Understanding Emotional Triggers of War Trauma

When helping Veterans, we have to be extremely mindful not to expose them to unintentional triggers.

To make a soldier feel comfortable, make sure that the windows or doors can’t bang, and that there aren’t unforeseen noises or other interruptions that can set of an intense and uncontrollable response. Even the sound of music or running water can be too much for someone who is trying to keep an overwhelming amount of flashbacks and intrusive thoughts under control while focusing on talking with you.

Depending on the trauma that someone has been through, even a change in voice, a picture of a depressed person or certain sounds or smells can trigger flashbacks and intrusive thoughts and cause startling and fear.

When talking at  Military events, I always exercise extreme caution with what was being said and how the people in the room respond to it.

Even in our small and rather intimate group in San Francisco, some veterans decided to not do the borrowing benefits sessions, as they found it difficult to participate in someone else’s session. If you feel you have to do trauma work in a  group, which most of the Veterans I have asked about this would not advise to do,  highly recommend keeping the group of veterans very small, so that you are able to respond to adverse reactions quickly and effectively. If you have several people getting triggered at the same time, this could present danger for them and the group, possibly even you.

Good rapport and trust in your integrity are essential for all participants. Remember that they are trained to be self reliant, and that they usually come to you as the last resort. They may have coping strategies that you are not aware of, and also trigger each other in ways that you don’t recognize if you aren’t familiar with the specific looks and signs that most veterans understand about each other.

EFT has shown to be very effective in releasing the trauma behind the triggers, however, in a  group situation, you have to be aware of  what is or  might be happening at any given time.

A mind that has been trained to remain in a state of self defense will recognize images and sounds as potentially threatening, and act upon the threat without delay, even though you might think they should be easy and appropriate.

If you  are interested in working with Veterans I feel that it  is important to  learn as much as you can about military culture and mindset, attend military culture trainings and other events that might  be open to the public, read and study the literature, not just the studies, that were written by Veterans, watch the documentaries that they recommend and spend as may  hours as you can gaining insights and developing the understanding and compassion that most veterans only expect from close buddies and immediate family members. I have spent countless hours just listening to stories and backgrounds, asking questions that only those who have been in the field can answer and teach, so that my Veterans became my mentors and teachers.

The military is a  world within itself, and being accepted is a privilege that takes time to develop and needs to be earned. As EFT coaches and practitioners, we have to be careful to always work within our legal and ethical limitations and scope of practice, refer to mental health care providers and medical doctors, as EFT coaching is not replacement for proper care through these licensed professionals.

Remember that EFT is an amazing tool to release the intensity of traumatic memories, negative beliefs and even related physical symptoms. However, without insights into the military mindset and world, we might  have difficulties creating true rapport or expose veterans to triggers unknowingly. We might also not read their signs properly and miss out on important clues that would have helped them better.

  • I haven’t read this book yet, but it sounds like excellent, first hand literature about the life of a military family with PTSD. Will be glad to review it and let you know after.
  • Living With The Legacy of War (prweb.com)
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