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Fuck trigger warnings

05/07/2013

Those who read this blog would be aware that I often raise sensitive topics such as sexual assault, violence and death.
That, plus my colourful language, is why it has an MA rating.

You will also know that there are none of the trigger warnings some other bloggers use when they discuss such matters.

Why is that?
Don’t I care about upsetting damaged people?

Of course I fucking care, but I don’t believe treating those who have suffered trauma as permanent emotional cripples incapable of taking responsibility for their own web browsing is a constructive approach.

And I think that most people who complain about being triggered are not PTSD sufferers at all. Rather, they suffer from political correctness, an impulse towards censorship and a desire to deny responsibility for their reactions to things that make them uncomfortable.

The term ‘trigger’ has become severely degraded over the last decade or two, so its probably worth restating here what it actually means. It refers to some sort of stimulus that causes a trauma survivor to experience a flashback – a reliving of the excruciating emotional state that was experienced (or suppressed) during extremely traumatic events from that person’s past.

When I was eighteen I was in a rollover after which I was trapped in the wreck for some time. Don’t ask how long – you can fit a lot of eternities into an hour you know.

I suffered only superficial injuries but the driver bled to death in a paroxysm of gurgled half-screams only inches away without me being able to reach him.
I was drenched in blood and petrol and for the entire time I was sure I would be incinerated at any second.

For the next few years the unexpected smell of petrol would paralyse me with terror and grief. I would shake, sweat, be unable to talk and had to fight (not always successfully) for control of my bladder and bowels.

THAT is what a trigger is.

What a trigger is NOT is when you feel sad because someone reminded you of your dead grandmother, when you get frightened because you bumped into an abusive ex-partner or when you feel uncomfortable because people are talking about an unpleasant experience that resembles one you have been through. That’s just life.

In fact I think its safe to say that if you are capable of complaining that you have been triggered immediately after it happens, you have NOT been.

I’m sure there are many other car crash survivors who have been through experiences similar to mine.
Should service stations carry a trigger warning?

As anyone who has suffered PTSD can tell you, triggers are often completely innocuous to others and they are everywhere.

If you really suffer from PTSD flashbacks I am sure you have learned what your triggers are (though perhaps not all of them) and make your own decisions about avoidance or exposure, inasmuch as that is possible.

It was deliberate, repeated exposure to petrol fumes that eventually cured my PTSD (please no petrol sniffing jokes just because I’m black).
I would have been beyond pissed off at anyone who knew of my problem who chose to deliberately expose me to petrol without warning, but expecting those who didn’t know to warn me if they had petrol on their hands would have been ridiculous.

In a society where just walking into a pub can expose you to rape jokes, where turning on a television can expose you to portrayals of sexual assault, where travelling on public transport can expose you to conversations about child abuse and where none of the mainstream media seems to think trigger warnings appropriate before launching into graphic descriptions of sex crimes it seems a bit rich to expect trigger warnings before any written discussion of such matters.

I am one of the privileged members of society who has never suffered a serious sexual assault. But if I had I think I would feel deeply patronised by trigger warnings.
How dare you assume that talking about rape would freak me out when you’re standing there in the same kind of shoes my rapist wore and I’m not screaming?

That said, its bloody obvious that you don’t talk graphically about rape in front of someone you know is a rape survivor unless you know its OK by them. In fact you don’t do it to anyone.
You don’t just start talking about being caught in a fire to someone covered in burn scars and you don’t show off your extreme driving skills to someone who has been in a serious car accident.
And you don’t sneak up behind war veterans with a recording of incoming artillery.

But you don’t run around trying to second guess the triggers of complete strangers either.
And you don’t impose censorship or self-censorship based on your own notions of what someone else’s triggers might be.

If readers of my blog find themselves curled up in the foetal position retching their guts out as a result then I sincerely apologise.
Please accept my compassion for your real suffering.

But if anyone reading this blog feels angry, depressed, anxious or uncomfortable about something I have written and is tempted to complain about ‘triggers’ then I have two pieces of advice.
1. Start taking responsibility for your own reactions. If you don’t like it here, go away.
2. Stop trying to appropriate the terminology of PTSD survivors because, believe me, you haven’t got a fucking clue what you’re talking about.

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From → autobiography, hurts, rant

2 Comments
  1. ‘Don’t ask how long – you can fit a lot of eternities into an hour you know.’ and the rest of the post.

    Like

  2. Oh, finally. Someone said it. Thank you.

    Like

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