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If you bypassed the picture above, I would suggest for you to look at it again in more detail. As you can observe, the picture does not have a lake, sea, swamp, marsh, or a pond. Those are rapids alright! Not even the most skillful river rafters can control the powerful currents. However, they’re trained on how to navigate the boat before, during, and after an interruption in their journey. I don’t know about you, but I would never ever get on one of those boats till someone more experienced than me tells me what I am supposed to do when the force of nature comes. This is my question to you: How can you fight a battle if you don’t know who is your enemy and how it operates? In the case of many survivors, flashbacks are a perfect depiction of what an antagonist looks like. Second place, behind the abuser itself. For some of you identifying triggers will come naturally to you. For others not so much, and that’s okay. The person who sexually abused me used to wear clothespins on her clothes. Therefore, I try to stay away from sewing sections in stores. Granted there are many other triggers that I yet have to discover. This is why I would suggest keeping a Trigger Log in your planner, journal or smartphone. Live in the present and identify your triggers if you can. It will help you become more mindful.
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Remember, what we are doing is undoing the knots of things that seem so difficult to decipher in everyday life. It is a process, so I suggest for you to stick to it and eventually you will see the results. Let’s say you’re a train passenger. You see someone get on board that is wearing a strong male cologne. If the smell makes you uneasy and deeply troubled, then that may remind you of the person who did you harm. This is a format that may help you in situations like these:
Trigger Log Format:
(Date, Time, Place, What Triggered you, what were you doing when you felt that way)
(December 27, 2017 1:35 p.m., train, strong male cologne, looking out the window)
This technique can help you greatly if you are not in tune with your triggers, but it can also benefit those like me that are very aware of what seems upsetting. Because I already made a list and know what triggers me I often abbreviate the thing.
(December 26, 2017, 9:17 pm, bedroom, P, studying)
Every week, take inventory and look at your log. Were you triggered most of the time in a certain place or when you were doing something specifically? Because I felt triggered while I was studying, I immediately took a break and prepared a snack. The simple act of doing this helped my mind remember the benefits of being mindful. So every time I write in my Trigger Log I try to set my mind on something else. You can always write Trigger Logs on your phone, and people won’t even pay attention.So, if the smell of that cologne gets near you again, you can apply lotion, change the song you are hearing to something more positive, look away, or text a friend a funny emoji. (I usually like to send the smiling poop one to my sister).
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Create Body Memories
Another way of being mindful is by creating body memories. Body memories is a term often used by abuse survivors. If someone hugs you or touches your hair in a certain way, you may not like it because your body remembers the abuse. You are not weird or not friendly, it’s just that your body still remembers what happened. Your body has a mind of its own and you must train it. Don’t let your body control you and by all means your emotions as well. In order to create body memories, you must be intentional. No one can do it for you. This is a discipline that will help you long term if you commit to the process. When flashbacks come we are tempted into welcoming toxic thoughts and dark emotions. For most, this is a difficult pit to get out from. Let me give you another personal example on this. The person who abused me ( by the way, I don’t like referring this person as “my abuser” because there’s no worthy property title in this.) used to buy me scented soaps and other inappropriate items for my age.This is why now I always buy my own body gel for showers. I go to the store, choose the scent I want, then pay for it. This gives me a sense of control and stability. I don’t have meltdowns anymore after showering. I don’t go into spells of anger fueled by shame. I smell nice and I smile. My body no longer remembers personal hygiene as a form of humiliation, but of self-care. I don’t know what you need to do in order to create body memories, but it’s possible. Whether it’s taking a walk every Monday (most people don’t like Mondays) or going for a massage after a work presentation or difficult exam. Write it down and put a date on it. Chances are you’ll never get to it if there’s no date on it. Retrain your body when you are under stress and face challenging triggers. You can do it!
Don’t let flashbacks intimidate you. You can do this. It will take time. You cannot expect a pattern of behaviors to be successful overnight. If you are feeling hopeless in this area, I would suggest for you to listen to a song called Try by P!nk. You’re welcome. Also, check out this article: Mindfulness for Adult Survivors Victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse
And remember you… you are beautiful,