Knowing The Difference Between A Trigger and Re-traumatization

When we are living in recovery from trauma, we are working to live in a constant state of mindful awareness. Rather than continue surviving in a prolonged state of hyperarousal reactivity to life, we thrive in a peaceful presence with life, which means living at ease with the many triggers we may experience throughout our lives. By attending trauma treatment and working with a trauma therapist, we learn to identify the patterns of trauma we recreate in our lives, along with the many triggers which inspire our trauma reactions. Though we cannot control everything external to us, we regain control over our internal worlds instead. We recognize our triggers, our triggered states, and the methods which work best for us to reclaim a state of calm. Sometimes, our triggers feel like more than triggers. In anguish, we might lament as to why this trigger is presenting more of a challenge than others, why we cannot just apply our recovery tools to the moment and move on from the trauma pattern. A common challenge in trauma recovery is discerning the difference between experiencing a trigger and re-experiencing trauma as re-traumatization. What we think is just a reminder of trauma could be an entirely new traumatizing experience.

Trauma can be defined in many ways. A simple way to define trauma is the living reminder of a living past. Any kind of trigger in the present moment can instantaneously transport our minds, bodies, and spirits back to a traumatizing time in the past and cause us to relive that moment with all of the same emotions as well as physical responses. No matter the context of the present trigger, it feels precisely like the first original trauma. Overtime through trauma recovery, we learn to realize that not all of our triggers are actually the past. At times, however, the very same nature of trauma from the past might be taking place in the present. A worst fear is confirmed for those in trauma recovery when re-traumatization takes place: it’s happening again.

Re-traumatization is what occurs when there is both a trigger and a new traumatizing event taking place. The similarities between the trauma in the present moment and the trauma of the past are so striking as to induce a state of traumatic shock. It’s more than a trigger— there isn’t a mere reminder. Being exposed to traumatization creates a complex compile of emotional and physical responses. Simultaneously, the body and brain are reacting to the trauma of the past as well as the trauma of the present, attempting to make sense of the circumstances and survive two concurring timelines.

Working through re-traumatization is an entirely different process than working through trauma triggers going off. Due to deep programming, it isn’t uncommon for those in trauma recovery to create patterns in their life which allow for re-traumatization. Trauma treatment and therapy help us resolve the past entirely and change our future to be free from traumatic patterns.

Khiron House is the only private treatment center in the UK who independently publishes an annual report on outcomes. We believe in the treatment we’re providing because we see the results every single year. Effective residential treatment utilizing cutting edge treatment and therapy options puts an end to the roundabout revolving door of treatment many people suffer. For information on our programs, call UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours) USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).