Why I hate trigger warnings.

I’ve been putting off writing this post since I started the blog. There aren’t many things that I have hard time talking about, but this post will touch on one of them. By now you should have noticed that I often talk about sensitive issues in this blog, but I never put a trigger warning into my posts. I do this because I hate trigger warnings for many reasons.

Trigger warnings exist to enable people to avoid pain in such a way as to make the world seem like a place made of sunshine and rainbows. But the world is not made of sunshine and rainbows. Trigger warnings allow people to live in a fantasy world and damage their ability to face the pain of reality.

Being triggered is not always a bad thing. Every time you stand up and face something that makes you uncomfortable instead of running away, it becomes easier to handle that thing the next time you encounter it. I often compare it to weight training where you push the limits of the amount of weight you can lift so that you can eventually lift more weight. It’s not that I don’t understand the urge to run; I spent a long time running away from things that made me hurt, but eventually I realized that what I was really running away from was life itself the decision to stand and fight is one of the best I ever made because, without it, I never would have recovered. But I made that realization before trigger warnings were common place and a seriously doubt I could have made it if there had been trigger warnings everywhere making it so easy to keep running.

I also find that some of the most valuable information I’ve ever gathered came from sources that were very triggering. For example, back in July I read an article a Reddit discussion on the other side of rape. This article taught me a lot of things like how sometimes rape happens because of misunderstandings and that it can hurt a lot from both sides of the issue. But most importantly it featured a very graphic quote from a serial rapist. Just thinking about it, even now, makes my skin crawl and I can feel my breakfast threatening to come back up. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult and unpleasant to read, but contained within it was a section where he said that most of the women he attacked never actually said the word, “no.” And that right there was one of the most important things I ever learned, because… I never actually said, “no,” either and I carried the guilt of that fact with me for 20 years until I found out that it was common place.

And that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever confessed to anyone. You’ll have to forgive me for this shorter than normal post but I just don’t have the energy to write much more about this right now. Just one more thing: I believe that trigger warnings do more harm than they do good.

Keep rising,

Embermane Phoenix

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7 Responses to Why I hate trigger warnings.

  1. wendykarasin says:

    A worthy post. I’ve never heard of a trigger warning before, and I agree that the world is not made of sunshine and rainbows. But I can think of one good reason for these warnings – sometimes people aren’t ready.They are not necessarily in lala-land, but they may be too close to, to fragile about – a particular subject. We heal in our own time frame and we, as a society, must learn to respect this.

    • Embermane Phoenix says:

      I agree that we each heal at our own pace and have said so in other entries; however, my point with this post was that excessive trigger warnings, which have become the trend in recent years, can hinder that healing process.

      • wendykarasin says:

        As stated, I’ve never seen that trigger warning, I suppose it’s up to each of us to make the decision about what to read.

        • Embermane Phoenix says:

          Yes, but I feel that trigger warnings take away some of that choice. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who won’t read anything with a trigger warning attached to it regardless of the content and that instinct to run away from every thing that’s even slightly uncomfortable before you find out if you can handle it or not is a major problem in my eyes.

  2. I used to think like you. I used to think that the plethora of trigger warnings I was suddenly seeing were an attempt to mollycoddle me. I thought I needed to read things that were uncomfortable because I couldn’t spend the rest of my life never looking at anything that wasn’t ‘happy’ ever again. But then I read something that gave me a fair ‘trigger warning’ that I can’t even understand why I was trigger by, it wasn’t a particularly graphic piece, but I wound up in the ED in any case. So now I’ve changed my mind. And I’ve come to realise that most of the pieces are written by people who understand the risk of triggering and would rather be safe than sorry. Which is nice. And makes me more inclined to read their stuff. Yes, dealing with the ugly side of life is important but so is creating safe spaces.
    That being said I thing I’ve only ever put two trigger warning on my own blog, I for the most part, perhaps hypocritically, assume that the name of my blog is a trigger warning in and of itself. Plus, to say that I write a mental health blog I have very few readers who actually have mental health issues to need to worry that people are going to be affected by what I write.

    • Embermane Phoenix says:

      I see your point, but personally I prefer to infer from context rather than insist upon tacking on a warning label. With most things that are written responsibly and not just for shock value you can tell by the language being used that unpleasant things are coming. And anything that’s written for shock value isn’t going to use a trigger warning anyway because the author wants that reaction to their piece.

      I feel that most people who complain about others not using trigger warnings are still trapped in the victim mindset where they believe that the fact that they were hurt badly in the past means they have the right never to hurt again. So they lash out at and hurt anyone and everyone who hurts them in the smallest amount whether intentional or not. And it can be really easy to be hurt over the strangest and most unexpected things when you’re in that state, so berating someone over not using trigger warnings can become a way of preventing someone healthy from living their life.

  3. MishaBurnett says:

    I am a survivor of childhood physical and sexual abuse, and have dissociative identity disorder as a result. I don’t expect other people to understand my experiences and I don’t expect other people to try to figure out what might bother me and put up a warning for me.

    My mental health is my responsibility. I have the ability to decide what I want to read and see and hear, and I have the power to close a window, turn off my TV, walk out of a theater, whatever it takes.

    I use my mental illness in my work–fictionalized and abstracted, but it’s there if you know what you are looking for. Other people might find that triggering, I don’t know. The narrator of my novels has an diabolical alien living in his head, that is based very directly on my experience as a dissociative. I write very dark, very violent stories–that is my way of giving a voice to the alters in my own head.

    I have chosen not to be a victim. I have taken what was done to me and made it into art. I refuse to apologize for that, and I won’t put warning labels on my work.

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