Triggers lose power when you name them, like Voldemort

OK so I finally figured out why I’ve been feeling so oddly down, anxious, negative, off balanced, not good enough, etc

We adopted a new dog from the humane society a few weeks ago. She’s a 5 yr old border collie mix, and is turning into a great companion for my 15 year old shepherd collie mix.

So new dog came with some issues, as they always do when you adopt a rescue. I’ve been channeling my inner Cesar Milan and the 1st week I felt great, heroic almost. in charge. calm.

Next week I starting feeling odd and could not name it. I was struggling with everything and felt like my life had gotten too hard and the old familiar tapes started playing in my head – just give up, this is too hard, you’ll never be good enough, why did think you could help this dog-she was better off at the pound . . .

This tape started affecting my every thought and I put on the brakes, realizing I had been triggered but not knowing how. I told my brain to shut up and just went through the daily motions until the shame storm eased up.

Yesterday I finally figured it out.

My AF used pets to torture and control me. I have lost count of how many pets we adopted that were killed, vanished, or taken to the pound. Each time was the same – he was the hero for getting the pet, we all fell in love and bonded (except him of course), and then at the first sign of trouble from new puppy or kitten – the threats began. If I couldn’t control that ‘disgusting beast’ and teach it to potty outside/stop chewing/getting in the trash, etc – it would have to go back.

I remember all too well the hyper responsibility I felt, as young as age 6, thinking it was all up to me to save this poor creatures life, if only I could train it fast enough and make sure AF never saw the puddle or mess from the accidents. It was always MY FAULT, not because that is what is to be expected for new puppies or kittens. He set up these unrealistic expectations, again and again, and I always tried to meet them, and always failed.

So new dog is not completely potty trained and has some territorial issues during feeding time, and I think that’s when I started worrying that she would be taken away from me and it triggered all that pain, desperation, and feelings of not being good enough. All my fault. I would certainly.

As soon as I named this fear, like screaming VOLDEMORT, it removed the fear. You can’t fight what you can’t see. I let the old pain resurface, grieved for that little girl – again – and felt a release. I am finding that I have to go through this process each time, start the grieving process each time I uncover a new hurt based on an old hurt. I think this is part of the rewiring process. I hope it is working. I think it is working.

I had to see my AF in all his terrifying ugliness, and understand that I am no longer that little girl, and that this dog will have a happy home here, just like my other dog. I will work with her until she becomes part of our pack. I will not respond in anger to things that aren’t her fault, I will gently correct and show her what to do instead. I understand this will take time, something I was never given as a child. Now did AF understand this too? Yes I am sure he did. He set me up for failure to purposely cause me pain, and manipulate my tiny emotions, to rip me apart. I do believe it was intentional, I no longer give any ‘benefit of the doubt’. I have accepted this and no longer ask why.  Why did he choose to hurt us? There is no answer and no good asking it. It is just who he was.

And so I can move on. Another obstacle hurdled. A few weeks of suffering and mental anguish survived, processed. Another part of me healed. until next time.


8 thoughts on “Triggers lose power when you name them, like Voldemort

  1. Sometimes it can be difficult to put two and two together and come up with four, so it’s good that you’ve been able to identify how this experience triggered memories that brought up feelings of shame and being out of control. Sometimes we only get as far as being mired down in the bad feelings, and never make it to the part where we are able to see the connection, so good for you. Just like in anything else, being able to “put a name to it” really can help you let it go. 🙂

    • Sometimes I think I don’t want to see the connection. This one seemed fairly obvious once I saw it and allowed myself to ‘look there’. It just hit me, I wasn’t looking for connections, I wasn’t analyzing or thinking about the past. I didn’t have a flashback to knock me on my arse and scream out the connection to me. And yet I was searching for a why, why do I feel like this? It occurred to me when I got irrationally angry at the kids for ‘letting’ the dog pee in the kitchen. I asked them to hold her leash for a minute while I ran upstairs and came down to a puddle. None of the kids saw her do it and I started spouting terrible amounts of blame. I stopped myself, apologized, but still felt off. The next day I could connect the dots. If it wasn’t so terrible to live in this, it would simply be utterly fascinating to unravel how are brains work in this manner.

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