Glimmers, not triggers

Published on Sep 10, 2020

It's so easy to get triggered these days on social media. Like virtual landmines, you'll never know when (not if) you'll step on one when you open Facebook or Twitter (especially Twitter). Triggers are probably also the main causes of ill-being and toxicity from our media consumption. So what can we do?

I chanced on this Instagram post by @seerutkchawla, an integrative psychotherapist, who can to say about "glimmers", the moral opposite of triggers, the yang to the yin, the light to the dark:

'Glimmers', such a beautiful glimmery word too, like an emotional onomatopoeia. A glimmer is the opposite of a trigger: which triggers' us into a state of dysregulation and into the fight, flight, or freeze response. A glimmer instead 'glimmers' us closer to regulation and safety. Scents especially are powerful glimmers, they are so evocative of memory, and are the only sense that without any intermediate processing go straight to the limbic system. Songs/music are also powerful glimmers, songs have a unique time travelling ability and transport to back somatically so easily. When you hear a song you loved as a teenager it can transport you back to what it actually felt like at that time in your life, it triggers somatic or implicit memory (held in the body). ⁣Safe people, special places like a room in your house or nature, furry family, food, these can be glimmers. What glimmers can you think of?

Scents, music, spaces, taste (food), touch (of pets), safe people – that's a great list of glimmers! Isn't it curious that all these inputs are ones that go to the non-cognitive, non-intellectual parts of our brain? The somatic memories that the body holds. Exactly, because triggers get us into fight, flight or freeze responses, which are also the same part of the brain (and body). So it makes sense that the counter-inputs to fight, flight or freeze also address the same brain. I'd never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense now, how my previous coping methods were less effective. Using our cognitive capacities to resolve the non-cognitive problems is like oil on water – they might mix but never dissolve. And that list of potential glimmers also points out how inadequate my current lifestyle is in providing that. So much intellectual consumption, so little sensory.

Is that why taking a walk in nature, or a swim in the sea, helps calm me down? The scent of saltwater, or cut grass, the touch of rough sand on your feet, or the sounds of leaves rustling in the breeze... all calming sensory experiences. All experiences held not just by the intellect but the whole body.

I need more glimmers in my life, even if my trigger-causing, media consumption habits are hard to change. Perhaps by having more of the moral opposite I can feel more balanced and grounded to take on whatever the world throws at me. Perhaps I should ask these questions more often, and more intentionally: 

What scents can I use?

What music can I listen to more often? 

Are there spaces where I feel safe and calm?

What wholesome foods can I eat that bring me back to myself?

Which textures are soothing?

Who should I hang out more with, who make me feel safe and nurtured?