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



I think seeking out things concerning the trauma is natural, I would read books about people who had been through the same experience as I have. It was the only type of books I read over an year after it happened. For me it helped to understand what I was going through and I don’t think it’s a negative thing as long as you eventually stop. I also have control issues and for me it was a form of feeling like I was in control. Not sure why, but it helped.


I have done this too. Used to read about and watch footage of the traumatic events...over and over and over...Not sure if I was numb and trying to feel or if I was trying to dissociate. I must have been numb some of those times...


New Here
When we become triggered; is it percieved as normal to climb on a carrosel and spend around and around and around until we grab a book, a movie, or some form of music to jump oFF that mental circle?

It's going to take a highly trained, loving person to walk through these exercises I found while dating someone. The book is called Conscious Loving by Dr. HENDRICKS. The exercises, if done properly,.could create great trust which I feel is imperative to walk through our trauma and get to the otherside!


This may seem *really* strange (I don’t get it myself) but a good deal of my trauma in childhood was sexual in nature, and I have more than a few songs downloaded on my phone that have rape/sexual abuse/assault themes, *always* from the point of view of the victim/survivor. For example the Nirvana song “Polly” is from the opposite point of view and I had to take it off my phone and stop listening to it because it would consistently cause me to “switch” into a very angry teenage part. But there are many Alanis Morissette songs dealing with sexual violence or abuse that I routinely listen to, as well as a song by Plumb. I’m blanking on any others right now. The “Jagged Little Pill” Broadway musical soundtrack has an Alanis Morissette song that was only released in I think Japan, and unavailable in the US except on the soundtrack from the musical. The song is called “No” and is *extremely* triggering, and I save it for when I am already feeling very triggered and alone and need to feel like someone else gets it. Some of her less overt songs that are still about sexual abuse I actually sometimes listen to when I’m doing my homework, if my brain is doing it’s thinking-about-triggers-compulsively thing-and-distracting-me thing, and I need to almost “neutralize” the crap coming from my own head so that I can concentrate on calculus or programming or whatever (I’m an adult engineering student, and during the school year I am either in class or doing assignments 6-10 hours a day, 7 days a week). Does that make any sense? I hope I’m not literally insane for doing that but it’s a coping skill I use when I’m just plain SO busy that I cannot stop and deal with triggers. It almost gives my brain like an “ok I hear you but I’m busy now” type message.

On the other hand, visible sexual abuse or assault on TV or anything remotely resembling it is downright retraumatizing and I will turn the TV off at the first sign of it.

As for why? I think for me it’s kind of like titrated exposure or something. It’s a song, it makes me feel a type of way, it’s 3-4 minutes long, and then it’s over and an unrelated song comes on. Music has always had a profound effect on me and I guess this is my weird way of using it for healing?
Other themes like the cult theme you mentioned, any movie with those themes is also retraumatizing to me and I avoid them. My family basically fits the definition of a cult though. I think those qualities would be triggering to almost anyone who has ever felt trapped or isolated in an abusive situation.


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...!
i do this. since my abusive relationship in 2018 i went through a long period (2.5y) of strong avoidance, constantly filling the gap left by my abuser with new people, ensuring i was never alone so that i would never have to process what happened. i ran away from everything because i was pretty young and i had no other real way to (or resources to) deal with the trauma. now, a considerable amount of time later, after a triggering episode ive found myself actively seeking out triggers on the regular. i saw another forum about this phenomenon — im still not sure if this is a method of self harm or if it’s a healthy way of processing what happened since my trauma was unable to leave my body at the time due to intense avoidance and suppression. but regardless of whether this is a positive or negative thing, i will get in periods usually following a triggering episode (eg. i think i see my abuser on the street, i have a triggering dream, etc) where i will do an intense deep dive of my triggers and listen to all the music from the time, find pictures, old messages, wear old clothes, etc etc. it’s very disturbing but like you said it’s like a car crash.. i cant help myself. similar to you i find myself developing an almost obsession with my triggers, at one point i had an extremely consumed and obsessive two weeks, every day during which i purposely triggered myself and eventually yearned for my abuser back. i felt as if i was developing a serious obsession with not only my triggers but with him retrospectively. it’s a very disturbing but almost cathartic experience which is why i’m unsure if it’s self harm or just forced trauma responses/ trauma leaving the body. i don’t have any solution, but you aren’t alone :)


Revisiting this thread so thanks again to everyone who has replied at any point.

Saw my family at the weekend and it triggered a lot of stress, distress and upset for me. In therapy afterwards, I talked at my T for an hour telling her everything that had happened. Thinking on it now, I think a few times she tried to bring it back to what feelings are being triggered but I was just on a roll needing to blurt everything out. We ran out of time and, afterwards, I felt even more heightened.

I’m finding it difficult to manage my feelings about the current family-related situations. Feel in a perpetual state of distress.

Started looking up NXIVM stuff again because one of them has just been sentenced. I’ve had her sentencing date in my diary for a few weeks so I wouldn’t miss it 🙄

Anyway…this below is a good reminder and I’ll endeavour to use this to help frame my next session. The here and now situation is stressful and upsetting, but also out of my control - so it’s unsurprising that it has affected me. However, the here and now stuff is also triggering historical stuff that took me to therapy in the first place. Since I cannot resolve the here and now shit, I am probably better off trying to get under the surface of what else it is triggering and try to work on/process that instead.

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

Zhenghao Lin

I think this is called "trauma-driven choices" because i guess with PTSD/C-PTSD we've experienced a lot of trauma continuously, and for me, I think it's like without feeling stressed/exhilarated, it feels super boring and empty and confused that I should be doing something that is like a trauma. But i just found this forum and i really didn't know that i was not alone at all. So thanks for sharing!
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