Posted by engagemn
By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
First and foremost, we shouldn’t rationalize and justify our own abuses of others. We should turn to God, seek protection, and remember Him often.
When I was young, our home burned down. Afterwards, every time I saw a firetruck or heard of a fire, it would trigger memories of that difficult event. Over time, I was no longer triggered, although I still remembered it clearly. A trigger is anything stored in a person’s memory that brings back a whole, traumatic event. For a long time, if I saw or heard a firetruck, I would smell smoke, feel myself choking on it, and feel the panic I felt during the fire.
What of the person who triggered you or is being triggered?
Sometimes, the person who has triggered you has done something wrong. Perhaps you are triggered when you feel demeaned, and it brings up experiences of being humiliated. Those experiences can be from society such as racism, sexism, xenophobia or childhood experiences from school or family members.
First, you should manage your trigger by calming yourself down. Later, you can address the demeaning comment as itself, and not for all the feelings it’s brought up inside you. I try to do this with Islamophobes.
To be gaslighted is much different. Gaslighting is a tactic whereby a person or people attempt to gain power by making someone question their reality past or present. Triggering is generally incidental and accidental—the firefighters who turned on the siren didn’t mean to harm anyone. But gaslighting is purposeful and intentional: the abuser tells someone, over and over, that an event did not happen, in order to gain or secure power. It is a way of undermining a person’s confidence in themselves and their perceptions of the world.