Complex PTSD triggers in the present that reminds us of the past.
When a cue in our present environment reminds our brain of an event from the past, we move to experience activation in our nervous system. Put another way, we move to hyper or hypo arousal. ( See post on the therapeutic window of tolerance).
Our brain is involved and this is why something as simple as a smell, sound, expression on a persons face, or an internal sensation, such as nausea, or burning in the stomach, can be enough to tell our brain that we are back in the past.
Practicing Dual Awareness when we are triggered is the most useful thing that we can do to gain control over the situation.
Some people don’t know when they are experiencing a trigger or are activated. If you are feeling like fighting, fleeing, or shut down (freeze) and there is no immediate threat in the present, then this is a good clue about the possibility of being triggered by a cue in the present environment that reminds your brain of the past.
Relationships are tricky and are often opportunities for lots of ” triggers from our past,” Unless you are experiencing abuse (of any form), resist the urge to fight, flight or freeze. Instead, calm your nervous system and when you are calm, then communicate with your partner what you are feeling. Remember when we are triggered (nervous system activated) our feelings are not correct, so resist the urge to blame the person for what felt like a threat. Instead, take care of yourself by calming your nervous system and grounding yourself in the present.
Crystal Arber CC 2014