What are triggers?
Part of trauma therapy is learning about triggers and how to handle them.
Bessel van der Kolk maintains that a person who has experienced trauma keeps living in the past. What does he mean?
Through research, we know that trauma affects a person physically, especially the brain. Information entering the brain follows a pathway: primitive brain to limbic system and amygdala to the prefrontal cortex. Traumatic events never reach the prefrontal cortex, but get stuck in the limbic system.
You may go about life for a while without symptoms. Then one day, you get triggered. It could be as simple as a smell, a song, or some action. The trigger activates the emotions stored in the wrong part of your brain. The amygdala, the flight, fight or freeze center, sends out danger signals. You go from 0 to 100 in a split second. Your response is seen by those around as inconsistent with what is happening.
You have been triggered.
We will talk more about triggers and coping patterns in future posts, but for a shortlist you can use see NAMI