This is why, in my recovery, I became intentional about the music I consumed. I made sure to create playlists that would not drag me down in my dark times or further strain my mind. The music I listened to represented the care it involved in me deliberately shifting my mindset. By making sure I was playing the right music, I was engaging in a constant reminder that I could have some control over how I viewed my day and how I wanted to experience my reality.
Often times, across my own support, I constantly learned about the triggers that were negative. The very word trigger itself is one spoken with those detrimental connotations. In the journey of recovery and the process of healing, it is important however that we realize triggers can be positive as well as negative. By owning our triggers and figuring out what it is that we need to help ourselves heal, it empowers us to surround ourselves with items, actions, habits, people, and stimuli that can make the difference between a hard day or a manageable one.
Tim Mousseau is a storyteller who focuses on using his writing and speaking to reframe how communities approach the cultures they are creating. As a speaker for CAMPUSPEAK he talks with college campuses across America about sexual assault prevention, using his own story to connect with students when facing this issue. Tim received a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga, his research focused on curiosity and creativity. To connect with Tim, he can be reached on Twitter @TimMousseau