How to Bring Yourself Back from the Dark Side

Learning to live with past trauma.

Merre Larkin

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Woman running through a field of purple wildflowers.
Photo by Alexey Fedenkov on Unsplash

There is no cure for post-traumatic stress disorder. The triggers of past trauma don’t magically disappear over time. However, over time, you can get better at managing the triggers.

One, you can learn to identify them. Or, you can at least detect that something is triggering you, even if you can’t put your finger on it.

Two, you can master which coping mechanism or self-care tool you’re going to need to bring yourself back to a relaxed and peaceful state, or even a bearable state. A bearable state is progress, if relaxed and peaceful isn’t achievable.

The Window of Tolerance

It’s important to distinguish between what self-care tools you need to use depending on your reaction to what’s triggered you. There is what’s referred to in trauma recovery as a “window of tolerance”. When your tolerance for whatever is going on around you is within two parallel lines, “=”, you’re good. When you become escalated and go above that top parallel line, you need something to calm you down. When you numb out and go below the bottom parallel line, you need something to snap you back.

It looks like this:

Taken from handouts used in group therapy with clients. (Author’s pic)

Escalating above or falling below the window of tolerance can happen often if you are only coming to terms with your trauma now, but even after years of processing trauma, and healing, triggers will come. It happens to me. Often, I don’t know what it is, although I can guess. Sometimes I know exactly what it is.

I used to have a list handy of distraction techniques, or activities, that I knew would make me feel better. I started making a list when I was leading a group of clients through creating theirs. They wanted to see what I wrote as they were sharing theirs. I ended up finding the list helpful.

I don’t need the physical list as much anymore. Now, it’s like a quiet alarm sounds in my mind. Hmm, everything has been going well. Nothing is wrong in my life. In fact, everything is, at the least, copacetic. But I’m feeling…

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Merre Larkin

Writer. Life coach. Educator. Marathoner. Survivor. Avid reader. Here to share, here to learn.