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Arguing As A Trigger?

Discussion in 'PTSD Relationships' started by lisamarie, Oct 9, 2011.

  1. lisamarie

    lisamarie New Member

    I am starting to realize that one of my WORST PTSD triggers is arguing with my boyfriend.

    As soon as we start arguing or any kind of a disagreement, I tense up, find it hard to concentrate, am afraid to speak, and get immediately jumpy at everything. Now, to clarify, my boyfriend NEVER raises his voice to me, and does NOTHING to make me think he's going to hurt me or even disrespect me.

    Can anyone else relate? And does anyone have suggestions? Unfortunately, I think its going to be hard to avoid disagreements for the rest of my life. ;)
    Gina C., AngelaMarie, Srain and 4 others like this.
  2. VDWngr1355

    VDWngr1355 Well-Known Member

    I think arguing could be a trigger. I work at a retail store as a cashier and I have had customers yell at me for no reason or they just annoyed for small things. When things like that happen I get dizzy and numb out.
  3. maddog

    maddog VIP Member

    Conflict, or potential impending conflict, of any kind, is a horrible trigger for me right now. I can't even remember if this has always been the case, or if it's just another new out-of-the-box development of late, but right now the mere sense that someone is directing disapproval my way is enough to send chills of horror and terror quite literally through my body. I swear I honestly cringed today when my colleague shot a snide remark my way about a thoroughly inconsequencial work issue...

    Wish I had words of wisdom, but I don't, other than to say that given how frequently interpersonal conflict or tension or abuse or cruelty or other forms of "badness" are symptomatic of PTSD histories, it's hardly a surprise that arguing or conflict should be so triggering.

    Maddog
  4. lindtoholic

    lindtoholic New Member

    Yep - major trigger for me here, which is horrible because my boyfriend hasn't got any possible link to the situation of mine which could be explained. After speaking to my counsellor, she explained that it's probably the stress from an argument with a male in an intimate role which is causing me to have triggers, although it wasn't really obvious to me in the past due to the repressed nature of my memory; naturally, though, the body and mind has ways of passing through messages of warnings to people in certain situations, and so my relationship with my father also became affected from it.

    In my view, there's not much that can be done since arguments are only "natural" in relationships. I'm trying to explain to my boyfriend the reasons as best as I can, but the trouble with that is it's happened so frequently with neither of us being aware of what was happening that I'm not sure if he's going to be as accepting. But I'm sure that there is a way to get around this nonetheless in your case, since any problem has a solution that can be reached by both parties some way or another.

    I wish you all the best.
    unalaa and simplekindofgirl like this.
  5. Kris1984

    Kris1984 New Member

    Arguing is a trigger for me too, depending on who it is coming from. I am working on it. It does not trigger me to get scared though, it makes me aggressive. I get very aggressive and that is something I have struggled with for a long time.
    Srain, unalaa and simplekindofgirl like this.
  6. maddog

    maddog VIP Member

    God, what timing. I had a workplace incident on Friday which, by all objective assessments, was very minor. Two of my colleagues took exception to the fact that I have been nominated to attend a certain event while they have not, and they made their displeasure and disgust at the decision of my boss very apparent. They talked to each other in my presence about how our boss had "lost his marbles" and that "obviously the standards have really dropped around here."

    One of them then suggested that it was "pretty bloody pointless" to have a piece of computer equipment that wasn't working, after having discovered that it wasn't working (to my detriment only) and I hadn't taken steps to get the tech boys down to fix it.

    All such minor stuff, all so trivial, but there was something in the disgusted accusing tone of my male colleague in particular that triggered me so badly that I had one of the worst public meltdowns I think i've ever had.

    I fled from work at 10am in the morning while my colleagues gaped in horror... and right now, I'm not sure I'll ever go back.

    Guess I really am triggered by arguing afterall.

    Maddog
  7. kimba

    kimba Well-Known Member Premium Member

    A definite trigger for me having grown up in a chaotic alcoholic household. I have to walk away if people are arguing near me and if I get into one it isn't pretty, it becomes like an all or nothing verbal war.
    Gina C. and Srain like this.
  8. Allie202

    Allie202 New Member

    OMG. I can totally relate! Whenever I even sense that DH is angry about something, I always get huge anxiety until I can get him to fess up to what he's angry about. (He's very good at bottling up his anger.) If his anger is about something I've said or done, I totally break down. DH is very peaceful in expressing his anger. Never a raised voice, or temper. But my sense of his disapproval is enough to send me into a tailspin. Panic attacks, sob fests, and self pitty galore. Even if it is over something super tiny, the situation usually turns into a gigantic verbal battle that lasts hours.
    simplekindofgirl likes this.
  9. PTSD sufferer

    PTSD sufferer New Member Premium Member

    It is good that you have identified a trigger. But the work does not stop there.

    Ask yourself what it is about that situation (internally) which is upsetting. Everyone has their own 'core belief' systems and arguments may spark negative 'core beliefs'. Take for example, someone who didn't feel listened to in an argument. Not feeling listened to, made them feel stupid (which is the negative core belief) and made them argue more, get upset and recall negative times when they felt that way, which can be triggering.

    It takes time and patience, but once you know what these 'negative core beliefs' are, you can start to address them - sometimes with therapy, such as CBT. Everyone has 'core beliefs', both negative and positive. The key is to know when the negative ones are being sparked and address them internally with rational thinking. Put the negative belief in one column and next to it write all the rational reasons why that is not true (be honest with yourself, there are many). For example, Core belief: you feel stupid. Rational: you're not stupid because in the past you got good grades on an assignment at school etc

    This insight has helped me address arguments with my hubby. Its not a cure for arguments, we still argue, that's how we learn from each other and develop our own perspectives, but the arguments are less emotionally loaded now. I hope you find the same benefits I have from thinking and reflecting on this insight (core beliefs).
    Srain, Eleanor, unalaa and 3 others like this.
  10. Goose

    Goose New Member

    I didnt even realize the having conflict with some was a trigger for me until I read this thread. Lol I guess you learn something new everyday. When my bf and I argue I always feel like im being attacked. I get so angry I could puch someone. My heart pounds like crazy and I feel as tho I could loose control at any second. I always feel the need to run away and hide to get away from conflict especially with my bf. It makes it horribly frustrating I try to get away from a fight and he chases after me trying to resolve it right then. It makes me feel cornered and so angry that I cant say and do what I need to get out of that situation or resolve the problem.
    Srain, unalaa and simplekindofgirl like this.
  11. Sarahleigh

    Sarahleigh New Member

    Sorry for "necroing" this thread, but conflict of any kind is my main trigger, which makes life extremely hard at times. We live in a high cost of living area, and my husband works hard and long hours to keep us afloat, because I am currently in a state where I can not work. He comes home and is the crankiest/grumpiest person in the world and I just sort of lock up and freeze.
    unalaa likes this.
  12. Venusian

    Venusian VIP Member Premium Member

    I have only been on here for a short while too and arguing and anger has always been a trigger for me. I would avoid any type of conflict if I could by leaving or tuning it out. If I couldn't avoid being drawn into it then I could never seem to defend myself, I would freeze and not fight back either verbally or physically. I used to think it was just my nature, that I was weak and always had been.

    For the past few months I have been recovering memories of an event that was a lot more violent than I had remembered for over 40 years. I fought back and nearly died doing so, then I was given to a woman who directed her anger at me. I was too small and too injured to fight back although I still tried at first. It wasn't until I completely gave up hope that for whatever reason, they let me go. The first person I came into contact with afterward, my teacher, someone I thought would help, was just angry that I came in so late and wouldn't listen and sent me back out onto the street. This incident is the first thing I can remember in my life and the details are slowly coming back but it explains why I have always been terrified of angry people. Now I have to work on how to fix it. Conflict is one thing that is very hard to avoid and is even necessary in life, I just wish I knew how to deal with it.
    Srain, maddog and unalaa like this.
  13. Anna

    Anna VIP Member

    Happens to me too, but my partner shouts and screams at me. Sometimes to the point of me becoming hysterical and breaking down, they would not stop shouting even if I was crying. Was like living with a drill sgt.

    I learned to cope with it by emotional numbing. Trying to control how I feel and thinking logically. It was the only way to survive for me.
    The best thing to do, is walk away. Go for a walk somewhere, when you feel like it is getting too much. Tell them it is enough, to stop and you need some fresh air.
    Srain and PTSD sufferer like this.
  14. unalaa

    unalaa New Member

    My ex-husband loves to argue. I don't. He is a very angry person. He used his anger at the world to try and control every aspect of his life including me and our children. We've been divorced for 13 years, but the arguing and directed anger didn't stop after that.

    We've moved away from him and in many ways things have gotten better, but now I've noticed that I'm still very easily triggered in that anyone's anger feels directed at me, even if it isn't and I respond accordingly by either shutting down or fighting back. I do recognize this and have been working on reducing my emotional responses.

    Like Anna, I learned to cope by numbing myself and trying to think logically and in a problem-solving manner. Getting away from it by walking away or spending time in a favorite quiet spot really helps me regroup and get perspective. This may not be the best way to deal with it, but it works for me.
    Anna likes this.
  15. Meadowsweet

    Meadowsweet VIP Member Premium Member

    Arguing is a trigger for me. Also anger (even if its between other people)

    But, quiet remarks and hints that I'm doing something wrong are even more triggering.
    LizBeth1, Srain and maddog like this.
  16. unalaa

    unalaa New Member

    ... I thought of another kind of argumentative trigger that makes me go numb and that is my ex used to make jokes about women being subservient to men. Like when Archie Bunker would yell from the living room for Edith, his wife, to get him a beer (for those of you old enough to remember that)? He thought he was hilarious when he'd do something like that and he did it to provoke an argument with me and he really did expect me to do whatever it was he demanded, although he would laugh it off if I would refuse. There was always that underlying tension, like you do it because I said so... not to mention he usually said stuff like that in front of his friends and I would feel so humiliated.
    Philippa likes this.
  17. maddog

    maddog VIP Member

    Funny thing, aggression and overt conflict is very triggering for me, but as MeadowSweet said, it is the quiet, subtle, biting, manipulative kind of criticism and psychological attack that really tips me over the cliff. I fear the smiling assassin every bit as much as I fear the dog fighter.

    Maddog
    LizBeth1, Srain and PTSD sufferer like this.
  18. shell

    shell Guest

    For me it's one of my worst triggers, my mother and father would often argue before she would belt the shit out of me.

    My husband and son were arguing about his homework tonight, and I had to walk out of the room because I was overloaded.

    I ended up crying, in the bedroom, because I can't stand anger, even when justified, the loud voices just overwhelm me. Even though they weren't being nasty, they were each really determined to get their point across. Really need to work on that!

    <Edited for paragraph breaks>
    Srain likes this.
  19. PTSD sufferer

    PTSD sufferer New Member Premium Member

    I know this one too well Anna. Sometimes people get into fits of rage, and can't even see you. I remember crying my heart out begging him to stop calling me names and just leave me alone. I would grab his hands and put them on my face and say look at me, I'm crying, you have achieved what you set out to achieve. You can stop now. He looked shocked for a second then, just kept calling me names and putting me down. It is something I will never forget, and when he starts dominating me and lashing out at me, well I want to curl into a ball and just disappear. He is in therapy how to deal with his rage and the source of his rage (his family).

    I understand all too well Meadowsweet, its much worse than arguing. My father always made quite remarks, and this subtle abuse was well designed to get at me but be seen from outsiders as him being quite pleasant. My hubby's father is an overt abuser (calls it a talent) but my father, well he is much, much worse, because it is so subtle. We need to readjust the subtle negative things people say as being their own insecurities, and counter all of these comments with the many proofs we have internally that what they are saying is untrue. Its not easy to do, but we need to keep practising providing counter argument to these snide little negative comments. It is their problem and their insecurities, not ours that make them that way.

    I hear you. I was completely humiliated and still am when people do this. This sort of degrading, humiliating, dominating behaviour used to have me in self-degrading, confidence sapping mode, now I fight response it. I turn it back on them now, with logical argument they can be seen to be the fool they are.

    PS xxoo
    unalaa, Anna and Srain like this.
  20. Srain

    Srain "Please don't tell me not to cry." Premium Member

    This is me, despite what's happened to me. This is what I'm working on. It is workable and doable. I'm working on not checking out into Rage Land and taking my whole life out on who's in front of me. It takes looking at what I feel threatened by and most likely, for me, it's not feeling heard, feeling invisible, that what I have to say or what I think doesn't count.

    Those little digging remarks or back-handed compliments (my mother's specialty) are slow burn pain.
    LizBeth1, shell and PTSD sufferer like this.
  21. Meadowsweet

    Meadowsweet VIP Member Premium Member

    I think for me, it's not so much what is said in the remarks. But the feeling behind the remarks is like an unseen threat. It triggers the anticipation of something awful about to happen and puts me on high alert.
  22. AngelaMarie

    AngelaMarie One moment at a time is the best I can do! Premium Member

    Arguing is a huge stressor for me. I had an argument with H yesterday because he was talking down to me. A behaviour from the past. I got so tense I had back and shoulder pain so bad I was miserable. Today I am sick. So, it definately does cause problems.
    Middle of Nowhere and Srain like this.
  23. PTSD sufferer

    PTSD sufferer New Member Premium Member

    Sorry I misunderstood Meadowseet. What are you worried about happening? Is it rational?

    There is a thing we sometimes do called 'predictive worry cycles'? It is when we get into a cycle of worrying so much that we remember all the things that went wrong and that increases our anxiety. When we increase our anxiety, we become unwell. So we need to keep these worry cycles in check to stay well. I am very, very good at this, and although I am getting better with it, I have a long way to go.

    I am sorry you are feeling unwell AngelaMarie. Take care of you xxoo
    Meadowsweet and AngelaMarie like this.
  24. Philippa

    Philippa VIP Member

    It's interesting that I found this thread tonight.

    Just yesterday, I had a couple of interactions, with a total stranger whom I applied to a job he advertised...and from the very beginning he was aggro. My phone credit ran out half way through the conversation, and I hate it when that happens. I ran out and bought new credit, even though I don't have the money to spend on that stuff right now, just so I could call him back so he wouldn't think I deliberately hung up on him.

    He texted me asking if I hung up on him? I said "No, my credit ran out"...and after a few more interactions, where he was giving me the attitude where he was a very busy man and had too much to do so could I just send him an email with pics, and not call. The prideful part of me replied that I too had things to do and was busy, to assert that my time is also important, and I got a very aggressive reply from him telling me to F off!

    I said that there was no need for that, and it was undeserved and called him names back in return. I realize this wasn't the best way to do things, but it felt satisfying at the time. Later he emailed me trying to get me to engage with him, by asking me strange questions like "Wanna know what I'm scared of?" and I would reply, "Not really, I just want an apology", and he would go on to say "Polar Bears because they run faster, are bigger and can tear him apart when they catch him?"

    It was a most unusual interaction, mainly because I didn't know him. He is a total stranger...and I wondered why I continued to engage with him...but it was the work I was after. I said to him that the way he spoke ot me was unnacceptable and that I wouldn't work for him if he paid twice what he was offering...which seemed to only make him more determined to win my favor back by making humorous stories up about polar bears and visits to the north pole???

    He also proceeded to say he could see me for an interview, and it appeared that he had calmed down at that point. He also asked me if I drank wine...which I thought was really weird?? I said it wasn't a date, it was a job interview...but it felt like he was trying to pick me up after that? I think he was totally psychopathic now?:eek:

    I realized how much I was triggered by the argument between us previously, and it was very hard for me to walk away...but I did after he said some other stuff which really put me down...but not before I took another piece out of him. He provoked me so much, and part of me felt good letting off steam that way, but later I felt disappointed in myself for not just walking away...for giving him my precious time.

    I get so easily roped into conflict it seems. I used to hate it so much...but then I started to view it in a different way, and could see the growth it can bring...and that it's natural for there to be conflict in life, and to avoid it is impossible. It's better to learn how to face it and deal with it head on, to improve the way I communicate in those situations.

    Obviously I have a way to go before I master it, but it always provides me with lessons. Shame I had to create such bad energy in the process, and let some shmuck get the better of me, and pollute my world with his own vitriol.
  25. Middle of Nowhere

    Middle of Nowhere New Member

    Thank you one and all for sharing on this topic. Again I feel so less alone, and I have hope I can learn how to deal with arguments on any level.
    AngelaMarie likes this.

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