The word “triggered” and the concept of “trigger warnings” has become a joke across social media platforms. A joke which trivialises, mocks, dismisses and undermines the very real and horrific experiences of trauma survivors.
“Triggered” has become an insult to be hurled sneeringly (predominantly by men) at people (i.e.women), who’ve been deemed too weak, too pathetic and too feeble minded to tolerate even the mildest of references to potentially distressing or upsetting material. Because, you know, we’re girls.
Let me tell you about the last time I got “triggered”….
I was in my therapist’s house. It’s not actually a house, but our little parts call it that because they don’t know what the word “office” means, so “house” has kind of stuck. We were at her house, and we were telling about how we’d seen a picture of someone we believed had abused us. We talked about it and became aware of an intense nausea building up inside. We said his name out loud and suddenly, in that instant, we are back in the room with him. He’s waiting for us to be sent in. We’re here to work. To give him pleasure. To do exactly as we are told and to look happy about it. Time flashes forward, and his penis is in my mouth and he is pulling my hair hard, and I can smell him and I can feel his sweat dripping onto my forehead, the scratching of his pubic hair on my face. And the room is too bright, and I’m naked and my vagina is torn and bleeding, and I’m shivering with a mixture of cold and shock and intense pain.
And I’m going to be sick. Right now. I’m going to be sick. My mouth is filled with bile, the pain in my stomach and my vagina has become more than I can bear, and I’m going to be sick.
My Therapist is used to this and passes me something to vomit into, and she helps me shut the flashback down. Because she is good at this, we quickly feel ok again and we let the littles colour pictures for a while and eat sweets. And everyone inside feels much better.
In the past, we’ve had therapists who didn’t have a clue what to do when flashbacks started. We’d tell them the room was spinning and we’d vomit into their waste paper bin and they’d look very relieved when the hour was suddenly up, and I’d find my way home clinging onto walls and lampposts and fences because the world was still spinning and if I let go I’d fall down. It would take days to recover. We couldn’t eat or sleep.. We couldn’t go to work. It was torturous and painful, and it didn’t actually help us heal at all.
Being “triggered” doesn’t always lead to a full on flashback. Sometimes we just feel startled, we freeze and our blood runs cold, we catch our breath and it takes a moment to remember it’s not happening now, it’s safe now, it’s 2017 and the body is an adult now. We breathe through it, and the moment passes.
Sometimes being “triggered” relates to deliberately programmed triggers being activated. A sound, a series of words, a gesture, etc. will cause a part inside who’s been trained to respond to a particular trigger to behave in a certain way. This is a big reason why I believe anyone who believes they may be a survivor or ritualistic abuse should seek therapy with an experienced therapist so that they can identify and neutralise these kinds of programmed triggers.
Regardless of what happens when we are triggered, for us; being “triggered” is about being reminded of something horrible that we experienced in childhood. It’s not because we are a weak female who cannot handle seeing offensive or upsetting material. It’s because we’ve endured unimaginable trauma and survived it. Trigger warnings are useful because they can help us decide if we should read something or not.
People shouldn’t laugh and make cruel memes about something they don’t understand.