Triggers and Glimmers

Triggers and glimmers are the signals to our nervous system of danger/threat and safety/joy. This article explores both of these in a little more detail but specifically why it’s important to seek out, notice and fully experience the glimmers.

You’re probably familiar with the term ‘triggers’; the situations or experiences that trip us up as we go through our daily lives. Perhaps they are echoes of previous painful experiences. We know when we’re encountering these because our feelings change from relaxed and settled to edgy, anxious or angry.

Glimmers, on the other hand, are those times we feel we’re smiling on the inside (or on the outside!). Where we might find ourselves sighing with contentment. Everything just seems right in our world in that moment.

These terms were developed as part of Dr Stephen Porge’s Polyvagal Theory and have been described as ‘whispers of growth’.

When life feels full of triggers

When early life experiences, including trauma, have been part of your story, you may find anxiety is heightened. Triggers can be frequent; causing regular distress and difficulty.

As human beings we’re designed to be alert to danger – after all, our survival as a species depends on it! So, our brains are primed to notice and react to triggers as cues of danger, setting off the release of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin). These stimulate and resource our ‘fight or flight’ responses which are designed to help us face whatever these dangers are. However, our nervous system can sometimes ‘misfire’, causing us to react to things that aren’t a danger as such, eg. a friend not replying to our messages.

These triggers, happening frequently, can be exhausting and difficult to manage.

Why glimmers matter

Doing what we can to seek out, notice and absorb what are micro moments of goodness, helps to orientate our brains towards a state of contentment and safety. Our body feels connected and calm and our nervous system recognises this as safety, allowing us to rest and relax.

When we’re experiencing a glimmer our physiology changes in good ways. Our cortisol levels drop, our heart rate slows and and our blood pressure lowers.

Doesn’t that sound good?

What are glimmers?

So, these are unique to you. If mine are feeling the sun on my face and hugging someone I care about, yours probably aren’t! They might be singing loudly in the shower or drinking your morning cuppa alone before anyone else wakes up.

If you’re not sure what yours are, as you go through the day, stop and notice. Notice what’s going on inside your body. When you sense a slowing down or a feeling of smiling on the inside this might indicate you’re encountering a glimmer.

Life can feel very busy and it’s easy to overlook them but gratitude and observation are the keys to finding yours. If you love singing in the shower then take the time to really soak in (excuse the pun!) the experience. How does the water hitting your skin feel? The steam filling the room? The heat or the cold of the water? Do you want to listen to that song and build yourself a playlist of others you love? Noticing one glimmer often leads to the finding of another.

Glimmers can also be found in the most unexpected places. Going to the supermarket might feel like a chore but any situation can contain glimmers. A friendly smile from someone or an encounter with the friendly dog outside offer glimmers of kindness or connection with others.

Once you start to know your glimmers you can intentionally build them into your day. They are even a little bit contagious! When you notice and seek them out, you’ll find they get even easier to find and your list will expand more and more.

The more glimmers we have, the more we’re able to experience joy, feel motivated to try new things and experience a sense of peace and safety.

Our brains are always seeking to learn. The more we are open to finding our glimmers, the more we’ll find and through repetition become more comfortable experiencing them.

Fernbank Counselling:

Triggers and Glimmers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *