When we have a flashback or otherwise start to confuse present and past it is important to notice the differences between the present and the past situation.
We do this using an exercise that we call „same but different“ and that Ts would probably call discrimination. (That sounds racist. But it’s not.)
Discrimination comes from the latin word discrimen. It means
„1. separating line or wall, distance, gap, space in between 2. difference, discernment, decision 3. crisis, danger, distress“
We are in a situation that feels like crisis, danger and distress. What we will do is focus on differences and our ability to tell apart (discern) to create a gap, a distance between the present and the past: we will separate them.
Discrimination is the right word. But our Littles can’t pronounce it so we call it „same but different“. That describes the way the exercise is done. (And it makes it sound like a game.)
To play „same but different“ you need to identify the trigger, the person, situation or thing that caused you distress.
When you found that, and maybe you have to ask inside, you can find out what this trigger reminded you of.
Now you have 2 things that can be compared and discriminated. Maybe you can keep them next to each other on an inner screen, to create some emotional distance and look at it from the position of the distant observer.The goal is to make you absolutely sure that these are completely different things.
You can write it down or do it in your mind, but collect all the things that are the same in both scenes.
Let’s say you have a co-worker and he reminded you of someone who hurt you. Maybe he has the same haircut, jacket or nose as the person from your past. Try to find every similarity.
Then look for differences. Maybe he is taller, has a different body type, he wears glasses, doesn’t have a beard and so on.
When you found as many differences as you can, return to your list of similarities and look at them closely. I bet you can still find differences in them. Maybe this guys hair is dyed, not naturally the same color. Maybe the jacket is shorter and made of a different material, maybe his nose isn’t so red or hairy. Go into as much detail as you need to make sure that you find the differences in all the similarities.
It works like a zipper. You first close it by finding similarities, reason why this would belong together, then inch by inch you find the differences, open the zipper, until you have reached the bottom and find that these are fully unrelated scenes that are not connected anymore.
When we do this we are astonished that we ever thought that there was a similarity. It is not triggering anymore. The distress is gone.
To do this exercise you need to be brave and look at what scares you. It is counter-intuitive to look at a trigger that closely. There are times when you can avoid triggers. But sometimes avoidance is not an option (like when you have to work with that person or in that place) and in that case, discrimination is your tool of choice to stop the trigger, at least for this situation.
Just make sure to regulate yourself and stay within your window of tolerance, the place were thinking and learning happens. If you cannot look at the trigger without being flooded, use containment instead.
Read more about grounding: