A Trap of Our Own Making
February 2023 · Forward in Hope
For most of us, Valentine’s Day inspires thoughts of romantic love. Unfortunately, it can also provide powerful triggers for persons dealing with trauma. Our guest blogger this week, Director of Clinical Services Pamela Cornwell, offers suggestions to help navigate the holiday.
Do you ever have high expectations for yourself or those closest to you? Do you ever feel let down or disappointed when things don’t live up to what you had imagined? Since we flipped that calendar page over to February 1 we have been on the march toward the biggest romance, hearts, and flowers day of the year – Valentine’s Day, and many of your expectations and feelings are associated with your past experiences with relationships and romance.
Listen to yourself and, if you have a partner, them as well. Talk together or journal for yourself about your memories and feelings related to your experience with relationships and romance. Come up with a plan for how you would prefer to spend the day.
Take the pressure off for the day. Plan something more laid back. If cards, flowers, and candy will wreck your budget, then don’t! Come up with another way to show your partner how important they are to you. If you are solo, do what soothes your soul, read a good book, take a long walk, or eat your favorite meal.
Intimacy can be a particularly powerful trigger for those that have experienced sexual or physical assault or abuse. Even a hug can activate trauma responses of fight or flight. Talk about how you are feeling and what you are able to handle. Be honest about your thoughts, your physical sensations, and feelings related to your traumatic responses and guide your partner in how they can help you feel safe and secure. You have every other day of the year to share intimate moments with your partner. Don’t let Valentine’s Day become a trap of your own making.
Honor your relationship with yourself, particularly if you are solo. Make a list of all the characteristics or attributes or accomplishments that you are most proud of about yourself. On homemade or purchased valentines, write one thing from your list along with “From your Valentine.” Leave your valentines around your home, in your car or lunchbox, in your wallet, or tucked in your computer. Put them in places where you will easily see them throughout the day.
You can manage a day that is filled with triggers for you or someone you care about. The choices are yours.