Trauma survivors know triggers. We know triggers for our triggers (like the coarse trolls who make fun of us for being triggered in the first place). If there is a single trademark characteristic that defines trauma, it is triggers. So much of therapy and self-help for triggers is focused on recovering from the trauma and reprogramming ourselves to respond differently to current triggers that really are rooted in the past events that traumatized us. When we are triggered, we are usually experiencing emotional flashbacks to the pain of the original traumatizing event, which may go all the way back to childhood in some cases. These in-the-moment, triggered emotions can lie to us, even when we are not in any danger whatsoever. Even when we have all the power we need to overcome, like Dorothy’s red slippers waiting to whisk us to safety. Feelings are not facts. But during an emotional flashback, feelings are everything: past, present, and future. They are real, intense, and seemingly obstruct our ability to ever move and escape them. We feel forever trapped and re-victimized again and again in these triggered emotional flashbacks.
Spending months and years learning to respond differently to triggers once you’re already in an emotional flashback is a reactiveapproach. There is a time for this, of course. If we experience a new, real, dangerous, threatening traumatic event today, we need some resources and tools to manage the immediate 4F response: fight/flight, freeze/fawn: See Pete Walker’s brilliant theories on the 4Fs. (If you are having an imminent or current emotional flashback and need to take back control of your emotions immediately see Walker’s 13 Steps to Managing an Emotional Flashback here right now).
But as my witchcraft practice has evolved, it has revealed to me a more natural yet helpful approach that has worked even better (and faster) in arming myself against most triggers I experience in everyday situations. This is a proactive approach grounded in magick. The magick of witchcraft has many protective tools, but beyond that, it has mental programming tools, cognitive retraining tools, and conditioning tools. It has ritual tools, symbolism tools, and archetypal tools (very important for reparenting your little inner witch child – and yes, that child can be a witch imbued with all the powers you currently have in order to change the narrative of the past). The effectiveness of conditioning and ritual in harnessing the powerful placebo effect is highly underrated. You can read more about that in my previous post here. When you recondition your brain through the power of working magick in witchcraft, you are creating new and writing over old neural pathways in your brain. There must be both input and output for this method to work. Reading books does not accomplish the same level of work required to rewire the brain because it focuses only on consuming information (input), not doing (output). Working magick does. It is simple, but it is work.