Simplified Explanation of a Triggered Brain

When we get triggered there is an emotional hijacking of our neo-cortex. Our neo-cortex is the reasoning center in our brains that helps us to monitor our reactions and choices when we speak or act.

In life threatening situations, the neo cortex is bypassed and the amygdala receives signals and reacts milliseconds before the neo-cortex has had a chance to process the information.

The amygdala is an almond shaped group of neurons located deep within the medial, temporal lobes of our brains. It is part of the limbic system and plays a primary role in the processing and memory of our emotional reactions. It forms and stores memories associated with emotional events. When we are triggered, control of our reactions gets seized by the amygdala and we essentially turn on the auto pilot.

The amygdala regulates our flight/fight/freeze response. When we sense danger the amygdala signals the body to release huge amounts of stress-related hormones and peptides. Heart rate and blood pressure increase to give extra energy. Blood flow is diverted to arms and legs, muscles tense so you can fight or flee. You start to sweat more to prevent over heating.

The major problem is that these primitive neural systems cannot differentiate between emotional threats to our ego and the threat of eminent demise to our body.

When a situation or person triggers our emotional wiring our bodies react as our life is under threat. The limbic system kicks in with the full range of flight/fight/freeze response.

Triggers are based on our personal experiences and life histories. The key to unlocking triggering events is understanding the memories associated with the emotional events. Those memories are stored for instantaneous recall  to protect us from further harm. Thus, our responses are out of proportion with the triggered event because of the stored memories of past experiences that flood and overwhelm us.