The Glimmer Effect- Scripting Moments of Stability


The term “trigger” has become a buzzword in today’s society and is often thrown around casually…but what actually is a trigger? And when we are triggered, what do we do?

At its heart, triggers are reactions to past trauma. Essentially, triggers are the result of how our brains have processed and filed painful experiences and memories. When we are triggered, our bodies are sending us reminders of something painful or confusing that happened to us in the past and that is affecting our present. 

While are no skills that can make a person stop themselves from ever being triggered again, there are skills that allow us to cope with the triggers until we are less and less disarmed by them and impacted to the previously painful memories they bring up in us. In other words, the goal isn’t to live, trigger-free. Rather, the goal is to learn skills for engaging with triggers effectively.

3 Practical Strategies for Coping with Triggers

The following coping strategies for triggers incredibly simple and effective.

The 5-Sense Grounding Technique

This technique is easy to quickly utilize because the only thing required is your senses. You can do it anywhere at any time. In five steps, this technique helps you come back into the present from a trigger. Each step correlates with one of your five senses:

Notice 5 things that you can see around you.
Notice 4 things that you can touch.
Notice 3 things that you can hear.
Notice 2 things that you can smell.
Notice 1 thing that you can taste. 

As you work through these five steps, you’re communicating safety to your body by gently connecting to your senses and attuning to what’s happening around you.

The S-T-O-P Acronym

 Use the STOP acronym in a triggering moment to pause and work through the following 4 steps:

S - Slow down. 
T - Tune in to what you're feeling.
O - Observe your body's reaction.
P - Pursue connection.


While the last two strategies can resource us when we feel triggered, this last practice is less REACTIVE, and more PROACTIVE: incorporating something that therapist Deb Dana coined as “glimmers” into your daily rhythm. A glimmer is essentially the opposite of a trigger: Deb Dana used it to describe sensations, experiences, or what she calls “micro-moments” that calm our nervous systems.

If a trigger is anything (smell, taste, experience, person) that activates a memory of a past threat or trauma, a glimmer is something that helps us connect back to a sense of safety. What are some examples of glimmers? Anything that makes you feel connected, curious, creative, and alive.Any experience that calms you or activity that helps you breathe more deeply or physically relax.

Triggers cause us to leave the here and now, and we can feel overcome by a memory where we felt abandoned and powerless in our pain, and God was not present. Our bodies and brains need intentional reminders that we dwell in God’s house. And in this House, we are safe and seen and secure.

When we experience glimmers, our brains are literally being reshaped by goodness on the neurological level. When we seek out beauty, we are pausing & allowing God’s goodness and love to catch up with us. Because the trauma that caused our triggers was experienced, a huge part of healing is allowing our bodies and brains to EXPEREINCE something different. Glimmers provide are brains with different memories to file away…memories that communicate safety and goodness to our bodies rather than danger & harm. By watching a beautiful sunset or simply enjoying listening to the birds sing, we are reminding ourselves that God is present with us. He is all around us, just as He is inside of us.

And just as He weeps with us in our pain, He rejoices in our healing, too.

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