The real irony of the people who make jokes about being triggered is that they tend to idolize the military/veterans as if combat related PTSD isn’t a real thing that also has triggers. Y’all make fun of the people you call hero’s when you’re making fun of the teenagers with PTSD from non-combat related issues, you can’t separate the two.
Most of the people making fun of triggers are making fun of all the bullshit “”“triggers”“”, as in the people calling a mild uncomfortable feelings triggers.
The problem with making fun of a trigger is you genuinely do not know whether they are ‘mildly uncomfortable’ or if that is a thing that is genuinely causing severe anxiety, depressive episodes, or stress responses. Most of the “““““bullshit”““““ triggers I’ve seen being made fun of are actual trauma survivors who have their trauma associated with something unusual or strange. Because the thing that triggers their PTSD or panic is odd, people, not unlike yourself, are writing them off as “whiny babies” or “triggered sjws” or call their trigger bullshit because they cannot understand the association.
For examples: Sirens are one of my triggers. When I hear sirens I get an immediate panic response. This was due to being in an active war zone as a child (The response is significantly worse if it is an air raid siren or sounds too similar to an air raid siren.). If you didn’t know I was in an active war zone though, it might seem silly to see an adult panic and attempt to get to a safe place because an ambulance, fire truck, or police car went past them.
I have a manager who is triggered by the presence of police. Specifically police, other uniforms are fine (i.e. security in the mall does not set off her panic response). Her trigger is severe, if a police officer talks to her, she starts panicking and sobbing and cannot control it. This is because when she was young, two police officers threatened her repeatedly and psychologically abused her for 6 hours while they tried to find out where her brother was (yes, this was illegal. Her parents were not home at the time, and were unaware she was alone as the brother in question was meant to be watching her). If you didn’t know that story though, it might seem silly to see an adult woman burst into tears and have a panic attack because a cop said ‘hi’ to her.
I have seen posts by an abuse survivor talking about how the sound of a garage door triggered them, due to abuse by a parent. They associated that sound with the abuser returning home and the abuse beginning. The sound became a trigger because their mind associated it to that. I saw another post by a rape survivor talking about how she was triggered by the sight of eggs because she made eggs for her rapist after he’d raped her. Her mind associated eggs with the trauma due to the two being connected at least in her mind.
Brains are weird. Trauma doesn’t make sense. The point is, YOU do not know if someone is ““““bullshitting”“““ or not. You do not know how someones trauma associated itself with something odd, which is something trauma really does all the time and making fun of trauma survivors because you don’t understand the association between their trauma and the item that triggers their ptsd or anxiety is absolutely wrong and absolutely hypocritical if you think any other form of trigger is acceptable or okay. You don’t get to decide other peoples trauma triggers. They didn’t even get to decide them, and to tell someone that you’re okay to make fun of them because what upsets them doesn’t make sense to you is absolutely not okay.
I should note too: Phobia’s are real triggers too. People have panic attacks when exposed to their phobia’s in the wrong way. I need certain pictures tagged because I am absolutely terrified of heights, which is a pretty common phobia. People can have serious phobia’s to everything and anything though, and there are things I am not afraid of that others are that may seem strange to me, but to them are very real and very frightening. Just because it seems odd to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t still real to the person experiencing it.
This post needs a zillion more notes. As a Complex PTSD sufferer I truly hope that people will someday stop policing others’ triggers and health problems as if they have a single clue.
Just BACK OFF and let people LIVE.
And PTSD has ALWAYS had odd triggers, this isn’t just a modern thing. My grandmother couldn’t do anything with the reservoir on the back of a toilet because when she was nine, she was gangraped. When her attackers were in their stupor, she took all of their guns and put them in the reservoir of their toilet, and ran through the street naked until someone helped her. Having to put the weapons she KNEW they were going to use on her behind the toilet stuck in her mind, that was what became a trigger for her brain- along with being unable to go outside in her bare feet ever again.
One of my closest friends is triggered by someone touching his hair, because one of his stepfathers swung him around by his hair and smashed him into things. Now any time someone touches his hair, he gets so badly panicked he just vomits on the spot.
And then you have people with conventional ptsd triggers like me- it’s hard for me to see blood and violence in certain contexts. Oddly, it’s fine in video games, but in movies or TV shows- ESPECIALLY if it’s suicide- it triggers me. Because through my suicide prevention work, I’ve WITNESSED suicides, so as a result it triggers my ptsd.
Brains are strange and unpredictable in what they associate a situation to, and what becomes a symbol of trauma. But it’s not anyone’s job to gatekeep the subject, because it does absolutely no one any good. When someone says something triggers them, you need to respect it. And you also need to respect that triggers can generate different responses. My grandmother would get quiet and skittish when triggers. My friend vomits when triggered. I get enraged and frustrated when triggered- an unconventional response to a conventional trigger.
Some people cope so well that they only get ‘uncomfortable’. I’ve even seen one person who would get a ‘high’ because their body would try to release a shitload of dopamine in response to it, and then they’d crash. Shit’s weird, and all you can do is respect what someone says about their own boundaries.
Also, there’s a common misconception that trigger warnings are always about avoiding the trigger. That’s just not the case. A lot of times, a person is able to view a trigger and be perfectly fine if they were warned beforehand and allowed to mentally prepare. I’ve heard it compared to the fact that people can get used to and tune out a noise like a smoke detector beeping if it happens in a regular and predictable way. But random, unpredictable beeps cause immense psychological distress to almost anyone if you are forced to listen to them long enough. Letting people know a trigger is coming often helps mitigate the reaction.
This is such excellent commentary.
Two things to add. Perhaps @anti-feminism-pro-cats might appreciate this specific thing.
I was once asked to please tag cats. And I was like “Oookay, bud, I’ll try, but like, ¾ of my life IS cats, so I can’t promise anything…?” Because that just seemed really weird to me.
And then, even though they didn’t have to, they actually wrote back and said, basically, “Hey, the reason I’m asking is because I had to witness people torturing cats in a situation I couldn’t escape, and now I just … can’t.”
So I said “Hey, holy fuck, I’m sorry. Do you need me to tag all cats, or just housecats? What about cartoon cats? I just want to help you out, friend.”
And again, even though they didn’t have to, they came back and said “Cartoon cats aren’t too bad, but what I really can’t handle is seeing kittens.”
Fucking … fuck.
And I’m not gonna lie, that fucking hurt and chilled me to read. Just … the story there. I don’t want to know it. It makes me sick just imagining it. So I now tag for cats.
It’d be easy to say “It’s stupid to be triggered by kittens.”
But, uhh, I really don’t think that situation is “stupid” at all. I think it’s fucking tragic. And that person had the guts to ask, knowing that they might get made fun of for it, and then they were even kind enough to explain, and I’m grateful to them because it taught me something I intellectually but did not yet viscerally understand.
A healthy person, or even just someone with different triggers, can’t understand the significance behind triggers. And triggers can be really fucking weird or even seemingly inappropriate.
So I got to make a choice. I could say “If you can’t handle cats, seriously, I’m not the blog for you.” Understandable, I suppose. Or I could say “JFC that sucks, and the rest of the goddamn internet is flooded with untagged cats. Maybe … maybe I can do this one thing so that they will feel safe reading my blog? Maybe I have the power to actually … help a little?”
And obviously, I made the latter choice.
Here’s another thing.
Recovery is a process, and eventually a lot of people move away from needing trigger warnings. They are a helpful tool to protect yourself during a certain stage of healing. That healing might take a really long time, and it might never be complete … or … it might only be necessary for a few months or years.
So you aren’t “coddling” people by tagging for [x thing you think shouldn’t be a trigger], you’re enabling them to engage on their terms. Engaging on your own terms is literally the only way to make progress, therapeutically, so asserting that trigger warnings hinder progress is just not factually a correct statement at all.
You personally may choose not to tag for anything, and that’s fine. You are absolutely allowed to run your personal space however you want, and people shouldn’t bug you about it.
But what you don’t get to do is decide what a “stupid” trigger is (hint: there isn’t one, there’s only fucked up situations that leave fucked up scars) and whether or not someone is experiencing severe or mild discomfort. You can’t know that. Their reaction isn’t even a good guide to how they are feeling inside. They may seem only mildly uncomfortable. You don’t see them losing their shit later because something hit them way worse than they thought it would, and they thought they were okay at the time but … hahaha, nope.
I guess … a lot of people seem to think that there’s this whole category of “special snowflake” people wandering around saying “I know how to get sympathy and validation: I’ll ask a total stranger to tag for cookware because I’m ‘triggered’ by spatulas!” Just as if that’s liable to elicit the kind of validation truly lonely and desperate people need.
Or maybe … maybe they think there’s all these people who are so unacquainted with “real” pain or fear that they think their mildly uncomfortable feelings about Furbys compare to, and this is so often the example used and I think that is so wrong, combat vets who can’t handle fireworks.
What it comes down to, it seems like, is trying to extrapolate a story from the trigger so that you can say “Stop crying, you don’t have it that bad!” Which is ridiculous. As someone above pointed out, triggers can seem nonsensical even within the context of the instigating trauma. I remember the eggs post. The things that stick with you about trauma are not always just the things you expect. You can’t actually guess anything about a trauma from a seemingly inexplicable trigger beyond “Wow, fear of paintbrushes, plastic cups, and raisins … I bet that’s a story.”
And if that story that they imagine doesn’t match what they think is a “valid” trauma narrative, then they feel justified in dismissing it. Completely missing the fact that there’s no such thing as a “valid” or “invalid” trauma narrative, because trauma is a really strange and subjective thing. Also completely missing the fact that it’s not okay to try to make that judgment to begin with.
A lot of people seem unwilling, for some reason totally alien to me, to make that empathetic leap and say “Okay. I don’t need to know more. I believe you.” They want to police other people’s experiences. And that’s just one of the worst impulses of humanity. It’s really nasty, and it gets applied in so many horrible ways to mental illness of all kinds. It needs to stop.
Ultimately, it costs you nothing to be cool about it. It costs you nothing to take what people say at face value, or to believe strangers and not comment on their mental health issues. It costs you nothing to say nothing, even if you don’t believe them. Because you are inevitably going to be wrong, and why risk making yourself look like a clueless, deliberately oafish asshole?
I’m really confused as to why this is an issue, except certain segments of the online community take great pleasure in being critical of other people’s attempts to cope, because they have invested a lot of their self-image in being “smart” and “discerning” and “no-nonsense” and “not gonna be fooled” … and they really enjoy tearing down people who are saying “these things are unfair” or “these things are hard for me.”
“You aren’t really hurt/traumatized/oppressed!” is a truly unpleasantly common thing to hear these people say. Often they will even say it outright. Other times, it comes across indirectly.
It’s not at all surprising for anti-feminists to also be anti-trigger-warning, and I think this is probably why. I know it was the case for me for a very long time. Then I kind of … grew up, I guess? Enough bad shit happened to me and to people I know that I acquired sympathy. And realized that, actually, my own traumas have left me with some pretty weird issues, things that make me uncomfortable but which other people are unlikely to consider inherently threatening. So I had no room to judge.
It’s sad, because it’s actually a whole lot less effort to believe people when they talk about their experiences than it is to sit there, smoldering with disdain and resentment over the person who really can’t abide milk, of all things, and asks that it be tagged for.
If you’re angry about trigger warnings and are lashing out about it, just … go ask a mutual friend for a hug or something. Go do something self-affirming. Because the trigger warning thing is not about you or for you. You might as well spend your energy doing something nice for yourself. You’re lucky not to have to wrestle with a fear you very well know is ridiculous. Enjoy that and move on. Don’t waste your time thinking about how many people are wrong to feel the way they feel. Just let it go.
I also want to emphasize something said above:
A lot of times, a person is able to view a trigger and be perfectly fine if they were warned beforehand and allowed to mentally prepare.
This is huge.
I can engage with my triggers.
I can do it voluntarily on my own terms, and the effects can, depending on circumstance, be pretty minimal.
I can do it with warning on someone else’s terms, and depending on circumstance I can be mostly okay to messed up but still mostly functional.
Or I can do it without warning at all, and depending on circumstance, fall apart a little, or a lot.
If given control of the situation, I can get away with a “yuck” feeling and then move on. If not, I may need medication to bring me down. It can fuck me up for a couple of days if I was not allowed to choose when/how/whether to engage. If I am, hey, wow, look at that, I’m mostly all right.
This is not evidence that it’s not that bad. Like with a lot of illness, disability, and mental health stuff, just because I can do it sometimes doesn’t mean it’s okay all the time.
This is how these things work. Period. This is actually what recovery from trauma looks like, this is how it works, this is what you have to accept if you want to accept that any trauma at all is valid.
It really is a useless endeavor to try to draw conclusions about someone’s trauma from whether or not they ask for, use, or need trigger warnings.
And tbh, even if they come right out and say “I don’t have PTSD, I just hate seeing pictures of dogs, I’m so triggered lol”, that’s them being horrendously disrespectful of mentally ill people. It’s not an excuse to then be even more disrespectful by using that to draw conclusions that allow you to dismiss the very concept of trigger warnings as stupid.
There are people who fake entire illnesses, okay? Who lie about having cancer or whatever. But we don’t take those people as evidence that people who have, you know, actual cancer must be lying and pretending to be special snowflakes.
If I ever post anything that triggers you, please let me know. I will do my best to clearly tag anything similar in the future. I want my tumblr to be a safe space for everyone.