NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Sunday, May 5, 2024

How to Use "Anchors" to Cope With Trauma-Related Triggers - Part 1

As a trauma therapist in New York City, one of the questions I often get from clients is how to  cope with trauma-related triggers (see my article: Reacting to Your Present Circumstances Based on Your Traumatic Past).

Using Anchors For Trauma-Related Triggers

What Are Trauma-Related Triggers?
A trauma-related trigger is a psychological stimulus that causes an involuntary recall of a previous traumatic experience (see my article: Becoming Aware of Psychological Triggers).

Trauma triggers are also called a trauma stimulus, a trauma stressor or a trauma reminder.

The trigger doesn't have to be directly related to traumatic memories from the past. It can be indirectly or superficially related to these memories. 

When someone experiences a trauma trigger, they often feel overwhelmed. 

Some people experience panic attacks or a flashback, including an emotional flashback.

Using Anchors For Trauma-Related Triggers

If someone is really overwhelmed, they might feel the urge to flee the situation or they might freeze (become immobilized) in place (the trauma responses are fight, flight, freeze or fawn).

They might also try to avoid situations where they might get triggered, but this isn't always possible and, even when it is, it's not a solution to the problem. 

Also, avoidance can lead to a person's life becoming small and narrow with increasing urges to avoid more and more situations (see my article: 8 Tips For Coping With Triggers).

Triggers are personal and specific for each person.

Triggers can include but are not limited to:
  • A sight
  • A scent
  • A sound
  • A taste
  • A sensation
  • An argument
  • Certain times of the day
  • Specific dates or certain times of the year
  • Certain places
  • Certain activities
  • A certain person or certain people
  • Certain emotions
  • Certain situations
When someone experiences a trigger, it means that the psychological stimulus goes beyond their window of tolerance so they feel emotionally dysregulated.

Using an anchor can help someone who is triggered to feel emotionally regulated again in the moment. This doesn't mean the problem is resolved. It's a temporary way of self soothing in the moment, but knowing how to self soothe in this way can make a big difference in coping temporarily.

A long term solution would be to work with a trauma therapist who does Experiential Therapy (see my article: What is Experiential Therapy and Why Is It More Effective Than Regular Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma?).

What Are Anchors?
Basically, anchors are different ways of grounding or emotionally regulating yourself so that, when you are emotionally overwhelmed, you come back into a calmer state of mind in the present moment.

Using Anchors to Calm Yourself

There are many different kinds of anchors.

Choosing an anchor that works for you is a personal choice and you might find that certain anchors work better than others.

Internal Anchors
Internal anchors can include:
  • Engaging in mindfulness meditation (precaution: for some people who have a history of trauma, this can be triggering, so you have to know what works for you)
External Anchors
External anchors can include:
  • Touching a particular object (a favorite stone or any small object you can carry with you that is personally meaningful and calming)
  • Smelling a particular calming scent (some people carry small bottles of lavender oil with them to smell when they feel triggered)
An Anchor Can Be Listening to Relaxing Music

  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Seeing natural surroundings in nature where you focus on the particular colors, shapes and, if relevant, textures (some people find it soothing to take a walk in nature and observe the trees, flowers or look up at the clouds)
Next Article
In my next article, I'll expand on this topic with more information about how you can use anchors to cope with triggers: 

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy
As I mentioned earlier in this article, anchors are a resource you can use to calm yourself temporarily when you're experiencing trauma-related triggers, but anchors are not a long term solution.

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy

Working with a trauma therapist who uses Experiential Therapy can help you to overcome trauma so you're no longer triggered.

Experiential Therapy is an umbrella term for different types of mind-body oriented therapy, including:
  • EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy) 
  • Parts Work (Ego States Therapy and Internal Family Systems)
Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a skilled trauma therapist so you can free yourself from your traumatic history and lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist 

I work with individual adults and couples. 

As a trauma therapist, I have helped many clients to overcome psychological trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.