Trigger Busters

Trigger Busters


Dorit Reichental and Janice Caudill have come up with a Trigger Busters’ protocol which can help you and your partner work through the triggers together. They have broken it down into 4 stages whereby you initially:

Trigger Activation

Partner: left brain goes offline, right brain takes over as she becomes triggered.

Addict must actively help the partner calm her nervous system.


Step 1: Indentify the Trigger

Clarification: Clarify if spouse is triggered.  “I can see X, Y, Z. Are you triggered?”

Accountability: Do Not defend, blame, shame, minimize, invalidate,  judge, criticize, debate, stonewall, correct with irrelevant detail,  withdraw, escape, or project anger.

Validation: As soon as addict realizes that partner is triggered, s/he  validates partner.  “I can see how scared and unsafe you are, it must remind you of… It  makes sense to me that you feel triggered, scared, angry, unsafe, etc.”

Step 2: Orient to Hear and Now

Addict gently reminds the partner that s/he is safe, and nothing bad is happening right now: (triggered partner cannot differentiate between  past and present)  “I am not doing anything now to put you at risk or in danger; it’s a bad trigger—that happened when I was acting out. I am not acting out now, you are safe, and I am right here with you, I have your back."

Step 3: De-Escalation, Safety & Stabalization Using Trigger Busters

What does the nurturing/protective addict need to continue saying and doing to help the partner down-regulate? (Addict may need to reassure and repeat the message multiple times) As the hijacked brain comes back online, the addict emphatically attunes to the partner and states: “I can see this was a really bad trigger. You are safe right now. I have your back."

Step 4: Social Engagement

Notice the somatic, felt sense signs that the trigger is being defused. For example, the partner’s eyes, voice, and face may soften as the body begins to relax and breathing regulates. Now the two of you can have a real conversation. In fact, your partner may even want to connect with you.

Sheets, Carol; Katz, Allan. Help Her Heal: An Empathy Workbook for Sex Addicts to Help their Partners Heal (p. 78-79).

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