Exploring Triggers

We absorb information from our environment through the 5 senses;

1. Sight | Visual

light and colour is detected by cells in the retina at the back of the eye.

2. Sound | Auditory

hair cells in the ear move in response to specific frequencies of sound.

3. Taste | Gustatory

taste buds on the tongue react to salt, sour, bitter, sweet and umami tastes in our food.

4. Smell | Olfactory

special cells in the nose detect different chemicals in the air that we breathe in. We also detect the flavours in food as air moves from our mouth up into the back of the nasal cavity.

5. Touch | Tactile

various receptors in our skin can detect different types of touch, including pressure and vibrations.

Our brains are senseless – I’m not being rude, its the truth of the matter, you could stick a pin in the brain and it would feel nothing! Therefore, the information absorbed by the senses is translated into Electro-Chemical Data – information the brain can understand. This process is called Transduction and is undertaken by the nervous system.

Electro chemicals enter the brain through a gateway called the  Thalamus, which distributes packets or modules of data to various parts of the brain. Each module investigates the data in order to make sense of it.

The Thalamus sends some of the data off to the pre-frontal cortex which sits behind the brow – this allows us to have a good think about the experience.

The Thalamus sends some data off to the Amygdala, and its the Amygdala’s job to decide whether something is Rewarding – something we want more of, or Threatening – something we want to get away from.

The Thalamus disturbs data transduced from sensations to different modules of the brain so that we can understand the significance of an experience and what to do about it.  The process of Transduction involves breaking down the sensual experience into small pieces. Theses sensations each have to be transduced and then encoded into the brain. The pieces are then put back together and recoded into a replica – a copy that represents the sensational experience.

We call the replica a Perception, which are made up of smaller pieces known as ‘Percepts’. The module’s of the brain don’t investigate the original experience, but make sense of the experience from the replica;  Perception.

The investigation of this Perception is not the only way we reach a conclusion, but also by drawing on previous perceptions of previous experiences which is known as Bottom Up Processing.


The occipital lobe is the part of the human brain responsible for interpreting information from the eyes and turning it into the world as a person sees it.

The occipital lobe has four different sections, each of which is responsible for different visual functions. The term bottom-up processing is used when we discuss perception. The brain has two ways of processing and perceiving information and that is bottom-up and top-down processing. The occipital lobe is the area that processes vision and in bottom-up processing that is the very first stage. Bottom-up processing starts with information, or energy, from our environment and converting it into action potentials that transmit to the brain, this is called transduction. Our eyes take in this environmental energy and our occipital lobe is responsible for building a visual map or representation of our surroundings before the environmental energy can be converted to action potential in order for our brain to remember - Reference The Cerebral Cortex and Bottom-Up Processing

All experiences are made from sensations and all sensations are transduced into an electro-chemical language that the brain can understand. Almost all data enters the brain through the module called the Thalamus.

Another of the modules of the brain which is core in receiving data is called the Hippocampus. The Hippocampus holds information from moment to moment,  allowing us to remember what we just did a moment ago, while doing what we are doing now, remembering what we are going to do next and remembering why we are doing it.


The Hippocampus holds the immediate past in its short term working memory, so we can string together moment to moment experiences of our life in order that makes sense that will allow us to follow through on what we set out to do.  The Hippocampus can discard the memory or it can send it off to the Cerebral Cortex to be stored in the long term memory.

The Hippocampus sends to storage the memories that are more emotional and discards those that are less emotions. Deciding which memories to store in long term memory and which memories to get rid would be difficult for the Hippocampus itself, as it is impartial to emotion, it simply records the information. It decides which memories  to store with the help of the Amygdala which identifies emotional experiences.

The two are in dialogue with the amygdala telling the hippocampus whether the current experience and short term memory of what just happened a moment ago is potentially a reward or a threat. If its either, the Hippocampus ships it off into storage. If however the Amygdala doesn’t detect threat of reward, the hippocampus discards the memory making it difficult to recall.

In addition to holding information in its short term memory, from the last few moments, the Hippocampus assisted by the Amygdala selects memories for storage and also retrieves memories from long term storage. The Hippocampus must hold these retrieved long term memories that it pulls down from the cerebral cortex in a space next to the short term memories. There is only very limited space in this holding area.

When traumatic memory is recalled into the Hippocampus, we feel the emotion attached to the memory. When we put the memory back into long term storage, the process of putting the memory in & out of storage tends to take the edge off it, becoming less intent as we recall it more and more often, thus reducing the emotional intensity.

This is not the case with PTSD as the emotion does not discharge from the memory, rather if you have PTSD, the memory always has the same emotional intensity and vividness as the original experience, as though you were living it over and over again.  With PTSD, the memory triggers a host of distressing, negative thoughts, self reproach, helplessness, despair, uncomfortable intense vivid memories.

We cannot help people to forget the memory, but we can help to discharge the emotions they experience when they remember it.

EMDR which stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is a therapy  used to help people recover from distressing events and the problems they have caused, like flashbacks, upsetting thoughts or images, depression or anxiety. The working memory theory of EMDR is considered to be an effective treatment for PTSD.

The Hippocampus has to divide its recourses between holding a memory in its limited space and recalling the answer to a taxing question in the same space. Tow lower the intensity of sensory mental imagery, EMDR comes into play. It is incredibly difficult to hold the memory while distracted with EMDR. The Working Memory theory of EMDR is not effective because of the eye movements itself, but because of the limited attention of the Hippocampus.

When a person becomes ‘Triggered’,  they are being Hijacked by unwanted thoughts and feelings known as an  ‘Emotional Flashback’. Emotional Flashbacks can be External or Internal.  An external emotional flashback can be triggered by an object, person, colour, smell, feeling situation. The ‘Reliving’ of an event or scenario. Someone may smell the familiar scent of a loved who has passed away, and be overcome with emotions as the memory of the loved one is recalled.

In cases of PTSD, the example given is that of a former solider, when the sound of a loud bang causes the solider to run for cover. These two examples of emotional flashbacks are identifiable. In both examples the individuals have been triggered by information absorbed through the senses from their environment; Olfactory (the smell of a familiar perfume) and Auditory ( the sound of a loud noise).

We have an awareness of what may have happened that would cause the ex -solider to run for cover at the sound of a loud bang.

However, in cases of Complex PTSD (CPTSD), which is often caused by prolonged emotional abuse, the emotional flashbacks tend to be internal. The mind and the body flashback to the memory of the emotions of the initial trauma. This trigger however, is unidentifiable because it is emotional only – experienced in the thoughts and bodily sensations, not seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelt.

In cases of CPTSD the emotional flashbacks are sub-conscious and automatic, the sufferer is not consciously  aware of them. The adult with CPTSD who finds themselves in a challenging scenario at work for example, may be reduced to a childlike state and experience feelings of helplessness, worthlessness and abandonment.


Because the emotional flashback is happening out-with the persons awareness, the childlike state of helplessness is automatic. They are reacting to the somatic sensations and Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs). The style of communication when an individual is triggered and operating on auto pilot tends to be; Passive, Aggressive or Passive-Aggressive, which can quickly escalate and cause more trauma.

Learning how to ‘Respond’ rather than ‘React’,  is a strategy we offer to people seeking support through our support groups, workshops and courses.


When triggered, we learn to Stop, to pause. Giving ourselves some time to think.


Paying attention to our bodily sensations and thoughts, asking ourselves how we feel, bringing our attention into the present moment – into awareness.


Take a deep breathe and Consider your response! In time and with practice of boundary setting, the communication style we are aiming for is Assertive and confident.

Never Doubt

Victims of emotional abuse have a tenancy not to trust their own judgement, partially victims of gaslighting who have become used to doubting themselves and questioning their reality. It becomes difficult to know what is truth and what isn’t leading to a lack of self-belief.

Never Doubt serves as a reminder that we can indeed trust our thoughts and feelings because we have taken the time to consider them in the present. Whatever you are feeling right now, in the moment is the feeling you are able to trust.

Over time with practice, S.T.A.N.D becomes the default response. This calm and controlled way of responding to situations improves confidence while the communication style becomes more assertive.


Paul Newham, Human Sciences teaching EMDR Therapy and PTSD Visited July, 2021.

Deborah J Crozier – S.T.A.N.D ©2014 July 2021

The Cerebral Cortex and Bottom-Up Processing  July, 2021

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S.T.A.N.D© - Trauma Informed Response


Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –

Viktor E. Frankl

S.T.A.N.D© is an acronym for Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt –   trauma informed response to be applied in situations when an individual may triggered by the behaviours of others.  I wrote Having pulled apart, over many years my own experience of grooming and manipulation,  in answer to the question; “what could I have done differently!”? The conclusion that I came to is S.T.A.N.D…

‘Between the Trigger and the Reaction, there is space where you can learn to S.T.A.N.D in your power – Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt.’

S.T.A.N.D is an incredibly useful tool for people who have experienced Trauma  as we are prone to negative automatic responses, driven by fear and uncertainty due to previous experiences.

Rather than responding assertively with confidence and conviction for self-care, trauma victims are prone to people-pleasing, often finding it impossible to put their own interests before the interests of others, inadvertently making themselves vulnerable. High levels of empathy and negative core beliefs ( I am not worthy) means they often become overwhelmed with negative emotions when faced with what  others may perceive as being, simple decision-making.

This is because a trauma victims focus automatically shifts to the other person or persons well-being rather than their own. Their main concerns tend to revolve around what other people will think of them, how they will be perceived by others, and how others are likely to feel as a result of the victims decisions.  All of these concerns for others (family, friends, work colleagues, neighbour’s, even strangers often leaves them swamped by feelings of guilt, awkwardness and apprehension, victims tend to bypass their own thoughts and feelings of wellbeing, prioritizing others  and frequently suffering as a result.

The way our brains process information, often draws on previous experience, filling in the blanks with the ‘most like outcome’. We call this Bottom-Up processing. If, due to previous experiences,  our first thought is likely to be a negative automatic thought (NATs)  – the way to forward from a trauma response is to retrain our brains to recognise and intercept the first NAT to ensure the thoughts that follow are mindful and intentional ones.

Even when victims of trauma recognise automatic negative responses, such as people pleasing in themselves, they have difficulty over coming these behaviours because firstly, they are often ingrained from an early age, and secondly victims of trauma rarely trust their own judgement,  another side effect of the trauma they have suffered.

As observers we may be surprised by a trauma victims responses. It they may appear to a bystander that the individual is not being genuine or applying any common sense to their responses, instead they appear to be opting for the ‘same old mistakes’ time and time again. With hindsight, the individual is likely to arrive at the same conclusion, which only serves as a big stick to beat themselves up with, reinforcing the negative views that the traumatized individual already holds about themselves, further impacting on their low self-worth.

Perpetrators are keen observers who can easily recognise automatic people pleasing responses in others, making them easy prey.

This happens because people who live with unresolved trauma, often become stuck. They may find themselves going round and round in circles; different faces, different places – same old mistakes and outcomes.

If I didn’t have bad luck, I would have no luck at all” is often a belief held by the traumatized, who tend to view their own lives as spectators from the sidelines, rather than being actively involved in the decision making, due to a lack of control. In these circumstances, people tend to default to people-pleasing rather than expressing their true inner feelings in relation to any situation, because facing emotions leaves them vulnerable, and feels like a scary or even dangerous place for them. Some people may default to anger, appearing passive-aggressive or defeated, because their responses are driven by fear or panic due to the stuckness or disassociation.

With practice, the acronym; S.T.A.N.D© , Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt – serves as an aide memoir prompting the individual to stay calm and focused in the present moment, reminding them to turn their attention inwards and to connect to how they are feeling, as opposed to allowing their minds to run riot, whizzing back and forth searching for answers which is what often leads them to a place of panic and anxiety.

By turning the attention inwards, they are guided by how they feel,  an indicator of what feels right for them and what feels wrong for them as their internal navigation system fires up thus assisting them to respond in ways that are healthy and in their own best interests. Over time, with practice, S.T.A.N.D© becomes the new go to response.

To find out more about S.T.A.N.D© and how it could work for you, register for our Webinar Today!


Used as A toolkit for the prevention of

Grooming Behaviour’s©

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The impact of trauma can be devastating and being  groomed for any reason, is a traumatic event. The experience often leaves victims feeling embarrassed, ashamed and guilt ridden for years to come as they struggle to make sense of what has happened to them. 

Being deceived by someone we trust and respect is a difficult situation for anyone. It can take its toll on our emotions and wellbeing, adversely impacting a victims confidence and self-esteem.

The experience of Grooming behaviours may lead victims to question their reality, causing confusion and/ or anxiety, as the process of grooming usually involves manipulation and gaslighting.

Grooming may cause victims to feel in some ways complicit; as they convince themselves that they should have seen what was coming or they should have known better.

Understanding that we are not responsible for the behaviours of others may make sense, but understanding it and accepting it are two separate things entirely – it may not always be enough to prevent the negative emotional impact that follows. Victims regularly blame  themselves despite being able to reason that they could not possibly have known and are not to blame for trusting someone unworthy of their trust. 

This is especially true if a victim has encountered a trauma or multiple traumatic events in the past.

How to respond to the negative behaviours of others is often out-with the control of victims who have experienced previous trauma as they become triggered yet often unaware of what is happening to them or why.  Knowing how to respond in a way that keeps us safe and empowered in such a situation is vital if we hope to protect ourselves.

This is where S.T.A.N.D© comes in.

To Learn more about our online workshops, how S.T.A.N.D© is an effective strategy for victims of trauma and for Lived Experience Trauma Support, Get In touch.