WHAT ARE GLIMMERS? AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

What are Glimmers? They're the opposite to triggers and can be used to change our brain's response to remembered trauma.

WHAT IS A GLIMMER?

My blogging friend Pat from Retirement Transition wrote a series of posts recently about understanding abandonment and its resultant trauma and triggers. There were a lot of interesting outcomes that she described that strongly resonated with me - especially these five behaviours below. 

  • Overly sensitive to any criticism
  • Seeking external validation 
  • Discomfort/stress in social situations - especially new social situations 
  • Perfectionism, trying to meet expectations, and being productive
  • Excessive planning, over-thinking, and a desire to control the situation

In an email conversation I had with Pat, she mentioned that a friend had told her about Glimmers and how they can be used to counteract some of the triggers that we experience....
 
She briefly described Triggers and Glimmers in this way:

Triggers can be smells, sounds, places, people (individuals or their actions), or words. They make you feel insecure, excluded, and not valued.

Glimmers are the same types of things, but do the exact opposite – they make you feel secure, included, and valued.

Pat went on to write an in-depth post on the science behind Glimmers and their effect on the Ventral Vagal Complex, and how they counteract the triggers that cause us to slip into negative thoughts and behaviours. Since she first mentioned Glimmers, they've been stuck in my head. I'm no scientist and the way they work on the body's chemistry isn't as important to me as just loving the idea of them. So I thought I'd share my simplified version here today.

WHERE DID GLIMMERS ORIGINATE?

The term "Glimmers" originated with  Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in complex trauma, in her 2018 book "The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy,"  she writes:

Glimmers refer to small moments when our biology is in a place of connection or regulation, which cues our nervous system to feel safe or calm.

We're not talking great, big, expansive experiences of joy or safety or connection, these are micro moments that begin to shape our system in very gentle ways.

WHY GLIMMERS MATTER

The word itself makes me smile and gives me a pleasant association, I immediately link it to glitter, sparkle, fireflies, and happiness. But, I also like the idea that it has an added layer to it in being able to offset and reshape some of our negative thought patterns and turn them into something more positive.

Dana says:

You feel something happen inside, there's an energy that happens around a glimmer, and your brain then marks it as well. 

The idea is that by recognizing small, positive moments over and over, we can begin to re-shape our system. We start a shift towards recognizing the bright side - and this can have a beneficial impact on our mind and health.

WHERE DO YOU START LOOKING FOR GLIMMERS?

Glimmers can be found in different places and senses. Some examples include:

  • Sensing the peace of nature (forest bathing)
  • Admiring your garden, or seeing the stars in the sky.
  • Walking along a beach
  • Noticing a stranger's smile, or the warmth of a loved one's voice or hug.
  • Feeling comforted by pets.
  • Listening to your favourite song

Glimmers will be different for all of us, and when we're feeling stressed it's often harder to remember them. So, it's a good idea to set a "glimmer intention" where you look for a glimmer each day - something that brings a spark of joy, or a sense of ease, or a feeling of connection. We can then remember those moments when we need them and our emotional reaction settles, allowing us to think more logically.

A GLIMMER IN THE DARKNESS

What appeals to me about the concept of "Glimmers" is that it's about light overcoming darkness. We don't have to feel overwhelmed and out of control when we're triggered by something that reminds us of a previous trauma. We can choose to focus on a small joy that redirects our thoughts towards the light. And the more we do that, the easier it becomes.

When darkness overcomes remember it’s that little glimmer of light that can make the darkness flee.

There's a verse in the Bible from John 1:5 that says "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it". The fact that light will always conquer darkness, and that even a little glimmer of light can make all the difference, that's what I love about this - we can gradually change our mindset and our responses if we really want to. I'm hoping one day I won't be able to tick any of those five behaviours that Pat listed in her abandonment post - and that'd be pretty darn fabulous.

What gives you a little glimmer of joy? I'd love you to share it in the comments.

RELATED POSTS


What are Glimmers? They're the opposite to triggers and can be used to change our brain's response to remembered trauma.

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What are Glimmers? They're the opposite to triggers and can be used to change our brain's response to remembered trauma.

32 comments

  1. Love this post, Leanne. Glimmers is a charming word for those happy insights that come to me on my daily walk by the ocean. those glimmers give me the content for my blog. Thank you this post.

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    1. Hi Judith - I thought of glimmers when I read your last post - that sense of looking up and outwards and seeing more than the potholes in front of us.

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  2. My favorite verses in the Bible talk about God and the Bible being the light in our lives. The light that overcomes all darkness. I have never heard of glimmers but I like the idea that they can also cast light in our darkness and can encourage us to redirect our thoughts toward something positive. Being in nature is a glimmer for me. And certain fragrances can be glimmers. Interesting post.

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    1. Hi Leslie - I love the concept that even a tiny little spark of light will take away some of the darkness - Jesus being the light of the world was not accidental phrase :) I like the idea of anything that brings small sparks of joy into our lives and that help us to be our best selves and aware of our blessings.

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  3. Leanne, this is absolutely brilliant! I adore your take on the topic and the light shining in the darkness connection. Thanks for the shout out as well. :-)

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    1. My pleasure Pat - it was such a lovely and positive concept - and one that actually has some science to it (not just 'feel good' vibes). It's definitely stuck in my head and my husband has started using it for some of his counselling clients. :)

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  4. Oh I had not heard this term before but I LOVE it!

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    1. I did too Joanne - I love the name and I love the concept - win/win!

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  5. Hi Leanne. All 5 behaviors are characteristic of me. I'm so glad to read your post, that gives me hope and relief, from my negative thoughts. My triggers are when I sometimes meet people who remind me of the controlling, critical, people, that used to be in my life. the triggers can bring about such sadness, and insecurity. My glimmers are when I think about the kind and supportive people, that I have in my life, who have boosted my self-confidence, with their kind words. xxx Thank you for sharing this valuable, and beneficial post! Christina Daggett

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    1. Hi Christina - I still get triggered when I come across someone with similar physical characteristics to the toxic person I worked with. I surprises me how far I'll go to avoid encountering someone who reminds me of her (even 3 years later). But I also like the idea that we can move on from those five automatic negative qualities and onto something much more healthy and beneficial if we put in some conscious work - and glimmers are a lovely way to enhance the process. So glad you found the post helpful xx

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  6. Interesting post. Esp the Abandonment part. Nails a friend of mine to a tee.Might investigate further. #Lifethisweek

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    1. Hi Lydia - it freaked me out a little when I read Pat's posts because the behaviours she pin-pointed were me to a tee (and I didn't like what I saw!) It's good to learn and to find new ways to tackle old problems. I hope I'll be free of all five of them one day - and maybe your friend will be too.

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  7. Ahhhhh 'glimmers' - nice to have a name for it. I love glimmers! I get them for the simplest of things - walking in nature, a beautiful sunset or sunrise, feeling a lovely breeze on a hot day, the first cup of coffee in the morning, a clean house, watching the washing dancing in the breeze on the clothesline (I'm a bit weird like that), sitting in front of a fire all cozy on a cold day or night. I could go on and on! lol

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    1. Min you nailed it! I can feel the comfort and pleasure in all those things too. And how much nicer is it to turn our minds to those things rather than to all the small hurts and injustices that want to bring themselves into our minds? Give me washing fluttering in the breeze any day rather than old regretful or hurt memories!

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  8. Haven't heard about glimmers before. Thank you for sharing this, Leanne. I'm certainly going to read more about this. My glimmers include playing with my dog, reading and washing dishes!

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    1. Hi Corinne - I'm not a fan of washing dishes, but I imagine it could be quite meditative if you slide into the moment. I like that there's so many little joys in life and how important it is to acknowledge them and hold them in our hearts.

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  9. This is the first I have heard about glimmers. I love the idea. Going to share it with my therapist as well. I find glimmers when I interact with animals, when I teach my students, read poetry and listen to old romantic songs.

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    1. Hi Sunita - I loved it too and told my husband - he's a counsellor and has begun using the idea with some of his clients - just offering them the idea of changing their focus from the darker stuff to the small joys (much nicer than pinging yourself with an elastic band like some therapy calls for!)

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  10. I love the word GLIMMER. Reminds me of the word light. I find glimmers when I go for a walk in nature, read a good book, talk to a beloved friend, look at the antics of dogs and cats, and read your blog. Thank you so much for sharing! Be well !

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    1. Oh Yvonne, what a lovely compliment to have my blog included in the list of joys in your life! Thank you for that. I find glimmers in many of the things you listed and I'm so grateful for each of the small pleasures that I have in my life - remembering them makes them even more powerful.

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  11. Great post. I've had some stuff go down in the last couple of weeks that has triggered meltdowns in me (nothing anyone else would find serious, don't worry) and it's only when I began to see what you call glimmers that I'm finding my way back out again... besides, I don't have the attention span to maintain a decent slump for too long.

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    1. I'm so sorry that life has been so sucky lately for you Jo, and also glad that it's nothing too serious. I think we're all entitled to the occasional meltdown when things get too big or heavy and I love that your attention span stops you lingering there too long :D I hope things pick up and your usual joy de vivre kicks back in again. x

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  12. Your post made me realised these days, many years after having to resign from my role as a principal due to work overload, I can have many more glimmers about my time there than the triggers which were so strong for at least 2 years. It's coming up 20 years in Sept and might need a blog post. I love your ways in which you are trying to bring meaning to what happened when you were in the work place and why you had to leave. Thank you for joining in this Monday’s #LifesStories on Denyse Whelan Blogs. The community of bloggers here connects us wherever we are in the world. Looking forward to seeing you in two week’s time on Monday 6 June. Winter in Southern Hemisphere & getting close to Summer in the Northern part of the world. Denyse.

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    1. Hi Denyse - I've found that I can look back at my toxic job with a lot less angst than I used to have. There are still things that get my heart rate up occasionally (which always surprises me afterwards) and I like the idea that we can move on and fill our memories with the good parts and let them slowly erase (or at least blur) the awful bits. I could never work for those people again, but I have no ill feelings towards them and I met some very good people through my time there - so nothing is ever wasted (and I learnt a LOT of valuable lessons!)

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  13. Hi Leanne, Glimmers is a lovely way to describe good things and we all need to find these in our every day activities. The background was quite interesting and in-depth - I'm more shallow at times and just like the shiny things that make me smile :)

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    1. Hi Deb - I really enjoyed Pat's scientific explanation, but when it all boiled down to it, I was more wrapped up in the idea of little sparkles of joy that we can fill our minds with and then draw on in the darker times - it's just such a lovely concept isn't it?

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  14. Hi Leanne, Thank you for linking up with us at #weekendcoffeeshare. I haven't heard of the word glimmers before but I can imagine how its image and the practice of looking for micro moments of joy, safety or connection in our day help people who experienced complex trauma.

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    1. Hi Natalie - what I love about them is that they help traumatised people heal and they are also a reminder to the rest of us that there is a lot of beauty and joy around us that we just need to open our eyes to see. x

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  15. I like the concept of glimmers, I haven’t thought of it like that before. I think for me they are things I’m familiar with, that make me feel good about myself, like playing a tune I’m good at and that I like, taking a stroll in the garden, or something else I really enjoy.

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    1. Hi Susanne - I think music would be a really wonderful glimmer. I often wish I was more musical and always envy those who can find peace and pleasure with a guitar or piano. And gardens definitely bring that sense of quiet joy don't they?

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  16. Wow...this was so good. I've never heard of this, but I love the idea behind it. Music definitely is a glimmer for me, and nature.

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    1. Hi Kirstin - I loved it when I heard about it too. I like the idea of little sparkles of goodness and joy being all around us - and just tuning into them more to offset the doom and gloom. x

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