• Fight or Flight or Freeze – The mechanism of triggers
  • 2 Different kind of triggers
  • Why triggers are helpful

Fight or Flight or Freeze – The mechanism of triggers

From Episode 44:


We had briefly touched on this before, but I really want to emphasize on this as it is one of the basics for understanding triggers. You might be first wondering, why I added Freeze to it at the end.
Well the original mechanism is called Fight or Flight, because that is what we are supposed to do after facing a threat to us. We either fight it or we flight, depending what grands us the higher chance of survivability.
For that the brain unleashes immense amounts of adrenaline, so we have the best shot at any of those two options. But what if we don’t make a decision? If we can’t decide to flee or fight? Well - then we freeze.
The adrenaline that would help us running at record level now blocks our brain and prevents any further communicating. And that leads us being unable to think, move or… do anything really.
So - let us first cover the base model of this mechanism and then how it relates to triggers.

The base model
So, what is the base model? The mechanism is one from old times, when we faced off against beasts on quite a regular basis and the environment was a lot more lethal to us.
The tiger is a classic example for this – though realistically a rather unrealistic one, but one of the best to use for explanations, because it is a predator jumper.
That means you wouldn’t see the whole tiger until it was way too late. But small signs like his fur, movement in the bushes, his breathing, his teeth, the legs, the heaviness of the creature and so on.
Either of these things would cause the brain to expect an attack of that creature at any moment and begins sending out adrenaline. It causes to fight stronger, run faster, ignore pain or injuries and so on.
So, when the creature attacks we can escape or fight it for our life. Our brain applies the same thing to ANYTHING that poses a potential threat to our wellbeing.
The thing is, it is still attuned to nature and doesn’t get specific connections, especially if they are abstract ones. Despite that it is still a solid mechanism that can keep you alive despite all odds.

What has this to do with triggers?
So, what has this to do with triggers? You might have already guessed, that it is same structure. Because a trigger is exactly that. It is the fight or flight mechanism gone wrong. Very wrong sometimes.
Similar like a freshman getting a huge tirade for failing at a task and then becomes overly perfectionist and completely overly alert - and the mechanism does the same thing. Overcompensating.
Because the instinct failed to protect from the threat, it becomes now omnipresent in the mind. So each little hint that goes in that direction is now taken extremely seriously.
Now it isn’t orange fur anymore, it is EVERY orange object. Movement in the bushes? Now EVERYTHING that moves is a warning sign. It is basically your brain panicking.
The alarm goes off constantly and therefor you are constantly under attack. Which means your brain keeps sending out the adrenaline and you don’t have really any idea why.
And how can you respond to something, that isn’t actually there? Because all of it, is basically a false alarm. A false alarm that goes off all the time. So if there is a REAL threat, it goes now often unnoticed.
This is why we have to teach our brains that that is a false alarm and why. We talked about how to do that in Episode 31 - Rewrite your brain.
I picked this topic so that you know what to aim for and that you no longer target into nothing and waste a lot of energy. This hopefully helps you to put triggers in a box and remove them.

2 Different kind of triggers

From Episode 93:


Last time - quite a long time ago - I only explained how we use triggers to find where our trauma cores are, but left out that there are different kind of triggers and you should handle them differently. They are from very different origins.
I recently realized that this was a blind spot I had failed to cover. When we talk about triggers, I would like to separate them by triggers of the open wound and triggers of the trauma core. Or emotions trigger and trauma trigger for short.
Though one could argue, that the trauma trigger is also an emotional one, but that is quite a bit of nitpicking. To repeat the basics so we are on the same page: A trigger is a reaction to something. As simple as that.
You smelling a burger might trigger your hunger for burgers. In the context of psychology, it means usually you have a reaction to something that you shouldn’t have. For example running away from a small spider. Not the usual reaction one would have.
Triggers usually refer to something that causes a strong emotional reaction from you. Maybe even going so far for you to disassociate, see things, relive memories or the like. This reaction is involuntarily.
Therefor many try to avoid them, which is generally not wise. We first get into the emotions trigger and then into the trauma trigger.

Emotions Trigger - Triggers of the open wound - how to identify and react
With the emotions trigger avoiding is honestly not the worst thing one can do. But how do we identify one? Well an emotions trigger is when your triggered response comes from an still open wound. You surely had a similar situation before.
When you lost and see the other team getting congratulated? It stings a bit, doesn’t it? Or seeing your ex after you broke up? There is this emotional hurt. I think everyone of you encountered it in one way or another.
And it also appears during your healing journey. Just in this case - after a new revelation. A PAINFUL, new revelation. Often about someone we trusted or held dear being responsible for something bad. That is a VERY hard pill to swallow.
If we want to go with the normal situation example than it is the realization of the betrayal of our partner via cheating. The realization of this new revelation leaves an open wound, which is really sensitive to touch and will cause an emotional response.
For it properly to heal you have to leave it alone - as in avoiding the topic for a bit - because if you keep poking it, it won’t heal. At least for a while. It IS important to regularly check in and see if the wounds has closed or is healing.
And if not one should investigate WHY. So to summarize: With an emotions trigger, it is wise to avoid if for a bit to give it time to heal and after a while see how things are now.

Trauma Trigger - Triggers of the trauma core - how to identify and react
Maybe it has turned into the second trigger, the trauma trigger. This is the trigger I originally referred to. This is the trigger most people associate with PTSD. The soldier hears a bang and he is back in the war zone.
The abuse victim hears a sentence the abuser always said and is getting a panic attack or the like. These are what most people associate with this trigger. While this is true, these examples are more on the extreme end of the spectrum.
A trauma trigger is an unusual response to anything in relation to the trigger core. That includes you getting stressed out because you are doing something - when that is something that REALLY shouldn’t stress you out the least.
Or you HAVE to do something in a specific way. Or you avoid something and never do it and you just don’t know why? Those are all trigger responses. Pretty far away what many associate with it. Of course there is also the known flashback and the like.
And all these trigger responses are extremely useful. They are a trail. This is the point where you - if you are stable enough - go after that trail by keep asking why. Why do I respond like this? Why did I just do that? Why is that such a loaded topic?
It can lead you to both an known AND unknown trigger core. You can also remove the trigger by following the trail with why questions. Remember: Facts don’t matter. Just emotions and feelings are relevant in this scenario.
But that is a topic we will pick up another time. For now that covers these two triggers.

Why triggers are helpful

Episode 6 (outdated):


What are Triggers?
As said in Episode 2, Triggers are a reaction to a stimuli. By any of our senses.
The origin was to spot something and be able to react immediately . You see wolf fur? Immediately triggers an adrenaline rush to be able to run away… or to flight.
Very useful and helps us to survive.
But as mentioned before, the PTSD makes an useful trait an harmful one.
Now basically harmless things, like for example a firework or a sound of metal, now triggers the adrenaline rush and death scare.
There a big and small triggers, most people just know their big ones, which gives them the extreme symptoms.
But trigger are also the reason why you explode at a specific topic or you cry when you see something. Reaction may vary.
As an example for a positive trigger I would use a picture of a loved one. Or their smell. But those are usually never called triggers. Only the negative version of them.
Triggers are very harmful, as they weaken the person and make them more vulnerable to more triggers. A vicious circle.
The bane of the existence of a person with PTSD.

And yet my title is why triggers are helpful. And they are. The weak spot we can exploit.

I know this may sound very counterintuitive, but trigger are not just remove able, but they also take a part of the trauma with them.
Yes, I will repeat it: Triggers are REMOVE ABLE. Completely. Yes, completely remove able. Once you removed a trigger, you never have to deal with it again.
I repeat again: Triggers are remove able and you have never deal with them again…. IF you remove them fully.
Yes I can confirm that I removed like hundreds of triggers. They are so annoying. If I today I stumble upon one, it take me 1 to max. 2 days and all is well and done. After that they are just GONE.
It will take a bit longer if you have no routine yet. Also the weaker you are, the harder to heal up and recover from it. It takes longer, the worse off you are. As usual.
Remember when I said, that the trauma is made out of many small parts? Not a big one? Triggers are basically the string that lead you there.
And if you pull out the trigger, rout and stem, you also remove a part of the trauma.
After that you usually need to recover a bit, depending how big the damage is, but what ‘grows’ there afterwards is healthy.
Its like you are ripping a tumor out of your body and afterwards replace it with healthy tissue.
Actually cancer is a very good equivalent of PTSD. It infects everything, causing more problems and eventually completely make you unable to do anything.
Just that we don’t even have effective meds for removing PTSD.

Plan forward
Until now I showed you how to best defend yourself, now we are going into the offensive. And the triggers help us take town the PTSD. Who would have thought that?
You see the trigger is like a man shooting, yes he is injuring you, but he is also showing where he is. And he can be taken out. Best with the station he was with.
Sometimes finding the trauma can be hard, triggers can then be the direction signs. Depending on your case.

Since this is such a crucial part and I think I need to do this extensively, I plan to do the next episode giving examples and explaining in details how to remove them.
As I can imagine it being hard to imagine, as I never read or saw it anywhere.
But once you really fully understand it, it just becomes routine and you get more and more of your life back. Piece by piece.