Looking for a way to get your PTSD triggers to stop?
In this post, I’m going to teach you something that I’ve developed called The Split Sheet Exercise that will help you do just that.
When you’re feeling triggered – when you’re feeling afraid – especially when you’re looking forward to a situation and feeling very scared about it, you can use what I call The Split Sheet Exercise.
Take a plain piece of paper and fold it in half, and then at the top of the piece of paper, you’re going to write two things.
On the left side, you’re going to write Then.
And on the right side, you’re going to write Now.
I want you to think about the situation that you’re afraid of or the situation that keeps happening that you’re having trouble dealing with because it’s triggering you over and over again.
I want you to first write down all of the characteristics of the situation that happened when you were a kid. The situation that laid down the trigger for you.
For this example, let’s just imagine that you had a parent who was mad at you all the time and that parent punished you when they were angry. And now you have a situation where you think that somebody is going to be mad at you and you’re worried about how they’re going to respond.
In that situation; On the Then side of the column we’re going to write things like:
“I was small.” Because that’s true about what was happening then.
“My parent was alcoholic.”
Maybe you said to yourself, “I’m going to get hurt.”
Maybe that when this person yelled, they always followed yelling with throwing things and hitting. And then, “I was a child so I couldn’t get away, I can’t get away.”
Then on the side that says Now, I want you to write the circumstance that’s true for you now.
So in this example, I would write,
“I am an adult.”
“I’m grown.” (Whatever your language is.)
“I can protect myself.”
(Whether that’s with word boundaries or leaving a situation.)
“I avoid alcoholics.”
“I don’t have alcoholic people in my life.”
“My home is calm.”
“We talk through our problems.”
“I can leave at any time.”
Those will be the things that you would write on your Now side of the paper.
Then what I want you to do, every time you think about this with fear, or every time that thing happens and you start to feel triggered, I would like for you to look at your Now side.
Take some healthy breaths.
Those breaths happen from your tummy and if you don’t know how to do belly breathing, then this video might be helpful for you.
And repeat the Now statements out loud.
If they make you feel better, then you know you’ve hit the target. If they don’t exactly make you feel better, because something that you’ve written doesn’t exactly address the original trauma or there’s something else that comes up for you when you look at the lists, then add that to the Then or Now sides.
Once you have it and you feel like your Now side statements are soothing and comforting, repeat them as often as you need to with breath to help you be calm and to help you keep perspective about what’s real now and that you’re safe.
Whenever you’re starting to feel like a vague sense like you can’t figure out what’s wrong, or you know that you’re afraid and it doesn’t seem to make sense to you, pull out a piece of paper, fold it in half, and do the Split Sheet Exercise.
Let me know how it goes for you. Watch full video here.