Unfortunately, most of us are familiar with the meaning of the word “trigger.” Not in the sense of a literal gun trigger, but in the sense of a stimulus that’s caused something painful to come roaring back to a traumatized mind. Something like a slamming door that may be mildly irritating to most people can be a trigger to someone who is living with trauma lurking just below the surface. And that makes living a peaceful, happy life tricky.
Trigger sensitivity is just one of the ways that trauma insinuates itself into the brain, carving a groove of defensive alarm that’s really hard to override.
Think of it this way: our early ancestors had to spend the majority of their time warding off predators that were literally trying to kill and eat them. So, being tuned in to every little sign of possible danger served them well. So well, in fact, that you’re here today. Good for them!
However, the world we live in today is quite different than theirs. For some of us, a ringing phone can alert that same part of our brains that being chased by a tiger alerted in our deep history (not that long ago, in anthropological terms).
“Our brains have a natural tendency to look for the bad,” says Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, speaking to USA Today.
“Being on the lookout for danger can help us stay physically safe,” she says. “But since we are no longer lurking in the forest hiding from hungry animals, we don’t need to focus on the negative quite so much to stay physically safe.”*
Easier said than done though, right?
What’s a Modern CavePerson to Do?
Much has been written (by people who are far more knowledgeable than I am) about how the brain that kept our ancestors alive is sometimes a hindrance to surviving today. And I’ve written about how our egos can act like untrained guard dogs in an effort to keep us safe, and about how our sympathetic nervous systems can become locked in a fight or flight / backward breathing loop that will keep us in a state of constant anxiety.
Call them tricks or hacks or whatever you like; these little bits of knowledge that I’ve found along my…