If you are political and lean left, trigger warnings are used to defend people from hearing things that they might disagree or feel insulted by. If you lean right, it’s that thing the snowflakes use because they are scared of the big bad world. But before the big bad internet and 24 hours political news cycle got their hands on it, trigger warnings were a common and accepted form of media tagging. And for the hundreds of thousands of people recovering from trauma, they could be life saving.
Trigger warning began innocuously as trauma triggers. Post war psychologists attempted to find the triggering mechanisms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers and termed them ‘trauma triggers’. But because trauma triggers takes many shape and form and are so varied, when the term and condition became widely accepted, efforts were made to help victims of PTSD by labelling overarching contents that might be disturbing. This included footage of war for war veterans, depiction of rape for rape victims, torture, suicide, murder, et cetera.
As you can see, these were not ‘warnings’ for mild things. They were for the worst of the worst of experience. But back then, they weren’t known as ‘trigger warnings’. They were simply ‘Warnings’ or ‘Disclaimers’. These were not things that simply gave offence or were upsetting. These were topics that, to certain survivors of trauma, can cause literal psychological breakdowns, panic attacks, and even drive some to suicide. The warnings were meant to let adults make informed decisions about their health and have people recovering from trauma be able to prepare themselves for what’s to come.
Then, politics and the internet took over and, as with all things they touched, turned into mud. More people had access to more information than ever, and are more able to share their thoughts than ever. And they decided this wholly medical practice to help recovering trauma victims is something they had a stake in. They decided they were doctors themselves and knew what was best for people fighting for their lives against a mental disorder that cripples and kills.
The modern liberal movement forced their protective agenda on trauma victims. Instead of letting these victims and their doctors decide what is best for their health, the movement has eaten up their control over their lives, insisting everything even remotely offensive or scary be labelled with a warning. In turn, the conservatives sees trigger warnings as a label for the weak, setting back progress for mental health social acceptance by decades.
Here’s the thing. What we know today as ‘trigger warning’ works, and it had been working for decades before all the shouting idiots came along. Here’s an example. There’s a girl that survived rape. She goes up to her university professor and facing intense social stigma against trauma and mental health issues, asks to be alerted early if any of their classes will have contents that includes topic of rape, so she can mentally prepare herself for class without being exposed to acute stress reactions (A.K.A: Shock). The professor agrees and tells her their class next week will cover that topic. She goes home, schedules a therapy session with her doctor, meditate or whatever, comes to school, attends class, finish class, and gets on with her life without experiencing a needless terrifying panic attack.
And that’s how trigger warnings are suppose to work. This was never a political issue. This has never been about taking offence or being protected. It’s a health issue. Always have, and always will be. Just like how nuts, shellfish, and dairy products are clearly labelled for people with allergies, so are triggering topics for people who have legitimate traumas.
For those on the left, stop labelling everything a warning. You don’t need a trigger warning for spiders or black history, just as a person doesn’t need a label for apples and oranges, because people can see they are spiders and oranges. For the right, stop taking everything as an insult to your superior manhood and just read up on the science for once. And everyone else, stop using trigger warnings for needless things, because it undermines the seriousness of the situation behind it. If “Contains Milk” isn’t funny, “Warning: Rape” shouldn’t be funny either.
Header image by Nicolas Raymond – Creative Commons License – Attribution 3.0 Unported