One of the most bastardized terms online is the trigger. What is an actually legitimate mental health term referring to when someone who experienced trauma is reminded of that trauma by some kind of stimulus is now a meme about overly sensitive SJWs. “Triggered” is throw around all the time in a joke about some getting offended. Part of the reason this has become such a joke to people is because they think that triggers and therefore trigger warnings are a new things that those crazy millenials have come up with because they can’t face the Real World. “There are no trigger warnings in The Real World! We should indulge these over sensitive assholes!” Well besides the fact that this is not even a very good argument, I would like to remind people of a couple real life trigger warnings that are not a new invention by millenials to quash your super edgy sense of humour.
Content warnings before movies
The Movie Picture Association of America is the organization that rates movies on their content appropriate levels for different audiences. Formed in 1922, they started to try and keep the government from censoring film by ensuring that any truly offensive content would be curved or at least properly labelled as to not disturb anyone. They have the letter rating system to generalize what films are appropriate for certain audiences, but they also provide a short list of some of the specific aspects that may offend. Commonly listed is sexual content, nudity, violence, drug use, strong language, and frightening scenes. Sometimes even mild topics will be listed, such as mildly frightening cartoon violence. This system ensures that people know what they are getting themselves into when they walk into a film, so they aren’t taken by surprise or disturbed by something they didn’t expect.
Common allergens in food
This is commonly found on menus or food packaging. Certain foods are so commonly powerful allergens, that it is actually law to put a warning if the food has ANY chance of coming in contact with it. For example, even if something wasn’t made with peanuts, if it was made in a factory with something else that does have peanuts in it, they have to disclose that on the wrapper. Some may argue that this doesn’t count as a trigger warning, but those people probably don’t realize how viscerally a mental trigger can affect a person. It can cause anxiety attacks, shortness of breath, migraines, weakness, fainting, and more, and that’s on top of the emotional effects.
Things that will hurt you have a warning that will hurt you. Seems pretty fair. Even if it’s something that might seem obvious, such as the above sign over a stove, the sign will still be there to make sure you are fully aware of the situation at hand. Even more like trigger warnings are safety warnings that are specifically aimed at certain people. For example, pregnant people shouldn’t ride roller coasters and people with heart problems shouldn’t do haunted houses. It’s a specific warning about a stimulus that will most likely cause a negative reaction to the person experiencing it. The only difference between those signs and trigger warnings is that one is a more physical warning and generally we treat physical ailments more seriously than mental ones.
I think you probably get my point. Not only is this mystical Real World full of trigger warnings, but the real problem is the way we treat emotional trauma. Mental illness is so overlooked and ignored as just a figment of someone’s imagination. This is despite all the very real physical consequences of facing certain triggers. But even if those didn’t exist, the idea that people should just have to go through this world in constant fear of having to relive what may be the worst thing to happen to them. Why wouldn’t you want to help someone else have a happier life. It’s almost like the logic that keeps traditions like initiations and hazing alive. “I had to go through this horrible thing, so other people should have to go through it too!!” Stop. Just be kind.