Identifying Trauma Triggers: Why Feedback is Triggering
Feedback, whether positive, negative, or neutral feedback, can be incredibly triggering for survivors of childhood abuse or complex trauma. Let’s discuss why feedback can be added to the list of trauma triggers, and why different types of feedback may be difficult for trauma survivors.
Until now, you may not have realized why you dread feedback so much, whether it be from friends, family, coworkers, or your boss. You may experience intense fear and anxiety about receiving feedback, and it may even make you feel like you’re reliving negative scenarios of the past.
I’m going to explain just how each type of feedback (positive, negative, and neutral) could be triggering you and why. But first, I want to give you an understanding of neural networks and how they relate to trauma triggers.
Trauma Neural Networks
Trauma is stored in our brain in what are called neural networks. If we have experienced trauma, there are neural networks that consist of things like memories, sensations, situations, people, thoughts, feelings, places, etc.
Whenever we experience something within our trauma neural networks, it can trigger the network and make our mind and body feel as if we are re-experiencing the trauma.
Now, let’s break down each form of feedback, and identify how each type of feedback could be in your list of trauma triggers and why.
Positive Feedback as a Trauma Trigger
Positive feedback can be triggering for several reasons. First, it can feel like manipulation if feedback was used as a manipulation tactic in the past.
Positive feedback may also just feel gross or uncomfortable. Perhaps the person who gave you positive feedback in the past gave it for things that you didn’t feel good about. Or that person wasn’t a good person and you didn’t feel comfortable getting feedback from them.
Positive feedback may also be triggering because it doesn’t match what you feel on the inside, either because you feel like a bad person or you feel unworthy. These feelings may be conscious or unconscious.
Negative Feedback as a Trauma Trigger
For the survivor of complex trauma or childhood abuse, negative feedback can often feel the most comfortable. But it can also be triggering, either because criticism in the past was very unfair, or because it was paired with abuse.
For instance, if you didn’t perform a task right, that’s when the physical abuse or verbal berating would happen. Receiving negative feedback in the present can feel scary and trigger your trauma neural networks.
Negative feedback can also be difficult because you feel like others should understand how hard things are for you or what you’re going through. This is because your parents and caregivers didn’t do that for you.
Neutral Feedback as a Trauma Trigger
Finally, neutral feedback is one of the most triggering kinds of feedback to get as a survivor of complex trauma or childhood abuse. This is because it’s so ambiguous.
As a child, or whenever you were going through the trauma, you often felt like you were walking on eggshells. You likely had very unstable or unpredictable caregivers. Or even in past relationship abuse, the other person’s reactions to things were very unpredictable.
Ambiguous feedback leads you to ruminate. You have repetitive thoughts such as “What do they think?”, “How do they feel?”, “It can’t just be okay, something must be wrong.” These thoughts lead to a great deal of anxiety and probably make you feel as if you are reliving past situations.
Dealing With Trauma Triggers
Here’s some good news. One of the first steps to learning how to deal with your trauma triggers is identifying them. Just by reading this post, you have learned to identify why feedback may be a trauma trigger for you.
Part of the goal of trauma therapy is to change our trauma neural networks. We can do this by changing the intensity of those networks and the reactions within those networks, by weakening those neural networks, or by connecting them to more adaptive neural networks.
Ready to start healing from trauma? A good first step is to begin working with a mental health professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating trauma.
Find a Therapist to Deal With Your Trauma Triggers
If you live near Grand Island, Nebraska you can search here for Nebraska Trauma Therapy.
Other great resources for finding a trauma therapist include: