So what is a trigger? Essentially, anything that’s associated with the original painful or threatening experience can become a trigger: the scent of a cologne, an upcoming exam, a partner who doesn’t immediately respond to your texts.
Just refusing to acknowledge history doesn’t change the fact that it has a huge influence on the present. Psychologically speaking, our brains are programmed by experience, most of which took place in the past. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to live in the moment, but the best way to become truly spontaneous is by integrating the past, not ignoring it.
Trauma. It’s one of those words that gets thrown around without ever really being explained. Derived from the Greek word for “wound,” trauma could refer to an overwhelming psychological experience or the psychological imprint left by such an experience. Either way, it’s important to know how to recognize trauma and post-traumatic stress and how to recover from them.
Goethe lamented that “two souls, alas, do dwell within this breast; the one is ever parting from the other.” We’ve probably all observed this inner conflict in ourselves and others: maybe we’ve been in a relationship where our lover’s affection was suddenly replaced by cold distance and abandonment; maybe we’ve bounced back and forth between an exhausting drive to achieve and a crippling lack of motivation; or maybe we’ve watched helplessly while a person we knew to be loving and gentle destroyed themselves and the people around them with rage or addiction. A big part of my job as a therapist is to help people understand these confusing and sometimes overwhelming inner realities.