I've got a social justice type post for you today, as one of 2 prequels to a post I'll either throw up tomorrow or Wednesday. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about trigger warnings. You may have seen the phrase "trigger warning: ______". I wanted to explain what these terms are in a meaningful way, because I think that having a better understanding of something can help to change things for the better.
Let's open this with the simple idea that other people are going through or have already gone through a rough period in their lives. This could include being a victim of violence, sexual assault, or abuse. This could be dealing with addiction, self injury or an eating disorder. These experiences are incredibly difficult and often leave a person particular sensitive to reliving these experiences if they are reminded of them. Sometimes a literal reminder of previous or present difficulties, such as discussing excessive dieting around someone struggling with an eating disorder, but it is also possible for something not as literal to trigger someone.
What does it mean to be "triggered"?
Honestly, this is different for everyone. For some people, being triggered could give them a panic attack, an anxiety attack or it could give them the urge to take part in self-harming behavior. Without going into details, I do have some triggers myself, and my reaction is one ranging from queasiness to a small panic attack: my stomach twists up, my heart races, I can't think straight, I get very upset and sometimes cry depending on the severity of the trigger. I haven't developed very good coping mechanisms, so I can be a bit haunted by the imagery/content for some time after I initially experience it. I would consider myself pretty lucky, in that I don't have too many triggers and I can manage okay even if I am triggered by something, but for some people being triggered can send them into a paralyzing spiral of really awful feelings.
Why should I use a trigger warning?
I'm firmly of the opinion that you should use a trigger warning because it is a decent and considerate thing to do. When something isn't put under a cut, or doesn't have a trigger warning, it sometimes feels as if whoever created the post is saying "remember that really horrifying thing you experienced? Well why don't you read about something similar and while you're at it just relive the whole experience." Especially in cases of traumatic events, that's what it can feel like. It's a matter of respect and courtesy because you just don't know what people are going through.
When and how should I use a trigger warning?
Again, I am of the opinion that a trigger warning is an easy and considerate thing to use. I encourage people to err on the side of caution but generally, if you are writing about something in graphic detail, if it is a sensitive subject matter, or if it contains potentially offensive language. If you can, put this warning at the top of the post and if possible, put any triggering content under a cut.
How is this not censorship?
The purpose of a trigger warning is not to stop everyone from experiencing your content (which is what censorship is) but instead to give a heads up to people who would not want to partake of it in the first place because of the negative effect it would have on them. They are still able to choose whether or not they want to view/read/listen to your content, and no one is restricted from your content.
I think that covers everything!
If you still have questions, please [respectfully] leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them! Here is a great tumblr post that explains trigger warnings. Here is a tumblr post with a list of some more well known triggers. Please keep in mind that I am writing this based on personal and peripheral experience, so if anything needs to be corrected, please let me know.
Thanks for reading!
love and cupcakes,