A trauma trigger is defined as a psychological stimulus that prompts recall of a previous traumatic experience. Triggers can be challenging for each of us. Yet they also offer insight of areas where we are working to heal. Join Sonia Hsieh, LCSW in an exploration of how psychedelic therapy can work with triggers to promote growth and healing.
Triggers signal blocks and walls regarding people’s connection within themselves. Where there are walls inside, there will also be blocks in life and in relationships.
Feeling is Understanding
As many are aware, psilocybin and MDMA are currently being classified as ‘breakthrough therapies’ by the FDA. This is due to their profound impact on certain groups, namely, those with terminal illnesses or PTSD.
Why are these medicines so effective, and so rapidly effective, for these groups of people. Whereas most traditional therapies don’t seem to make a dent in alleviating people’s suffering?
I believe the answer is because psychedelics help us to feel good. And, a body that feels good is a body that feels safe. Moreover, a body that feels safe is capable of experiencing miraculous things.
As Wim Hof famously says, ‘Feeling is understanding.’ And Hof is someone who truly understands this, as evidenced by his miraculous feats of the human body.
Many people spend the majority of our days and lives avoiding our feelings. To exacerbate the issue, we have now cleverly devised a justification for avoiding our feelings with the saying, ‘I feel triggered.’ But, what if this sidestep is a clever trick of the ego, leading us further into our suffering, instead of through it?
Healing Within our Triggers
I believe our greatest potential for healing lies hidden within our triggers, and psychedelics can help. Psychedelic use is profound in the ways these medicines help us confront ourselves by helping the body to feel good and safe. Once safe, we are able to finally slow down to face that terrible feeling our egos have labeled as ‘bad,’ to see what is truly there. And nine times out of ten, the monster we find lurking underneath our beds is usually ourselves.
When we are given the opportunity to feel good and safe, we allow the mind’s ‘forbidden’ content to come to the foreground to finally be faced. And most times, what we find is never as bad as what we once thought (except in cases where extremely traumatic memories were repressed to protect the conscious mind, in which case these memories should be processed with seriousness and great care).
It could be formulated that MDMA (‘ecstasy’) shows us that through the depths of our deepest and most painful suffering, we may experience the most elated and ecstatic of highs. And psilocybin, due to its habitat within the mycelial network, grounds us into a timeless oneness to show us that death is merely another dimension of life.
Remarkable Achievement Through Suffering
As an example, Wim Hof has accomplished what many thought to be the impossible and has experienced incredible suffering. The two go hand-in-hand. We cannot experience one without the other. Wim Hof’s wife tragically killed herself leaving him alone to raise their 4 young children . From this devastating loss, Hof then learned to catalyze these profound feelings of grief into stunning performances of the human body. Psychedelics and breathwork (which induce a psychedelic-like state) help to bring us to this place of understanding beyond the polarities of the mind – this place of oneness and unity – beyond duality and into love.
When we are in love, which I believe is a state of being “out of” the mind and fully in the present moment, we understand. And when we understand, we transcend our suffering.
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So, just what are triggers?
Triggers are feelings. And, who produces those feelings?
Here are some examples: If someone told me, ‘Sonia, you are blonde,’ I would not be triggered (To this date, I am still an Asian-American woman with black hair).
Now, if someone told me, ‘Sonia, you are manipulative and ugly,’ we have a different story.
Let’s take it down one notch to, ‘Sonia, you are bad at drawing and Spanish.’ Because these are aspects of myself that I have faced and accepted about myself, if someone said this to me, I would not be triggered.
Let’s go back to the stronger trigger. Each word, ‘ugly’ and ‘manipulative,’ stirs up a feeling in me. Now, what is the difference between the feeling I get when I hear blonde versus manipulative?
Here is the radical shift.
There is no difference between those two expressions because both of them are me.
It is only me experiencing these feelings.
You Are the Trigger
You are your trigger because you are the one creating, and then experiencing, these feelings. Once you can recognize this, the experience the ”trigger” elicited in you can then be transmuted back into love and understanding. (Yes, and triggers are often the results of trauma so changing your feelings and interpretations about triggers is not so easy. Change takes some time and energy and yes, psychedelics can help.)
You are your trigger because you are the one creating, and then experiencing, these feelings.
This is very similar to the way Wim Hof teaches how to transmute extreme feelings of cold into warmth. Through breath and awareness, he is able to change the response of his nervous system and override the body’s conditioned responses into a present moment response. This same alchemical process can apply while turning our triggers and fears back into feelings of safety and acceptance.
Along the road towards healing and self-realization, we bump into our emotional blocks and traumas. Once we can view every trigger as the medicine towards our next upgrade, we strengthen the muscle of transforming faith into knowing, knowing into truth, and truth into self-empowerment.
And, thank goodness we have psychedelics here to help us do some of the work, too!
- Vice (Director). (2015, July 16). The superhuman world of Wim Hof: The Iceman [Video file]. Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaMjhwFE1Zw
Photo Credit: “Unlocking the Vision” by Madeline Lynch. Mixed Media Print