Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, you know, I think I’m going to jump into the stratosphere at every moderately loud sound. 

Nobody starts the day thinking, you know what, I think every single relationship in which I start to feel vulnerable, I’m going to scramble to get the hell out of there while simultaneously pushing them away with all my might. 

Nobody makes the conscious decision to fall all over themselves trying to appease, entertain, or otherwise gain the approval of someone they just met— or someone they know isn’t good for them. 

Trauma responses aren’t choices. 

Fight, fight, freeze, fawn, flop— all those describe nervous system responses that are triggered by…well, by a lot of things, potentially. 

It’s a misunderstanding about trauma that triggers are only related to the trauma. 

The truth is, trauma tends to sensitize our ENTIRE nervous system— so LOTS of things that might not seem to have ANYTHING to do with our trauma might become triggers. 

When we’re triggered, we run a pattern. 

It’s as automatic as pushing a button on a machine. The machine doesn’t “decide” whether to run the function that is connected to that button; it just runs it. 

Yet, lots of us feel guilty about and frustrated by our trauma responses. 

We’re aware that our trauma responses often get in the way of living— and, especially, relating. 

We’re taught by our culture that the key to changing a pattern of behavior is willpower. 

We’re taught that people of good character can essentially “make” themselves stop doing something if they try hard enough— and “good people” try “hard enough.” 

Trauma responses aren’t normal behaviors, though. 

Just like we didn’t ask the trauma to happen to us, we don’t ask trauma reactions to kick in. They just do. 

Feeling guilty about trauma reactions kicking in when a trigger is tripped is like feeling guilty we gasp when we’re surprised or shiver when we’re cold. 

The same is true fo seemingly more complex behavioral patterns that have their roots in trauma reactions. 

We don’t WANT to be suspicious of new relationships— or, on the other hand, to go diving in head first. 

We don’t WANT to procrastinate because we’re anxious about our ability to do the thing— or because we’re anxious about the consequences of not doing the thing perfectly. 

We don’t WANT to explode in anger at people or situations that we “should” be able to handle. 

When a behavioral pattern has its roots in a trauma response— fight, flight, freeze, fawn, flop— that means at least a certain amount of it is on autopilot. 

If we want to change those behaviors, we need to first give up the idea that we’re “choosing” them. 

That doesn’t mean we abdicate responsibility for them. Very much to the contrary. 

Getting real about behaviors that are rooted in trauma responses is the first, necessary step to taking REALISTIC responsibility for them. 

We can’t change a behavior if we don’t understand its purpose. 

We don’t do things just for the hell of them. 

If we really want to manage those behavior patterns that confuse and frustrate us, we first have relate to it just like we’d relate to the underlying trauma response: with compassion. 

We have to approach it from the perspective that it is a somehow adaptive response— at least as far as our nervous system is concerned— to something that happened to us once upon a time. 

Our nervous system isn’t trying to ruin our life. It’s trying to save it. 

I know. It’s hard to relate to a behavior that’s frustrating us with compassion. 

We get better at being patient with ourselves— with being on our own side, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt— as recovery goes on. 

Stick with it. Day by day. 

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