Words; actions; smells; or a seemingly unrelated series of events which singly or together create in us a state of emotion. Most of us would label “triggers” as largely negative as it is those emotionally charged triggers that most of us remember. The words, the tone, the scenario opens a floodgate of memories that can overwhelm, immerse and create anxiety, angst and depression.
Yet there are positive triggers or too, and it’s an interesting observation that human beings generally seem to dwell on the negatives in their lives rather than focus on the positive. I’m not sure if the propensity to do so can be narrowed to culture, upbringing, nature or gender but I find it fairly common.
I find the whole “triggering” scenario fascinating if frustrating. Because it is like a game of dominos.... the trigger occurs which in turn provokes an action or emotion which subsequently triggers a reaction and like dominos falling to the implacability of motion, triggers are almost impossible to halt once begun. I find too that some triggers are so powerful that despite awareness of them, mind and soul still react in the pavlovian fashion that one can learn to despise.
Even more disconcerting are the triggers we don’t recognize and can only learn to apprehend when our awareness of a pattern in certain behaviours becomes apparent.
I believe that most of us seek some form of enlightenment over our actions and reactions and yearn to master ourselves and keep our emotions balanced. I think one of the most frustrating aspects of being human is how, despite best intentions, we fall prey again and again to the same learned responses and only in hindsight recognize our complicity in unwarranted reactions.
At the most atavistic level, I think triggers and learned response are part of our “reptile” brain; that part of our brain that controls instinctual survival behaviours. From this internet source:
It's similar to the brain possessed by the hardy reptiles that preceded mammals,TMI – I know but truly I think our ‘triggers’ are somehow embedded in that part of the mind. For triggers are seldom created from an isolated incident, a one-time event, an unusual situation (with the exception of unusual life-altering experiences). Rather, they are learned behaviours that teach us recognition of potential danger – damage to our bodies, harm to our emotions, injury to our equilibrium.
roughly 200 million years ago. It's 'preverbal', but controls life functions
such as autonomic brain, breathing, heart rate and the fight or flight
mechanism. Lacking language, its impulses are instinctual and ritualistic. It's
concerned with fundamental needs such as survival, physical maintenance,
hoarding, dominance, preening and mating. It is also found in lower life forms
such as lizards, crocodiles and birds. It is at the base of your skull emerging
from your spinal column.
In short, at its most simplistic, triggers can be linked to our “fight or flight” mechanism.
I recognized that the other night when some simple words triggered an intense, powerful and very painful reaction in me.... a reaction which mirrored all the physical characteristics of panic and fright from a heart pounding so hard that it felt as if it were going to escape my chest, to a lightheadness and a huge tsunami of anxiety that threatened to drown me in its intensity.
The aftermath, as my heartbeat slowed, as my emotions begin to equalize, as panic subsided, was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, a despairing certitude that we are victims of our own weaknesses. That no matter how one struggles to control negative mindsets, the insidious nature of bred-in-the-bone reactions ultimately triumphs over rationale and awareness. That the reality was that those particular words (or almost identical ones) had heretofore preceded Very Bad Things Many Times was irrelevant.
Can we learn new patterns?
Can we recognize, identify and overcome triggers?
What do you think?