An Emotional Trigger is a neurological response to a PRESENT day sensation or event that reminds the body of something that happened in the past. Often times I see in the office patients that have setbacks in their health because their bodies nervous system got “reminded”.
Events that are highly traumatic in the past create nerve pathways In the brain. If the trauma stays untouched in the brain, it can grow in strength and size...like a network of fibers.
When the body experiences a heavy trauma, it RECORDS everything that happens during that time and place. What I mean is the body remembers the time of day, smells, the sights, sounds, sense of touch, and even tastes involved in the trauma.
Additionally, when a trauma occurs, the body will remember these SENSATIONS even if they are not directly related to that trauma. For example, a child gets bit by a dog at age 3, and at the same time a firecracker goes off. The brain could relate fireworks or loud noises to the dog bite. As a result, the person as they grow older may feel fear or pain when they hear loud noises. They could experience a fear of loud noises when the dog bite was the real problem.
The brain filters out those sensations you felt from the trauma and programs them into your nerve pathways. As you walk PRESENTLY throughout the day, and you experience a sensation that alerts your trauma nerves, your body can undergo a high stress or “fight or flight” response. You can tag a memory with your bodies senses. Have you ever smelled great cooking, and you automatically think “ahh, that reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking”? It puts a smile on your face. The opposite can happen as well, you smell something and can remind your brain of the trauma...even if you aren’t consciously thinking of it.
If depression or anxiety come from nowhere, you may have had one of your senses triggered. The body then can choose the same biochemical response to the original event, even if you are in a completely safe place. This biochemical response was the way your body adapted to the trauma, and tried to keep from breaking down. So if you do get triggered, give yourself some grace because the response was hard wired.
Many techniques as we discussed utilize the senses (Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch)to desensitize you from the original trauma. That is why EMDR, Brainspotting, Neurological feedback techniques are so helpful. By locating the trauma, you activate the wiring, breath deeply to open up your parasympathetic nervous system to create relaxation. You then will relate the offending sensory stimuli to relaxation and peace. This can reprogram and lead you to new wiring!