A journal of healing

what is a trigger?

The fact that the cell membrane and a computer chip are homologues means that it is both appropriate and instructive to better fathom the workings of the cell by comparing it to a personal computer. The first big-deal insight that comes from such an exercise is that computers and cells are programmable. The second corollary insight is that the programmer lies outside the computer/cell. Biological behavior and gene activity are dynamically linked to information from the environment, which is downloaded into the cell.   Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D.. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles (Kindle Locations 863-866). Kindle Edition.

I purposefully started this blog with this piece of information. The book, the Biology of Belief was very eye opening for me. I read through and understood about half of what he was saying. My intentions are to go back and reread this, but currently I have a few other books going. Dr. Lipton, a cellular biologist, was radical in his thinking. He left the exalted chambers of academia to live on a Caribbean island and wrote this book. It is a little high end for vocabulary, but his discoveries of the cells power is amazing. For those who believe in mind, body and spirit, it is a good read.

What does this have to do with this blog? Triggers! This is a phenomenon very common to those who have PTSD and developmental trauma. Unless you have it, it is hard to understand. I have heard several times in my life: “why do you just change?” If it were that simple, I would and so would the thousands who have chronic trauma related issues. This is not a choice. If a therapist tells you that it is, run for the door.

What is a trigger? Each person has multiple triggers in their lives. There are smells that trigger hunger and smells the trigger revulsion. Same nose smells them all. What makes the one smell pleasant and the other not pleasant? The memory attached to it. I love the smell of pine for example. It reminds me of the Adirondacks, The River and decorating the house for the holidays. These are all pleasant places or times that I felt safe. There are smells that trigger the opposite.

Light is a big trigger for me. I am very sensitive to light; the brightness and color of light. For example, the fading crimson light of sunset will often trigger me if I am not careful. There is something about the shadow and color that sets me off if I do not focus and keep myself in the present moment. It takes conscious effort to be aware. Why would this particular light bother me? I had to really analyze this as this has been a factor for a very long time for me, since I was very young.

Every night, my parents at 5 pm would stop their lives and sit down to have cocktails. It was without fail. We children were excommunicated from the area and left to our own devices. The room would fill up with the stench of cigarettes and later cigars. One cocktail would follow another. When I was very young, it was not so much an issue as my brother and I were fed earlier by my mother’s live in. As time moved on, this ritual lasted longer and longer. My father would drink and turn into a monster. And the hard part was it was not all the time. Sometimes he would be fine, and other times he would explode into a rage for no reason. My mother would catatonically sit on the sidelines and allow his irrational behavior to run its course. I did not realize at the time she was protecting herself.

Two things this light symbolized for me. The exclusion brought on by the ritual of cocktails. There was such a feeling of isolation and rejection stemming from their choice of alcohol over their children. And the fear of what drinking would do to my father. When we moved and I was the only one at home, they would get so tanked that they would not stop. Often, I would have dinner on my own, go out for the evening with my friends to come home to either the monster or having to help them get to bed. Needless to say I did not bring friends home.

The tricky part of triggers is we often do not know what they are. I can be going along in my day and realize that I am not breathing well. My chest will get tight and I cannot take a deep breath. I will have no idea what set me off, but something did. It can be as apparent as an argument or it can even be something I overheard. But sometimes, it is just the environment. And that is where cellular biology comes into play.

Think of the cell as a little person all on its own. It has a brain (nucleus) and it has a body with multiple parts that produced respiration and osmosis of sorts and creates energy. Surrounding the cell is the cell membrane which is like our skin…..which of course is made up by cells. “Each eukaryote (nucleus-containing cell) possesses the functional equivalent of our nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, excretory system, endocrine system, muscle and skeletal systems, circulatory system, integument (skin), reproductive system, and even a primitive immune system, which utilizes a family of antibody-like “ubiquitin” proteins.” Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D.. The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles (Kindle Locations 345-346). Kindle Edition.

This is important to understand because triggers are sensed. They can be attached to a memory which will indicate whether it is a good trigger or a bad trigger. As we proceed through our day, we are assaulted with so much information that if we were to pay attention to it all we would be immobilized. So we tune out. I should say our thinking brain tunes out. The cells on our body do not. So we may feel uneasy without realizing where it is coming from. Have you ever walked into an empty room and felt creeped out? I have. There is something that was there or may still be and I cannot perceive it cognitively, but my little cell brains can. And when that happens, the little cell brains send a signal to the nerve highways and send the non-apparent threat up to the reptilian brain. It reacts and sets off the limbic system and opens Mr. Amygdala who then sends off all sorts of chemicals and then I feel crappy. AND, I have no clue why.

Think of how often this can happen in the course of a day. The part I will get into later is that this reaction or trigger grows exponentially. In other words, simple things set us off more and more. And because we end up being triggered continually, our system is flooded with chemicals that create inflammation and disease. Chronic pain is a common symptom of developmental trauma and PTSD.

This is in part why I had to take a mental health day this weekend. My pain level is out of control. My body is telling me I need to calm down. I had to take myself out my normal environment of work and interactions. It is not how I can live, but the respite was good. Unfortunately, the resurgence in the world of grocery shopping yesterday produced a heightened sense of over stimulation and increased pain level again. But the one day was worth it.


Comments on: "what is a trigger?" (1)

  1. risinghawk said:

    Great post – and Lipton’s “Biology of Belief” is a fantastic work. Peace . . .


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