When certain emotions are triggered (usually emotions that are, in someway, connected to fear), I can struggle with self-regulating my emotions and staying in functional adult mode. I think it’s pretty safe to say this can be attributed to the various traumatic events I’ve experienced throughout my life.
I’ve been working on this for some time now and, for the most part, I can regulate pretty well. I think, now, it’s the unexpected triggers that get me the most.
Yesterday something happened that triggered me or rather jolted me out of my functional adult and I lost my ability to regulate my emotions. I won’t go too into detail with what happened because that’s not the point of this post. I was involved in a conversation that triggered a lot of different emotions over the span of about 5 minutes. A sense of fear, anger, panic, a feeling of broken trust, confusion, hurt, and in some ways a sort devastation all washed over me. I didn’t know what to do with it all, so I shut down. I shut down until I could begin to process everything.
I knew in that moment that my functional adult took a backseat and my adaptive child took over, as she has a tendency to do when an emotional threat has been triggered. She steps in, shuts down, disconnects and puts emotions on lock-down. By the time she is done, no emotions get in and no emotions get out…depending on how big of an emotional threat has been triggered. Yesterday’s trigger felt pretty damn big.
The moment I was away from the situation my adaptive child started working overtime. She was going into lock-down mode. No more caring, no more letting people in, no more opening up, no more feeling. the beginning of complete disconnect was setting in. But first, it had to be made known that I was upset and why I was upset.
During this whole emotional whirlwind, my functional adult was fighting to gain control again. I knew that disconnecting wasn’t the healthy way to go. I knew that my adaptive child had taken over and that I needed to find my center again.
And then it wasn’t long and my wounded child came along. I began to feel guilty for being upset with what had happened. I began to feel like everything was my fault and that I messed up. I became afraid that I was going to lose this incredibly important relationship because I had gotten upset and expressed how I felt and why. My wounded child has an incredible fear of being a disappointment, of not being good enough, of not being wanted or loved. While my wounded child is adorable, she is also full of fear and sadness. I apologized for having upset or hurt this person, if I had, by expressing what I was feeling.
After several hours my functional adult has taken control again, mostly. I’m still upset about what happened, but I’m no longer in disconnect mode. There is still some lingering fear around what this will do to the relationship. I’m hopeful that it will be water under the bridge.
Recovering for developmental trauma is not easy work. It is hard work trying to maintain a constant awareness of my emotions and where they come from; it’s learning to stay in my functional adult and to manage my adaptive child and wounded child; it’s learning to swallow my adaptive child’s ego and admit when I over react emotionally; it’s learning to love and care for myself, wounded child, and adaptive child; it’s learning self-regulating; it’s learning that I am not responsible for all things that go wrong; it’s learning to believe that I am capable, I am worthy, I am lovable, and I am good enough; it’s learning that I don’t have to apologize for feeling hurt or upset about something, as long as I express my feelings in a respectful way. Recovery is basically a complete rewiring of the brain.
For me, once the trigger has been pulled it can be very hard to find my center again. It is a process to say the least. While this was a pretty big emotional trigger, it has been easier in some ways to work through. I know in my heart that this person never had any intent to hurt me. Even so, the process to get to where I am now from where I was yesterday has been long and emotionally exhausting. I’m still working towards finding my center again, but I’m a lot closer than I was yesterday.
I plan to devote time, during what is left of my weekend, to finding my center through sitting in silent contemplation, meditation, and yoga.
I’m learning that recovering from developmental trauma takes time, practice, compassion for one’s self, and patience. I’m learning that I’ve come too far to give up now. I’m learning that there are going to be triggers, even from unexpected people, and that it may take time to get back to center, but if I can keep an open mind, an open heart, and an awareness of who is in control that I will always be able to pull myself out and back to center. In time I may even be able to manage all triggers and remain in my healthy center.