At my crisis line training tonight, we discussed trauma and the trauma response. Part of managing trauma is managing triggers from trauma. I am not saying that surviving sexual abuse/domestic violence is the same experience I have from feeling abandoned. Clearly, they are vastly different. However, I found the information useful in understanding my own experience and ways of managing triggers.
Your brain stem is formed first in the womb. It controls basic bodily functions (heart beat, breathing, etc.). Your limbic system is formed next. It controls your sensory processing, processing short-term memories and moving them into long-term memory storage, decides if you are in danger, and tells you how you feel. Your neocortex is formed afterwards, which is your “thinking” brain- it controls higher level thinking and reasoning.
You limbic brain “remembers what it was seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, when it decided you were in danger. These sensory memories can get ‘stuck’ in this part of the brain and become triggers or cause nightmares.”
In addition: “Trauma memories can also get ‘stuck’ in short-term memory storage. Instead of being processed and filed under ‘past things that happened to me,’ I may continue to experience a trauma memory as though it just happened (like a short-term memory) every time it comes into my mind. This may be the case even many years later. Because [the] limbic brain is non-verbal, just talking about it is not enough for re-processing.”
Whoa! This just makes so much sense to me with how I am still having flashbacks and intense emotional reactions to just thinking about the messy and traumatic break-up from this summer. I feel encouraged to try to process my feelings in some other ways besides journaling and talking (like drawing or sculpting) to see if those non-verbal outlets might help relieve my triggers and reactions.