Monday, May 6, 2013

B-movie villains can't bite.

by Belathee Photography
So there is this monster that keeps attacking you. It's this four-armed, four-legged, two-headed blob of a sorta-human with two voices and four eyes each looking crazily at you from different directions. It wobbles toward you and reels back, screeching like Skylla, waving all it's arms, scaring the bumblebees out of your craptrap.

This is the person who triggers you.

He or she is this freakish conglomeration of their generally humdrum self and your worst nightmare. Flouncy Nancy in the print dress has your demeaning step-mom's face growing out of her neck. Jittery Frank in the hipster bolo has your child-molesting uncle's hirsuted arms flapping out of his coat sleeves. Nancy says, "Hi Bob," and you hear a caterwauling mixture of that and, "You ugly bastard! Nobody wants you!" Frank calls, "S'up Diana," and you get a squealing, reverbed, "You little slut."  

And usually you can't escape them. Nancy's your cube mate. Frank's your best friend's boyfriend. You're trapped. Your first impulse is to run, quit your job and dump your friend. But then your new boss is billowy Barbara with your step-mom's eyes staring out her forehead, and your sister gets engaged to chubby Charles with your uncle's drawl coming out a hole in his throat. 

The monsters keep attacking. Because they live in our heads.

Hear me out. Admitting our "trigger-monsters" aren't real is one of the scariest, hardest, most humbling recovery tasks. And one of the most healing.

It's hard because trigger-monsters feel real. We feel really attacked, just like we did back then when we were traumatized, abused, neglected, overdosed, raped. We feel cornered, demeaned and alone. Admitting the monsters' unreality feels like admitting the trauma was myth too. We feel blamed for our hurt by any implication that the triggers spring from the still-wounded crevaces of our minds. The suggestion makes us want to Bruce Lee somebody's skull.  

But the admission is also healing because it de-merges the past and present, at least a little. It's like moving a projector beam off the person blocking the screen. If you can accept that Nancy's over here, in the present, and your step-mom's face is over there, in your memory, the movie of your step-mom's screams may stop playing at you from Nancy's talking face. If you can allow that Frank just sits over there in that goofy hammock chair, and your uncle's gross arms died twelve years ago, the action sequence of your uncle's attacks could stop running in 3D surround sound. The traumatic memories may cease grabbing at you from an undulating phantasmagoria. They'll still exist. But at least Nancy will be just Nancy. Step-mom recedes back to 2D. Frank's just frank. Uncle fades to black and white. 

If the new perspective reveals Nancy as, truly, a triggeringly terrible nag, and Frank as a flirty sleaze, at least you can now deal with them as just them, and no longer space-monsters from planet Hades. And while step-mom and uncle will never be your favorite memories, their mind-daemon claws cut far less deeply from across the reach of the past. 

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