Do You Have To Feel Triggered To Heal?

Hey everyone. There’s been a theme coming up lately in some circles about whether it’s necessary for us to be “triggered” to release our trauma – whether it’s both necessary and appropriate for facilitators to cross our clearly stated boundaries, scream in our faces, or break us down in front of the entire room in order to somehow break state and shake loose our trauma narratives.

I’m here to tell you that NO, THIS IS NOT NECESSARY.

And it’s only appropriate if you asked for it in advance.

Most of you on my feed have witnessed the deep transformation I’ve gone through since the start of 2016. I might be biased but I haven’t seen anyone do as great a turnaround in such a short time as I have. Throughout my 20s I battled suicidal ideation, relationships with abusers, self-harm and codependency (often disguised as BDSM), addiction to surrender, self-loathing disguised as overachievement, internalized patriarchy, and a pattern of giving away my creative power to people who were vastly unqualified to utilize it.

In the last three years I’ve created a baseline happiness level I didn’t know was possible, turned my band from a vanity project into a critically acclaimed oracular musical act that foretold the MeToo movement before it happened, transitioned from work that was causing me harm to creative entrepreneurship that fulfills me and helps others, healed from codependency, sorted my finances toward growth, gone entirely off psych meds, upleveled my friendships in a way I’ve never had in my adult life, and begun healing my sexuality from the tangled trauma knot it used to be. Not to mention helping many others restore their own creative power as well.

Not ONCE did I have someone screaming in my face or violating a boundary to trigger a change.

Assuming we need to be forced into our healing is assuming we aren’t already showing up willing to do the work. If we’re showing up willing to do the work, all we need is to be shown where we need change and empowered with the tools to make it happen.

Will we be “triggered”? That depends on your definition.

The work will be confronting, no doubt. It is nothing short of confronting when you realize you’ve been living your life under trauma imprints that you didn’t need, that you were stamped with beliefs and patterns that don’t belong to you, that everything you thought was true about your own limitations isn’t and probably never was. That is confronting as fuck.

And you’ll grieve for the version of yourself that didn’t know better, you’ll shed cathartic tears for everything that happened to you that was super fucked up that you justified as normal at the time so that you could survive it, because confronting your harm at the time it was happening would have been so much more difficult and painful than just letting it happen. You’ll grieve that you didn’t think you were worth defending at the time, or that you were too young to be able to defend yourself when those around you who were responsible for you failed in keeping you safe. And you might spend a few days in bed allowing your body to process as you release and integrate.

Sure, that’s not easy. You have to show up with a strong spirit to make that happen.

But it’s also not “triggering” in a way that breaks you down or makes you feel bad. If anything it’s triggering in that you realize how easy it was to feel GOOD the whole time, and you’ll get mad that no one told you. (Or I did, anyway. I’m mad that my degree was in theater and it was on me to figure this out instead of all the therapists and psychiatrists I paid who definitely should have done their jobs better, who saw “anxiety” and “depression” when what was happening was “extremely normal response to trauma” and “in an abusive relationship.”)

I have never once seen a case where breaking someone down, humiliating them, making them doubt themselves, screaming at them, or in any way inducing a trauma reaction on purpose was necessary to growth, or even helpful to it. In most cases, it’s actually retraumatizing (citation: Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz, if you want more evidence than my empirical knowledge).

Don’t be fooled. Organizations that do this want you to depend on them. They break you down because they want your surrender and for you to suspend your judgment so they can convince you you’re broken and incapable without them, and they are doing their participants a huge disservice if not outright harm by centering themselves instead of empowering others.

This isn’t cool and it’s hardly a model to abide by in 2019.

We live in a free will universe, guys. All someone needs to break free of their patterns is to be shown how to do it and then given the choice. For a facilitator to force themselves on a participant in a way that violates their boundaries is to violate their free will. That’s the opposite of empowerment.

And in addition to being violative, it’s just plain unnecessary.

You do not need to be broken down to heal.

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