Hair pulling as a trigger

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One of the things my ex used to do to me is drag me out of the room by my hair when I caught him having cybersex and told him to stop. I don't mind my husband petting my hair or my cat playing with it, but having my hair grabbed hard just sends me into a panic.

At Olive Garden two weeks ago I almost decked a little old lady.
She was sitting behind me and had grabbed a hold of my hair. All I could feel were hands grabbing my hair and I freaked out. Fortunately I must have been conflicted between flight and fight responses because I froze up like a deer in the headlights. Then I hear this quavering voice of the elderly woman telling me "what beautiful hair you have dear" - I am so glad I just froze, and gladder still she did not see the panic on my face.

How do I desensitize myself to stuff like this? I don't want to hurt somebody. I talked to my counselor but she just said that the lady had very poor boundaries.
Hi Dragonflymom, hair pulling is a trigger for me too. I was grabbed by the hair ripping my scalp from my skull in an assault. I find hair dressers difficult especially if they are chatting with each other and tug on your hair.I have found it best to speak up and explain the trigger to them and usually they will help
I have hair pulling issues, too.

When I was in my early 20's I was raped by an acquaintance. I won't go into the details but, not surprisingly, during the rape he pulled my hair. During this same time in my life I was working as a behavioral specialist in a residential facility that treated adolescents with developmental disorders (everyone there had multiple diagnoses and behavior or conduct issues). Less than a week after my rape (and I had not yet told ANYONE what had happened) I was on duty when a female resident was brought onto the unit I was working to be put in our padded isolation room...she was trying to self-harm. The unit that I was working on was actually a male unit but her unit did not have a similar room. I was the only female staff member on that unit at the time. When the female resident began undressing and attempting to use her clothing to choke/strangle herself, the male staff asked me to go in and try to physically intervene. They stood outside of the room, just out of sight of the girl, but ready to assist if I called for them. Once in the room the female resident became aggressive toward me. My training kicked in and I began to restrain her until she got a big handful of my hair. When she pulled my hair I completely dissociated/froze. I didn't call for help. After a couple of minutes the male staff members looked in and had to pull me out to safety...the girl had pulled a huge chunk of hair out from the scalp. I had a bald spot on the side of my head about the size of my fist.

I was trained and until that day had been perfectly capable of getting myself out of similar situations unharmed. However, with my rape so fresh, when she pulled my hair I just completely froze. To this day even a small, playful tug at my hair by someone else can cause me to completely dissociate.

I've not really dealt with this issue, but some advice was given to me not that long ago on how to deal with it.

...the way to correct it, not fix, but corrective action, is to repeat the process in a controlled environment, ie. friend or family members, spouse, etc... have them pull your hair intentionally and step away. First you put together a plan on how to respond, or try and respond. If you fail, which you likely may, then that is ok... but you go into it with a plan, and you do it until your hair is pulled time and time again without dissociating, because you change your response by exposure therapy in a controlled environment first...
I also have a prob with or if somebody tugs or pulls on my hair. I remember my abuser liked to pull my hair a lot. I won't go into details. Haven't dealt with it as I have many things to go over.
This was a typical thing for mine to do also, so do not wear my hair down to this day much when out especially. I just feel better if it's up and out of the way-safer somehow. I gave some thought to cutting it short but felt this would be letting him 'win' in some way, as silly as that sounds. Maybe just sticking it up in a pony tail or bun when you're out places would prevent situations where you'd be triggered, you know?

Annoying how many abusers thought it was ok to do this-losing words now thinking about it.
My scalp hurts reading this... flashbacks...
Catjudo, thank you for writing the advice.. I'm going to talk w T about it...
Helpful, even though painful, thread. I'm grateful to read what all are writing here...
(feeling subdued)

Oh, Dragonflymom, Hi..
As you can tell by my name, I freeze as well when triggered. It's actually helped in social situations like you experienced, because being grabbed from behind by someone (being cute :p ) is a huge trigger for me. Some people just don't know how close they were to being fear-attacked.

Fortunately the mechanism for assessing the threat is there and accessible (right within the freeze to fight/flight modes)... it just feels incredibly frightening being that close to inadvertantly assaulting someone who is clueless and triggering.

You do have the skill, and I can sure empathize with your being shaken about it!

I try to get present very quickly (while within and coming out of the freeze mode), to assess the situation and then respond appropriately.

Sending hugs if you take them,
Dragonflymom, I agree that woman did have very poor boundaries! I have hair pulling issues, as well as many other physical triggers. What I've found helpful is to try to desensitize myself to these triggers. For example, I have never been able to wear eye makeup because I flinch whenever something comes near my face (a reaction to being hit so many times). It always embarassed me that I would react by hiding my face whenever something came near it. Something I did was take a ball and throw it against a wall so it would bounce back near the level of my face. I did this over and over again. It helped me be able to stop the hiding and flinching because I was in control and I knew that I wasn't going to allow myself to be hurt. Over time, the flinching/hiding reaction got better and I felt better about myself. It's still hard for me to put eye makeup on because I blink a lot, but one day last week I just practiced putting eyeliner on over and over and over and I found the more I do it, the less scary it becomes.
I don't know if it would be helpful for you to practice lightly pulling your hair and reminding yourself that you are in control, you are safe, and no one is hurting you.
Sending you lots of hugs and strength.
Alli - That reminds me of the times my ex blackened my eyes and made fun of me calling me a raccoon. I am able to put eye shadow on my eye lids. However I hate it at certain times when something or somebody is near my face, be it an object, a hand, face, etc. I sometimes have trouble when having a panic attack to kiss my kids good night and feel I Have to accept their hugs at bedtime. But, I know I love them, don't want to hurt their feelings.
Thanks so much for all your advice, definitely a lot of good things there for me to work on! As it is I've grown my hair super long because having hairdressers handle it bugs me too, but unfortunately that seems to invite other people messing with it even more. I too feel like cutting it would be letting my ex have one last victory over me, and he has gotten away with enough, I don't want to give him that.

I had no idea this was such a common trigger, so sorry to upset everyone and bring back bad memories and so sorry we all have gone through this!

Thanks for the hugs deer_in_headlights! *hugs back*
I'm lucky about the hair, though mine is head related. If someone touches my neck or breathes on my neck I freeze or jump. I almost hit my mom by accident when she came up behind me once.
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