It’s interesting what you can uncover if you lean into reactions, including triggers that weren’t initially obvious. In this post, I’m using trigger in a general sense to refer to one thing bringing up (triggering) something else that’s not directly related, rather than talking about trauma triggers that cause re-experiencing.
What got me thinking about this was the way I was reacting to something that a blogging friend was dealing with recently. There were issues with this person’s partner, and a treatment provider was planning to report concerns to the person’s employer.
My initial reaction was worry that this was going to end up causing some really negative consequences for the blogger. I legitimately thought it would, but the strength of my “this is a bad idea” response seemed disproportionate. So I sat with that reaction and poked around at it for a while until I was able to start consciously making the connections that my head had already been making in the background.
The more obvious connection that I came to fairly quickly was that I’ve had confidentiality breached to report me in the past. My province’s fucked up Health Professions Act requires that hospitals report any regulated health professional who’s hospitalized for mental health/substance use reasons. It was a legally required breach of confidentiality, but a breach of confidentiality all the same. The first time it happened, the hospital didn’t tell me that they’d done this, and at the time I wasn’t aware of this particular bit of the Health Professions Act. I only found out when my mom brought me a letter that had come from the nursing regulator saying that they’d received a complaint about my fitness to practice. It was only after I raised hell that the unit manager admitted that she’d reported me.
It was a massive pain in the ass, both that time and the other time that it happened, so I have very strong feelings about reporting people when there’s not reason to believe that they’re a risk to patients (and I certainly didn’t have any patients I was caring for that I could harm while in the hospital myself).
Okay, so that was definitely part of my reaction to this blogger’s situation, but it felt like there was still a piece that I was missing. So, more poking at the reaction. And then I realized what this piece was.
About 6 years ago, a coworker who had personal issues with me outside of work made a complaint to our employer that I was bullying him. As we had been close friends at one point, he knew that the person who had recently become our manager had previously bullied me at my last job. This coworker turning a personal issue into an official complaint at work, which gave the manager exactly the ammunition he needed to try to destroy my career, which he ended up having some degree of success at.
So those two separate issues were what the blogger’s situation was stirring up in me regarding bringing issues from the personal sphere into the professional sphere. I’m pretty sure I would have had concerns for the blogger’s well-being in their specific situation regardless of what the situation triggered in me, but the strength of my reaction came from what was triggered rather than the blogger’s situation.
Stuff related to the bullying doesn’t come up for me very often anymore, so it was a bit unexpected that it would come up now. Three years ago, I decided to work on a trauma account as described in the cognitive processing therapy (CPT) protocol (I didn’t have PTSD, but up until that point I had only partially processed what had happened). It made a big difference, and really toned down the emotion level associated with the memories. Still, it’s not something I have any desire to reactivate, so I decided that stepping away from this person’s blog for the time being was probably the best course of action.
I’ve always been a very introspective person, and this was one of those times that made me appreciate that willingness (at least some of the time) to sift through what’s happening in my head. It doesn’t always yield the clarity that it did in this situation, but I still appreciate it.
Do you have any mental processes that you tend to use if you’re triggered (either in a trauma sense or a more general sense) to try to explore and make sense of what’s happening?