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Responding to Trauma Triggers and THE HEIRESS by Rachel Hawkins

Cover of the book The Heiress used to teach the skill of responding to trauma triggers

Cam grew up with his eccentric mom and extended family members in Ashby House, where he was bullied and hated as the sole heir to a massive fortune. Cam fared equally poorly in the community as his mom held enough power to get him fired from jobs she preferred he not take, wishing Cam to remain dependent on her. When Cam finally broke away, he severed all ties with his family and fled Ashby House with no intention of returning.


Cam flourished. He had a fulfilling career and a too-good-to-be-true wife. Years later, circumstances necessitated he return to Ashby House, a place he felt “swallows everyone eventually.” Once back, Cam became agitated and overwhelmed.


Growing up in Ashby House was traumatizing to Cam. Later, Ashby House became his trauma trigger.


People are extra vigilant and absorb high levels of detail during traumatizing moments. Later, if faced with a detail associated with the trauma (trauma trigger), the entire traumatizing situation floods back. It feels like a distressing and exaggerated reaction to a normal situation.


Here are skills for responding to trauma triggers and emotional flooding:


Dual Awareness: Recognize both a previously traumatized and a currently safe part. Acknowledge feelings associated with the traumatized part while staying grounded in the currently safe present.


Letter to Yourself: Write a letter to yourself detailing the circumstances of your previous trauma AND ALSO the facts corroborating your current level of safety. Read it when triggered.


TV Screen Visualization: Visualize your traumatized self as a character on a TV screen. Observe the thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma. Then, visualize fast-forwarding the TV to your current, safe self. Notice the changes.


Do No (more) Harm: Sometimes people use negative coping skills like substances, reckless behavior, restrictive eating, etc, to numb or avoid experiencing trauma triggers. It doesn’t help and creates other problems in the long term.


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