Triggered, Continued

[Content Note: Narratives of oversensitivity; discussion of being triggered.]

The debate about trigger warnings and content notes (TWs/CNs) continues today, much of it surrounding a piece on the subject Jill Filipovic published at The Guardian entitled: "We've Gone Too Far with Trigger Warnings."

I don't really have much to add to what I already wrote yesterday, but here are a couple quick additional thoughts in response to some of the ongoing debate:

1. I keep seeing this phrase "gone too far." Too far for whom? Certainly not the people for whom TWs/CNs are useful, and might mean the difference between having a public panic attack and not having a public panic attack.

2. Having PTSD or other trauma-induced mental illness isn't a "vulnerability." That's a disablist mischaracterization.

3. The "infantilization" argument, which asserts that TWs/CNs treat readers, students, etc. like babies or weaklings, is really contemptuous of readers who appreciate TWs/CNs and the choice they provide. Offering choice doesn't diminish agency. Quite the opposite.

4. A frequent frame I'm seeing is that people who use TWs/CNs and people who have PTSD or other trauma-induced mental illness are mutually exclusive groups. To the contrary, often the people most invested in providing TWs/CNs to readers, students, friends, whomever are people who themselves experience triggers.

5. I really dislike the compilations of supposedly absurd TWs/CNs. What might appear "extreme" may be a writer's consideration for a specific reader. If you interact with your community a lot, you might be more aware of individual readers' needs. And dismissing attempts and sensitivity and inclusivity as nothing but "performativity" is shitty. Not for nothing, but I never get more fucking vile harassment than when I draw boundaries in this space to reduce harm for marginalized groups (which sometimes includes me and sometimes doesn't, depending on the situation). I know there are people who perform social justice crusader roles for cookies or whatever, but I can't imagine maintaining that facade for long unless this stuff really means something to you, because the cost is steep.

6. I don't understand this "you can't predict every single trigger ever" argument against the use of TWs/CNs. Because you might fail someone, you just resolve to definitely fail everyone? Okay.

7. The old HOW DO YOU EVEN EXIST IN THE WORLD? chestnut is flying fast and furious. You know—that ubiquitous exasperated rhetorical aimed at people who are triggered by stuff that most other people aren't. Well, here's the thing: For some people, existing in this world is actually very difficult.

And if you are someone who has survived abuse, or neglect, or poverty, or illness, or systemic oppression, or any one or more of the number of things that can leave someone with lingering consequences of trauma, but you've managed to survive without any triggers, or you've managed to find the resources and support and safety and space you needed to move beyond them, then good for you. You are very lucky.

I am very lucky. I am still occasionally triggered, but nothing like I was 20 years ago, where I was just emerging from three years of profound sexual abuse and felt like a raw nerve walking through the world. Part of that was my determination to process what had happened to me, and part of it was the hard work of doing that processing, and part of it was the sheer stupid luck of having the resources and support and safety and space I have needed, which sometimes just meant having a friend in the right place at the right time.

What if I'd not had this friend or that friend in the right place at the right time? During a rough month, or a single terrible afternoon? I dunno.

All I know is that if nothing ever happened to you that was bad enough to leave you traumatized, lucky you. And if something bad happened but you have survived it and/or processed it trigger-free, lucky you. And anyone who didn't isn't weak or damaged or oversensitive or too goddamn fragile for the world. They're unlucky.

If you understand why conservatives telling people without boots to pull up their bootstraps is indecent garbage, then it shouldn't be too difficult for you to understand why sneering at someone with triggers "I got over it" is indecent garbage, too.

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