Also see Switching.
These are a consensual way of trigger-switching where a desirable external signal is used to encourage a specific internal to front.
For example, whomever is front may play someone else's favorite song to help a desired switch take place. Some folk use clothes or accessories as positive triggers, to encourage someone who wants to come out to front. What's also going on in the background that folk don't always realize is that they're Allowing New that person to front as well, by not resisting and stepping aside as that other headmate is moving towards front.
Some positive triggers are situational, and despite myths otherwise folk can have some degree of conscious or subconscious control over who fronts. This is why plural & multiple systems can function (even if with glitches) for years in school and the workplace without even knowing that they're plural. The persons who do work or school would show up and do the thing.
Also, much of the time the folk who needs to show up does so without any song and dance routine.
Most situations where someone gets stuck front, and normal positive switching cannot take place (with or without triggers) is due to an increase in anxiety & system activation. Some folk's ability to switch is interfered with the dissociative side effects that come with the increase in anxiety/activation. This can result in depersonalization as well. Toning down anxiety and using positive triggers can help.
Positive triggers are a useful tool for people with DID or who are plural to encourage desired front switches without autonomic nervous system activation. It's also a way to encourage headmates with specific skillsets or emotional regulation skills to front when needed. These triggers can be consensual and can help promote internal cooperation and communication. Having positive triggers in place can help systems to manage symptoms more effectively.
Benefits of positive triggers
These are some of the potential benefits that positive triggers can offer individuals with DID or who are plural:
- Increased sense of safety and security
- Improved communication and cooperation between headmates
- Encouragement of fronting by headmates with specific skillsets or emotional regulation abilities
- Reduced likelihood of autonomic nervous system activation during switches
- Enhanced self-awareness and self-understanding for individuals with DID or who are plural
- Increased control over switching and headmate activity
- Reduced frequency and severity of dissociative symptoms
- Improved emotional regulation and coping abilities
- Increased ability to engage in daily activities and responsibilities
- Greater sense of connection to oneself and one's headmates
- Improved ability to access and utilize internal resources and strengths
- Greater sense of agency and autonomy
- Increased ability to work towards integration and co-consciousness
- Improved overall mental health and well-being.
- May help stabilize relationships by encouraging desired front switches, such as appropriate fronts for specific relationships or topics of conversation
Positive triggers usually encourage a headmate to front because they like something, so it can already be a mood-enhancer to use positive triggers because the trigger is something they already find pleasant.
Types of positive triggers
Often positive triggers are sensory triggers, though they can also be situational, holiday-based, time-of-year, place or location based, etc. It's easier to control say a song on a playlist than it is to arrange a trip to a local museum, so our suggestions are generally sensory rather than things that are harder to purposefully evoke.
- A specific color or pattern
- Seeing a specific person, pet
- A picture or image
- A specific object or item
- A particular type of music or song
- A specific sound or noise
- A certain tone or voice
- A guided meditation or relaxation exercise
- A recorded message or affirmation
- Wearing a certain type of clothing or accessory
- A specific type of touch or pressure
- A certain texture or sensation
- Holding or carrying a particular object
- Hugging a stuffie
- Tapping or drumming on a surface
Specific scents or tastes
- A particular fragrance or aroma
- A specific essential oil or blend
- A certain type of incense or candle
- A favorite food or beverage
- A favorite soap or lotion scent
There may be specific cues that already work without even trying, and sometimes it can be trial and error figuring out what works.
Considerations when using positive triggers
While positive triggers can be a helpful tool for encouraging desired fronting or skillsets in plural systems, it's important to consider some potential barriers and challenges. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
- It's important to communicate and obtain consent from all system members before implementing a positive trigger. This ensures that the trigger is safe and consensual for everyone in the system.
- Positive triggers may not work for everyone or may be ineffective at certain times. It's important to recognize and accept this possibility and have alternative coping strategies in place. This is a tool, not a cure.
- Identifying positive triggers may be challenging and may require experimentation and trial and error. It's important to be patient and persistent in this process.
- While positive triggers are intended to encourage positive experiences, it's possible that they may also trigger unwanted emotions or memories. It's important to be aware of this possibility and have a plan in place for coping with any triggered experiences.
- It's possible to trigger a headmate into a situation that is not suitable for them. For example, a positive trigger song playing on loudspeakers could encourage a system kid to front in a store. If there are amnesiac boundaries in place, this could be confusing or frightening.
By keeping these considerations in mind and working collaboratively with all system members, positive triggers can be a helpful tool for encouraging desired fronting and help to access the headmates with appropriate skillsets for different situations.
Positive triggers are a valuable tool to encourage desirable switches, improve communication among system members, and develop skills for emotional regulation. Sensory cues can all be used as positive triggers. It is important to check in with system members before implementing positive triggers, and have contingencies in place. With these considerations in mind, exploring positive triggers can be a helpful addition to a system's toolkit for self-management and empowerment.