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Understanding and Healing Our Emotional Triggers: Taking Responsibility for Our Mental Health as Single Moms

by | Jul 1, 2024 | Life in General, Self Improvement, Single Moms

The emotional roller coaster is very real as a single mom. It is not easy to juggle the many hats of roles and also protect your emotional well-being. Emotional Triggers -Another important part of this journey is Learning about emotional triggers So these triggers are deep-rooted, and have a massive influence on how we go about our day. 

In single motherhood, the nature and function of these triggers can be more pronounced as a result of specific dynamic stresses that are encountered distinct to rising children alone. Acknowledging and healing these emotional triggers is a huge part of how single moms can work toward living well-balanced lives in optimal health-not only for themselves but their families alike

A woman doing her healing work

What is a Trigger?

A trigger, in psychological terms, is anything that initiates a memory flashback which causes one to relive the original trauma. An image, sound, smell or even a scenario. As previously mentioned, triggers are the brain associate specific stimuli with traumatic events. They can lead to major psychological and physiological responses such as anxiety, panic attacks, anger or depression.

The Responsibility to Heal Our Triggers

While it is essential to recognize our triggers and understand their impact on our lives, it is equally important for single moms to take responsibility for healing these emotional wounds. It is unrealistic to expect society to tiptoe around our sensitivities. 

With nearly 8 billion people in the world, it is inevitable that we will encounter situations that challenge our emotional resilience. Living with a victim mindset is not sustainable or healthy. Single mothers, in particular, face unique challenges and responsibilities that require emotional strength. We all have our own baggage, and it is our responsibility to unpack it, process it, and move forward.

The Long-term Effects of Not Healing Triggers

This can result in being triggered and unhealed within us, ultimately having a poor impact on our own mental health & relationships. And if you add on top of it the stress about being a single mom, then things will become even worse and can even drive negative emotions and coping strategies. 

Our triggers create chronic stress and anxiety, that if not transmuted will lead to our overall reduction of well-being (and perhaps even…) depression. Unhealed triggers often cause misunderstandings, conflicts and closeness in relationship. And eventually we start to lose trust and unknowingly leave the people who matter most on their own. 

Furthermore, if we remain ever vigilant this is eventually going to deplete our emotional resources and impaired resilience for the now increasingly probable ensuing event.

 

Let me tell you about one of my friends, Lisa. Lisa was a single mother who had been in an abusive relationship for years, and the trauma she suffered ran very deep. Her ex-boyfriend used to beat her, and the mental and physical pain was something she still carried with her long after they parted ways. At work one day, Lisa happened to run into a new colleague Jacob whom, by chance, looked very much like her abusive ex.

His appearance caused Lisa to feel uncomfortable and unsafe, and brought on a flood of painful memories for her. She went to Human Resources and told them that Jacob was causing her serious distress, so they had to fire him immediately. When they would not, Lisa insisted that he be moved-which HR also declined to honor for Jacob was innocent and just doing his job.

Disappointed and feeling frustrated, Lisa began acting out. She became passive-aggressive, even at times openly aggressive towards Jacob who had no idea why he was being targeted. Lisa constantly complained about him, to everyone who would listen. In this way she built up her own misery and poisoned the atmosphere.

Finally, Lisa decided to leave her job, thinking that the company had treated her unfairly by not getting rid of Jacob from right next to her. She thought herself a victim of an unemphatic workplace and blamed the company.

In the meantime, Jacob was left feeling uncomfortable and bewildered, for he had done nothing to warrant the hostility directed at him. Lisa’s refusing to deal with her own issues and blaming others for her triggers not only affected herself but also those around her. This is a graphic example of playing the victim role, failing to take responsibility for one’s emotional well being. Lisa’s inability to deal with her triggers maturely and constructively led to avoidable conflicts and finally, personal unhappiness. She has not yet healed from her past, choosing instead to live with the pain and bitterness that come with an unhealed wound.

 

What Psychologists Say About Triggers

Self-awareness and individuation (which means becoming whole) which Carl Jung, a legend in the psychology field asserted was an important element of human growth. Unresolved issues from the past -; triggers, as Jung called them- are those parts of us that insist on showing up and what we cannot ignore for long. He said that through recognizing and processing our triggers, we will know ourselves better and be emotionally healthier.

This is feeling shared by other reputable psychologists as well. Trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk says traumatic experiences are realized through the body and can lie dormant until some element of our environment activates it (something as simple as a smell, sound or memory…..) Healing modalities such as mindfulness, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), somatic experiencing -to allow the individual to process through trauma.

Another leading trauma researcher, Dr. Judith Herman (1992), pointed out the importance of a safe space to explore and learn triggers while challenging them up front when doing therapy. And recommends trauma-informed care which acknowledges the widespread effect of trauma and helps individuals recover.

Example of a Personal Trigger

For me, one (there are several for yours truly) of my personal triggers is when a partner apologizes with flowers or gifts. In one toxic dynamic I had in the past, my ex used to give me material things and/or send flowers whenever he broke some of his own trust and was busted in 1 million lies. These gestures worked at the time, and did a fine job of obscuring the pain and deceit. But now… as a part of my recovery and moving on properly from that unhealthy relationship, these type apologies (whether real or fake) is what makes me cringe. I see manipulation and deceit, not true repentance.

Dealing with this trigger has made me heal in so many ways. Communication with my partner and compromise has helped me understand and accept that sometimes flowers or gifts are a genuine peace offering or just because someone cares about you.  I reframe my thoughts and remind myself that he is not my ex and not all material gifts are attached to deception or manipulation. 

Moving Forward: Healing and Building Resilience

The world needs to stop being a bunch of pansies using their past experiences to be jerks or victims. Certain events that happened to us may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility to heal and build resilience. For single moms, this is particularly important as they navigate the challenges of raising children alone. By taking ownership of our emotional health, we can create a more compassionate and understanding world. It is not fair to ourselves or others to live in a state of constant reactivity, expecting society to cater to our unhealed wounds. Instead, we must do the inner work to heal and move forward, allowing us to live more freely and harmoniously.

Conclusion

While triggers are a natural part of our psychological landscape, it is crucial to take responsibility for healing them. By doing so, single moms can improve their mental health, strengthen their relationships, and build the resilience needed to navigate life’s challenges. So, get over yourselves, and take charge of your emotional well-being.

Resources for Healing Wounds and Triggers

Healing from past trauma and managing triggers is a journey that requires the right resources and support. Here are some valuable tools and services that can help you on your path to healing:

Professional Counseling and Therapy

Finding a Therapist

·      Psychology Today: A comprehensive directory of therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups. You can search by location, specialty, and insurance accepted.

·      TherapyDen: An inclusive directory that focuses on finding a therapist who matches your specific needs and values.

·      GoodTherapy: Another directory that helps connect you with qualified mental health professionals in your area.

Types of Therapy

·      Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A widely-used approach that helps individuals understand and change thought patterns that contribute to their triggers.

·      Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): A specialized therapy designed to help individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences.

·      Somatic Experiencing: Focuses on releasing trauma stored in the body and improving physical and emotional health.

Recommended Books

1.   “The Body Keeps the Score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

This book provides an in-depth understanding of how trauma affects the body and mind and offers insights into various therapeutic approaches for healing.

2.   “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” by Peter A. Levine

Peter Levine’s book explores the concept of trauma and provides practical advice on how to release trauma stored in the body.

3.   “Healing the Shame That Binds You” by John Bradshaw

A valuable resource for understanding and overcoming the toxic effects of shame, which often underlies many triggers. 

4.   “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

This book discusses the impact of childhood trauma on long-term health and offers strategies for healing and resilience.

Support Groups

Online Support Groups

·      7 Cups: An online platform that offers free, anonymous support from trained listeners and licensed therapists.

·      Reddit Communities: Subreddits like r/trauma, r/PTSD, and r/CPTSD provide a space for individuals to share their experiences and support each other.

Local Support Groups

·      National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Offers support groups for individuals dealing with mental health issues, including trauma.

·      Meetup: Search for local support groups and meetups focused on trauma recovery and mental health.

Apps

·      Headspace: Offers guided meditations and mindfulness exercises to help manage stress and anxiety.

·      Calm: Provides resources for relaxation, sleep, and mindfulness, which can be beneficial for managing triggers.

Books

·      “The Mindful Way through Depression” by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn

A practical guide to using mindfulness to combat depressive thoughts and triggers.

·      “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach

Explores how mindfulness and self-compassion can help heal emotional wounds and reduce the impact of triggers.

Holistic Approaches

Yoga and Movement

·      Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Classes and workshops designed to help individuals reconnect with their bodies in a safe and supportive environment. 

·      Qigong and Tai Chi: Gentle movement practices that promote relaxation and stress reduction. 

Art and Creative Expression

·      Art Therapy: Using creative processes to explore and express emotions related to trauma. 

·      Journaling: Writing about your experiences and feelings can be a powerful tool for processing and healing.

Helplines and Crisis Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 

Provides 24/7 support for individuals in crisis or emotional distress.

Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” to 741741 

Offers free, 24/7 support through text messaging for those in crisis.

By utilizing these resources, you can take meaningful steps toward healing your wounds and managing your triggers. Remember, the journey to emotional well-being is personal and ongoing, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

 

 

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