OK so let’s talk about “triggers” and “trigger warnings”. I may cop some flak for this post, but hey, stick it in the comments or something.
It seems these days it’s difficult to read anything on the Internet without seeing a “trigger warning” or people complaining that they’ve been “triggered”. I’m sure most of you know what these terms mean, but just in case, here’s a brief explanation.
There are many people in the world who have had bad things happen to them. Sometimes REALLY bad things. People have been raped, they’ve been mugged, they’ve been the victims of domestic/sexual/child abuse, they’ve lost family members to cancer, they’ve attempted suicide, a whole range of things. Naturally these events leave a lasting impression on the individual. A “trigger” is something which appears in a document, or a video, or a song, or any media, which may remind the viewer of some traumatic experience and therefore cause people to think dark thoughts about said events. A “trigger warning” is something which informs users that the content they’re about to view may contain such triggers.
So people often post trigger warnings and others avoid the content. If they don’t post trigger warnings and someone gets “triggered” by the content then an Internet shitstorm usually ensues. So Trigger Warnings sound like a cool idea right?
Well there’s something which has been bothering me about them for some time now, and that’s this: if you are constantly shielded from anything that may remind you of traumatic events of your past, you will never be able to confront that trauma, and you will never be able to move past that trauma.The world is a scary place a lot of the time, and there are few truly “safe spaces”. We overcome our fears by facing them. We don’t always have people to protect us. Sometimes we need to deal with things ourselves, and we need to build up our defences to make our own space seem safer for us.
Now of course, I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t warn others of graphic content in videos and the like, but it’s nigh on impossible to eliminate every possible trigger from any body of text. A song may spark a memory of the time your husband got drunk and beat you. Images of the desert may trigger some memory of war. Even a single word may remind you of something that happened in the past that you think is best left forgotten. It’s impossible to predict what will count as triggers for the multitudes of horrendous events which have occurred in people’s lives.
I therefore suggest that the burden of “trigger warnings” should not fall on the creator or publisher of the content, but rather the viewer of that content. Everything you look at may contain a trigger. Every song you hear may contain a trigger, every video, every poem, every conversation. Accept it. Accept the fact that there may well be things that are difficult for you to deal with. By facing those triggers head on you learn to build up resilience to them. You learn to move forward, maybe not past the trauma, but at least to a point where you are better equipped to handle it. And through this movement, you become stronger.
I leave you with this: