Noticing when someone is using your triggers to disorient and confuse you



When someone is using your triggers to disorient and confuse you, it’s confusing. It can take a long time to figure out what’s going on.

Here are some things I think are red flags:

If someone seems to like you more when you’re triggered than when you’re in control, something is seriously wrong

  • For instance, if a therapist only listens to you when you’re sobbing and otherwise acts as though you couldn’t possibly understand anything about yourself
  • Or when a friend suddenly finds you fascinating when you’re triggered and they’re supporting you through it, but they half-ignore you most of the rest of the time

If someone feels entitled to discuss triggering subjects with you (absent an immediate practical reason to), something is seriously wrong:

  • For instance, if you say that you’d rather not discuss dogs right now because it’s triggering and you’re close to the edge already, and they say “but I thought we were friends! How can you shut me out like that?”
  • Or if a therapist tells you that you’ll never get better unless you are willing to discuss once again, in graphic terms, the ways people abused you - and they refuse to say, help you figure out whether the medication you are taking is working, or whether the side effects are dangerous, unless you do this over and over

If you end up triggered every time you try to reject personal advice, something is seriously wrong:

  • For instance, if someone regularly wants to tell you how to dress, and every time you try to wear something different, they push you until you end up sobbing and apologizing, something is wrong
  • This is particularly the case if they’re always bringing triggering things into a conversation that didn’t need to have anything to do with them
  • Your desire to wear a red hat rather than the blue on they want you to wear is probably because you want to wear a red hat
  • It’s very unlikely that it’s because you have no perspective on clothes because your abusers damaged you
  • And even if that was the reason, it would still be ok for you to prefer a red hat, and wrong for someone to try to force you to wear a blue one by triggering you

Also, if this is going on, it’s okay to just cut the person out of your life and leave. It doesn’t matter why it’s happening; it just matters that it is happening. This is true even if it’s unintentional and even if the person has a reason for behaving that way. There is nothing that makes someone obligated to put up with abuse.

(Adding this here in particular because I’m pretty sure this is one of the situations where it’s particularly likely an abuser will try to convince someone that they’re obligated to stick around, as opposed to, say, trying to convince them that leaving would make things even worse for them.)

This. That is a really common way that plays out.