Memories of traumatic events can lay dormant just beneath our consciousness, often for days, weeks or months. A triggering event can cause intense emotional and physical sensations that bring the trauma right back as if the event is happening all over again.

There are important reasons why memories of traumatic events are saved in our brain. Our very survival depends on learning from past mistakes. The memory tells us that something bad happened. Learn from this so that it doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately some memories want to keep emerging when something loosely connected to the original event triggers the memory, causing the person to re-live the experience. All the horror of the original event comes rushing back. Coupled with the traumatic memories are intense feelings of self-blame and guilt for not being prepared or taking precautions.

Connections to Trauma

Triggers can be virtually anything. From a sound, or a smell, to seeing something or someone that reminds you of the trauma, or being in the vicinty of where the event took place originally. And they can happen at any time – without notice.

Some triggers seem to have no connection at first glance to the original trauma. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees can be a reminder of the approaching tornado that was horrifically destroying the house around a survivor, or, how the aroma of a certain men’s fragrance will instantly remind a victim of her attacker. The sound of a motocycle backfire or fireworks can remind a war veteran how his leg was taken from his body by a grenade. A scene in a movie or television show can cause a rush of memories to return, causing fear together with a deluge of emotions.

The sound of a song can bring back a rush of horror. The anniversary of the original event or having sex can trigger memories of being violently attacked, even getting into a vehicle! All can trigger replays of horror.


Many individuals with PTSD purposely go out of their way to avoid triggering these intense memories that feel exactly like the original trauma. They will take a different route to avoid passing the location where the event took place for example.

Whereas avoiding the people, places and things that remind you of the original trauma makes you feel OK, this only gives you a temporary feeling of safety. Eventually, the deep wounds will erupt to the surface causing an intense re-living of the experience. If we begin to think of the trauma like having a badly infected tooth, not thinking about the occasional intense toothache doesn’t make the pain go away. Eventually you will need to confront the sick tooth.

The Sun Is too Bright

The same approach must be taken to eventually confront the trauma. Thinking about your triggers is difficult and so is confronting them. It will be easy to make excuses why you can’t. The sun is too bright or, it’s Monday, or you just don’t feel well. To take the next step you must be certain that this confrontation will be safe. You might not be ready or capable of facing you trauma alone. You may need the help of an experienced therapist to help you deal with your trauma. Sometimes there is pain before the healing process can begin.

Baby Steps

Some people benefit from gradual exposure to the least disturbing trigger. When that trigger no longer causes you any distress it may be safe to move on to the next one and so on. Until you are ready to confront the original distressing trauma. This may take some time. It may be best to proceed slowly in some circumstances. Sometimes people are frozen by the trauma just as they were when it first occurred. Re-living the horror, even in a safe setting is not easy. It can be painful but eventually you will gain control of your life again.


Another method of confronting the problem is prolonged exposure to the entire traumatic experience. This is called flooding. The idea is to create a mental image of the traumatic event repeatedly over time until the strong emotions begin to fade away. This can be a very painful process that not everyone can endure. Sometimes seeing the entire traumatic event from different perspectives can reveal clues about why the trauma has a capturing effect. A new angle may provide a way to escape the repeating terror. Seeing your life in a different way may show you a completely new way to think and act from this point on.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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