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Know your triggers, know your glimmers

Re-posting here a fantastic article by Lana Jelenjev from the Neurodiversity Education Academy.

We are so primed to feel triggers and encouraged to know what our triggers are. Yet, we are not taught to know our glimmers. According to Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker specialising in complex trauma and author of "The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy," :

Glimmers refer to small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm. We're not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection, these are micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.

Triggers on the other hand are cues that signal potential threats. It gives us a cue to danger and can make us feel antsy and withdrawn. Our body then releases stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol).

American physiologist, Walter Cannon, was the one to coin the term FIGHT-FLIGHT after realizing that an unconscious and automatic series of fast-acting reactions occurred inside the body to help assemble resources the body needs to manage threatening circumstances.

In the years since his research, physiologists and psychologists have developed and refined Cannon's work, coming to a better understanding of how people react to threats.

Thus defining what is now called fight, flight, freeze, and fawn:

  • Fight: facing any perceived threat aggressively.

  • Flight: running away from the danger.

  • Freeze: unable to move or act against a threat.

  • Fawn: immediately acting to try to please to avoid any conflict.

Triggers mobilise us into our flight or fright responses or move us to inaction with our freeze or fawn responses. Given that our brain has the tendency to look for the bad, priming it to look for the strengths and the good is important.

Girl in a forest near a tree to convey a sense of joy and calm
Photo by Amanda Jackson

Spotting glimmers in our everyday lives

So how do we know what glimmers are?

Glimmers give us a calm, peaceful and joyful state. They are micro-moments of goodness that help our body to restore to our thriving state of being. They reduce emotional distress and can help us be more in our learning zone.

Some examples of glimmers:

  • basking in nature

  • petting animals

  • shaking or rocking the body

  • humming

  • wrapping our body around a soft blanket

  • freshly baked bread

  • scented stationery

  • gardening

In the same way that certain sights, sounds, scents, people, or actions can trigger us, these can also be sources of glimmers as well. Glimmers will be different for each one of us. What might bring us joy may not be the same for the other person. Understanding our glimmers and knowing the glimmers of others can promote not only feelings of joy and peace but also a greater sense of connectivity with those we engage with.

You feel something happen inside, there's an energy that happens around a glimmer, and your brain then marks it as well.  - Deb Dana

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