Why do I actively seek things out that are triggering??

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
Recent example - I watched The Vow on Netflix about the NXIVM cult. Have been quite obsessed about it ever since. Reading loads of stuff online about it and the key people involved and the recent legal proceedings etc. Actively seeking it out. I then joined a new tv subscription service so that I can watch the India Oxenberg programme about the group.

I’m thinking about it a lot. Even dreaming about it. Over and over, the same stuff.

I don’t have anything in my background related to cults. But there were some things about the programme that I found triggering. I’m not even sure why exactly in some of the instances. But I had a significant reaction.

But I didn’t stop watching it. And then I researched everything I could find online. And then I sought out another tv programme. And then I read all the same online articles again. Over and over....

When I was watching it, I think there was initially some fascination, then things got very anxiety-making but there was also...almost an exhilaration...?
But it’s also stressful and upsetting.

It’s like a car crash...something so compelling that I can’t look away. But not only can I not look away from the tv programme itself, but I then get heavily into all the other seeking stuff out.
And that then creates so much anxiety but the obsessiveness is just...on a roll!

This is the latest example of this pattern.

Anyone else? (Not necessarily about NXIVM!)

Anyone know why I do this? Or would like to hazard a guess?! What am I trying to achieve??

And how does one stop it?? Seems so obvious - turn the tv off, don’t watch the news, don’t research online, stop seeking out triggering stuff/people.

But the urge is overwhelming and I’m really struggling with how I actually manage to stop doing this stuff. It’s exhausting and distressing. And yet...!
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
This is how I do everything pretty much? I remember getting clean in the 80s for awhile I was hanging around meetings and I used to say to newly sober people, you better find something you like because you will be doing it like crazy, obsessively. That went on forever with me. Everything was always obsessive compulsive. That’s for me what triggered means . I am still like that. It’s like I’m better so now I do nothing because that is the only motivation I’ve ever had and I won’t do that anymore.
 

Rani G2

MyPTSD Pro
But I didn’t stop watching it. And then I researched everything I could find online. And then I sought out another tv programme. And then I read all the same online articles again. Over and over....
@barefoot many signals are ringing „yes yes“ here. There have been a few years where I’ve been reading obsessively about cults (No history of cult influences) like people’s temple, Rajneesh movement or heavens gate etc. Famous serial killers, missing cases and other artriocious crimes has sparked my interest. It’s not the present Day me, these are selves stuck in their trauma timeline unaware of the present time. It doesn’t mean that I have to be helplessly exposed to their actions, it’s more about understanding what makes them do what they are doing. In order to do so, therapy should be about that inner communication with the selves which are still running their own trauma timeline programms. For me it was like opening a door to a room where a part of me wasn’t aware that today the terror is long gone, that there is no father today who is running around with an axe to kill any of us.

And how does one stop it?? Seems so obvious - turn the tv off, don’t watch the news, don’t research online, stop seeking out triggering stuff/people
When all the fractured pieces come together which can maybe take years and become the whole picture.. not sure if this means anything to you, it’s just how I can put it barefoot :-)
 
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Seeking out triggers is very normal at one stage of healing. Once I thought that it was a method our brains were using to get control of our triggers. I still think that might be true to some degree. But now I think that it's mainly a way for us to dissociate. Being dissociated appears safer to our traumabrains, even if it's really not.

Stopping it requires mindfulness, unfortunately. I hate mindfulness. But we can use it to recognize when we're at a state where dissociation sounds good. We can also use it to recognize we're already there in it, and to pull ourselves out of doing what's making us dissociate.
 

RussellSue

Not Active
My problem is that I am an adrenaline junkie. I remember when my stepfather finally left, my anxiety went way down. When my anxiety went down, depression started setting in. My brain said screw that and I developed a shoplifting habit because I found that feeling like I was on the verge of "getting in trouble" kicked in my anxiety and lowered my depression.

Later, I found myself inducing anxiety in other ways, such as driving too fast, going to very crowded places, watching triggering movies, drinking too much coffee, etc. Now, exercise is my main antidepressant (which, luckily, does not produce anxiety) but it took a LONG time for me to get to a place where I understood what was happening with me. I also do a lot with my brain, such as online research and writing because it helps keep my mental energy focused on productive things, rather than downers like my family or last traumatic issue. If I don't crash, I am less likely to look for some sort of unhealthy coping mechanism.

I have no idea if this is what is going on with you but it sounds similar.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
First thank you for telling me this is on Netflix. I did not know that. I wanted to see it.

Secondly, I think the feeling of this doc is the brainwashing, manipulating, and taking over people's thoughts/feelings/agency enough to have them 100% follower and become danger to themselves and cut off their families. The story is cult but the methods used by this man/org is not. The method is exactly how many of us get abused both as children and as adults. So I wonder if watching the subtle way of people who may even look or act like you were undermined, brainwashed and ultimately taken full advantage of set you off.

it is disturbing show from what I read. I think most people will have a strong reaction (maybe even anger or denial like no way that could happen to me etc) so I think it is OK you were disturbed enough to be triggered - who would not be? It is triggering doc and dangerous story. You may attracted to these types cause maybe there is something you are still looking for to trigger and process.
 

woodsy1

MyPTSD Pro
Recent example - I watched The Vow on Netflix about the NXIVM cult. Have been quite obsessed about it ever since. Reading loads of stuff online about it and the key people involved and the recent legal proceedings etc. Actively seeking it out. I then joined a new tv subscription service so that I can watch the India Oxenberg programme about the group.

I’m thinking about it a lot. Even dreaming about it. Over and over, the same stuff.

I don’t have anything in my background related to cults. But there were some things about the programme that I found triggering. I’m not even sure why exactly in some of the instances. But I had a significant reaction.

But I didn’t stop watching it. And then I researched everything I could find online. And then I sought out another tv programme. And then I read all the same online articles again. Over and over....

When I was watching it, I think there was initially some fascination, then things got very anxiety-making but there was also...almost an exhilaration...?
But it’s also stressful and upsetting.

It’s like a car crash...something so compelling that I can’t look away. But not only can I not look away from the tv programme itself, but I then get heavily into all the other seeking stuff out.
And that then creates so much anxiety but the obsessiveness is just...on a roll!

This is the latest example of this pattern.

Anyone else? (Not necessarily about NXIVM!)

Anyone know why I do this? Or would like to hazard a guess?! What am I trying to achieve??

And how does one stop it?? Seems so obvious - turn the tv off, don’t watch the news, don’t research online, stop seeking out triggering stuff/people.

But the urge is overwhelming and I’m really struggling with how I actually manage to stop doing this stuff. It’s exhausting and distressing. And yet...!
Hello @barefoot,
Yes! I've done this too. Incessantly for the first year or maybe two.

There is much insight in all the responses here, more so than I ever had! For me, I just simply got bored with the same material after a while. That ended it for me.

Wishing you the best,
Woodsy
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
Sorry for taking so long to come back to this thread and respond... there was quite a bit to process and I seem to have been in perpetual trigger city lately, so needed things to settle a bit before I could revisit.

And things had settled slightly....until I came on here earlier and replied to something about NXIVM on another thread and then made a post about teacher/student sexual relationships/abuse on another thread...so, stirred up and triggered again, but am throwing myself in to this post anyway...
 
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barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
Sorry – posted ^^^ too soon!

therapy should be about that inner communication with the selves which are still running their own trauma timeline programms.

So, are you meaning that this really needs some kind of parts work @Rani G ? That I somehow need to reconnect to a younger part who experienced trauma, perhaps, as that is the part that is reacting to this kind of material now?

I think that it's mainly a way for us to dissociate.

This is interesting. When I think about dissociation and my experience of it, I think of being very spacey/trancey....head completely gone....no awareness of what's going on in the present moment...just a lot of nothingness. Are you meaning dissociate in terms of...not really sure how best to articulate it...like, parts, split off? So, we sort of dissociate from ourselves? Or dissociate from a traumatised part and that is the part that is being triggered by the material? Or have I completed misunderstood?? Intrigued by your answer but not sure I fully understand!

My problem is that I am an adrenaline junkie.

I found myself inducing anxiety in other ways, such as driving too fast, going to very crowded places, watching triggering movies, drinking too much coffee, etc.

Hmm, this doesn't really resonate as an initial reaction....I'm not at all an adrenaline junkie – I like feeling safe and am very risk averse!
And yet...there is something very adrenaline spiking in this behaviour I'm writing about on this thread...

I also do a lot with my brain, such as online research and writing because it helps keep my mental energy focused on productive things

I think part of the problem is that when I get into this triggered, almost obsessive researching, it isn't productive. It becomes all-consuming and the hours just whizz by as I'm so engrossed in it because it feels so important for me to be finding out all this stuff...but, really, all it means is that I end up triggered and anxious, I sleep badly and I haven't done things that really would have been productive, like work, chores, or even just relaxing!

I think the feeling of this doc is the brainwashing, manipulating, and taking over people's thoughts/feelings/agency

Yes, I think the manipulation is something that's definitely jangling. And the betrayal of trust is a button I think it's pressing for me – that in NXIVM, people did all sorts of things that I suspect would have been considered totally out of character at one point....but they went along with them and did them, because the people asking them and encouraging them were trusted friends. Because, how could a friend be encouraging them to do anything bad or wrong or harmful...?! I think this is something I need to have a deeper look at with my T...

ou may attracted to these types cause maybe there is something you are still looking for to trigger and process.

My T said something similar actually, when I talked with her about it. I hadn't mentioned NXIVM to her before but have told her at various points about these tendencies I have to actively seek out triggering things and to get quite obsessive about things that I know will ultimately impact me negatively... She said that the material (eg the tv programme or the online articles) are the trigger....and that allows me an 'in' to talk to her about some of the things personal to me that the material is triggering. Because, she said, it isn't very easy to sit in front of our therapist and pull something out of the air that's really difficult and painful and speak directly about that...so, talking about a tv programme that is somewhat 'over there' then opens a door to us looking at deeper, personal material. By looking at what feelings are triggered when I'm engaging with the material. And then, what are my feelings about things that I have experienced in the past. She said these two sets of feelings are likely to be similar but probably not exactly the same.

Anyway...we have agreed to dive in and try to unpick what's going on...and to try to better understand and connect to these feelings, which is always a challenging thing for me in therapy. So, we'll see how that goes.
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
It's hard though because, talking about and engaging with triggers and triggering stuff is...well....triggering!

How does anyone navigate that in therapy?

How do you do the work/have the conversations around triggers in sessions while not getting triggered out of your mind?? Or is it inevitable that I'll get triggered and I just have to find better ways to ground/self-soothe etc during/after sessions?
 
When I think about dissociation and my experience of it, I think of being very spacey/trancey....head completely gone....no awareness of what's going on in the present moment...just a lot of nothingness. Are you meaning dissociate in terms of...not really sure how best to articulate it...like, parts, split off? So, we sort of dissociate from ourselves? Or dissociate from a traumatised part and that is the part that is being triggered by the material?
Dissociation is an altered state. Other things disappear and we lose "ourselves." That's what happens when we seek out triggers, at least for many of us. We become nothing more than a seeker, a triggered being.
It's hard though because, talking about and engaging with triggers and triggering stuff is...well....triggering!

How does anyone navigate that in therapy?
Exposure. You say as much as you can and ground once triggered. Over time, nothing bad happens and your triggers subside a little. Then you say a little more, get triggered, and ground again. It's a process.
 

woodsy1

MyPTSD Pro
It's hard though because, talking about and engaging with triggers and triggering stuff is...well....triggering!

How does anyone navigate that in therapy?

How do you do the work/have the conversations around triggers in sessions while not getting triggered out of your mind?? Or is it inevitable that I'll get triggered and I just have to find better ways to ground/self-soothe etc during/after sessions?
I think my T is starting with diaphagmatic breathing exercises for me so that if I get triggered in therapy we can get me calmed down and proceed. We'll see how that works!
 
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