Whether you’re liberal or conservative (this is a bipartisan blog), here are 9 things you can do if you find yourself consumed by fury, terror, or other emotional intensity these days.
- Acknowledge What Happened
More than ever, people all over the world are making public very private incidences of harm (through After Silence, Project Unbreakable, and other forums for testimony). In all these instances, a common refrain has been echoed: letting go of secrecy feels liberating. Not everyone wants to be open though. Whatever route you choose, it’s crucial you believe what happened to you is real. It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, how little you remember, how slight it seemed, or how many loved ones say you’re blowing it out of proportion, it really happened. Owning your truth is critical for healing. It also helps others come out of the shadows so they can recover as well.
- Stop Blaming Yourself
Sexual predators are masterful at making victims feel as though they brought events upon themselves. Shame on them—not you.
- Reach Out
Being triggered means having your brain hijacked by anger, despondency, or other feelings. There might, concurrently, be numbness and dissociation. You’re not alone in this muck. Talk to another survivor or someone sympathetic; they’re all around you (just look at how many came forth around the election). Open up to supportive friends and family, or to a therapist. Connect with others online. There’s no need to suffer in silence.
- Cultivate Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a stress-reduction practice that anchors a person in the present moment. Many trauma experts view it as an essential way to wrestle back control of an activated nervous system. Yoga and seated meditation are popular ways of learning this skill, but you can also use an app like this one. Find a method that works for you; then engage with it regularly. Consistency is key.
- Ramp Up The Pleasure
Every therapist I consulted with on my recovery journey recommended self-care as a way to counterbalance anxiety. I concur but would add: wild delight works better than mild comfort. In other words, choose a teacup, a bath salt, or a set of pajamas that thrills you. This elevates self-care to passionate self-love. Love is the antidote to harm.
- Power Up
One of the greatest lessons I learned on my healing odyssey was the crucial role that power plays in a survivor’s recovery. There are so many ways to experience agency. Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, a New York therapist and editor of the book How Does That Make You Feel, suggests taking part in advocacy efforts (volunteering at a crisis center, calling Congress, donating funds, etc.). You could participate in these civic actions, or come up with your own. Whatever you do, don’t wait. Your bravery inspires everyone around you as well.
- Get Off the Grid
While the web is a great place for community, it can also be overwhelming. Amatenstein advises patients who are being triggered by the news to stay away from social media and TV coverage, at least for a while. Don’t become isolated though. Make sure you stay connected to people face-to-face.
- Band Together
Obviously, the country is divided right now on so many issues; however, the warriors who are fighting pedophilia, rape, and other forms of unwanted erotic attention come from all corners. We need every one of these voices—former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (who brought sexual harassment charges against her Fox News boss) and Hillary supporter Mariska Hargitay (who started the Joyful Heart Foundation); we need elected officials in red and blue states. Let’s work together to demand workplaces, schools, homes, and communities free from sexual mistreatment.
- Seize This Moment in our History.
Although this is a painful time for many survivors, it’s also an incredible opportunity for thoughtful men and women to take back our world. Too many have spoken up, and spoken out, to turn back now. Can this momentum help us prevent further violence against women, men, girls, boys, and those existing between genders? I think it can, as long as we see this moment as a catalyst for change—a trigger. One we know exactly what to do with.