What happens to our Reflective Mind, Reactive Brain and Reactive body as we become increasingly hyper or hypo triggered?

The FOPPI acronym offers a memorable way for both therapists and clients to understand what happens to them as they become increasingly triggered in reaction to a physical and/or an attachment related threat. It can be useful as an additional element of the introduction to the Rainbow Map or at another time in the work you are doing with your client with or without the Rainbow Map.

In order to gain a better understanding of how we react to physical and/or attachment related threat it helps to think about the ancient environment for which our trigger system was evolved. That triggering system remains with us, even though for most of us our lives today are completely different. 


Imagine you were walking in the African bush two hundred thousand years ago gathering fruit. You come to a clearing and on the other side there are bushes bearing fruit. One of the bushes is moving from side to side even though there is no wind. Your Reactive Brain immediately notices this movement and your Reflective Mind and Reactive Brain/Body system triggers in a sequence and a manner described by the acronym FOPPI:

Focus: Your Reflective Mind starts to shut down and you no longer pay attention to the fruit on the bush but instead your Reactive Mind forces you to focus on the movement and whether you can sense any sign of danger within, or in the vicinity of the bush. Your field of visions narrows your hearing acuity focuses forwards. 

Overreact: Your survival chances are reduced by delaying preparations such as charging your muscles up for fight or flight or depleting them for hide or play dead until the danger has been 100% confirmed i.e. the predator exists and has come out from behind the bush and is charging towards you. Instead noticing potential threat causes your Reflective Mind to start to shut down and your Reactive Mind to rapidly generate electrical and chemical signals that prepare the body to fight, flight, hide or play dead.  

Pessimism: While we know that there are far more antelopes than predators in the wild our triggering Reactive Brain predicts that a dangerous predator in or against the bush. Not only that but also its probably large and very hungry, having not eaten for weeks. Its no use preparing for a moderately bad outcome we are evolved to predict and equip ourselves to deal with the worst possible outcome. In that way we are more likely to survive and pass  our DNA onto the following generations. 

Package:  Its no use focusing on the threat and being pessimistic about it unless your body is prepared to react rapidly to what comes out. Therefore, when we trigger in response to physical and/or attachment related threat our survival chances were increased if we Focus, Overreact and are Pessimistic all at the same time.

Inaccurate: Waiting to be certain there is a genuine threat to us is not a winning strategy as it means we have less time to prepare for a potential attack. We can prepare to fight, run away, hide or play dead many times but only be eaten once. In the same way its better to incorrectly sense an attachment related threat and do something about it rather than waiting to be isolated and exposed to danger without warning.  

The Rainbow Map experience helps clients learn about and recognise their own style of FOPPI like behaviour especially in response to attachment related threat which is the most common ancient world threat that we have in our relatively safe world today. The origins of FOPPI like behaviours are typically mysterious to clients and often cause unwanted outcomes in their lives causing them to come to therapy. This awareness increases their capacity to notice themselves triggering and then exert more choice in terms of if and how they react to the perceived attachment related threat before their Reflective Mind shuts down and that choice no longer exists. FOPPI offers clients another route to externalise the drivers for their unwanted behaviour.

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