I kinda overreacted earlier about a post concerning trigger warnings. The overreaction wasn’t because I was triggered by the subject matter – but I was made angry at the conversation happening surrounding this new age concept and the added weight placed on authors/ publishers to incorporate these things in our work.
While I think trigger warnings come from a genuinely good place in people – the effects do the exact opposite of what they are intended to do.
They are meant to help.
They do not.
The evidence against trigger warnings is mounting and not from mom’s blog or writers corner blurbs – but from medical and psychological professionals.
The first thing we need to address is the easiest. Regardless of our professional lives as writers – we are not licensed medical or psychological professionals.
Nor are our publishing houses.
It is way out of our lane to diagnose or attempt to treat individuals with long-standing mental illnesses. Nor are we capable of identifying them.
Those that say the require a trigger warning still do not require one.
What they need is a C.B.T Therapist. Someone that can help them get over their fear or phobia and break their maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Again – that’s not our lane.
The second bit concerns censorship.
Trauma does happen often, however, Post Traumatic Stress is a rather rare diagnosis according to one article I read today.
And while triggers can send someone into a tailspin – can even cause a panic attack – no one has ever died of one. Ever. Panic attacks or panic disorder is not fatal.
It sucks – trust me. You think you’re dying. However, you are not.
For a trigger warning to be effective, the warning party would have to list all of the things that could possibly set someone off. In short – you’re rehashing the story all over again so that sort of negates the reason for the trigger warnings to begin with.
Furthermore, it stifles the author’s ability to sell. The book becomes a dirty secret and something that is whispered about instead of openly discussed and debated on the merits – according to another article.
In this political climate – that’s chilling as it’s not only affecting the literary world but college campuses as well.
A good professor doesn’t teach a student what to think, they teach them how to think, and the university is designed specifically to challenge deeply rooted beliefs.
There’s virtue in being made uncomfortable otherwise you’ll never experience another way of seeing things. GEtting mad or upset by reading something or a lecture is good for you.
Then there is the abuse of this new thing. People who don’t like certain subject matter, such as a cheating spouse or an interracial couple – have thrown up trigger warnings in book reviews.
I’ve also seen examples where authors issue one of these warnings because of the subject matter such as PTSD and not actually write about PTSD – their character is just a dickwad who treats people like crap.
Then there are the great false equivalences. Saying things like, “Well if you were just compassionate you would do this.”
That’s terribly unfair and backs a person into a corner of ‘Well, I don’t want to be seen that way so I’ll relent or I’ll defend myself.”
That’s psychological manipulation and it’s really interesting coming from people advocating for people’s mental health.
And today, it worked on me.
I blew up. I vented. I declared that I am an artist and HOW DARE YOU…yada yada yada and I come off sounding like a grouchy asshole.
There’s no defending yourself from things like that. It’s already a broken idea.
Art is an act of compassion not only for the artist but for those who view the art. The idea is to connect people on an emotional and often times visceral way.
There’s a reaction.
That’s art’s job.
Art is meant to trigger.
Stifling that, or causing the artist to censor himself or herself is cruel and unimaginable in a free society.
The advocates for trigger warnings either don’t fully understand the power of mental illness or they’ve allowed their worldview to be so romanticized in the idea of professional brokenness – the idea of someone healing and getting better through non-holistic methods is a threat to their bottom line as authors.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy? I can’t help but wonder after that because trigger warnings keep people sick.
I don’t think their work really requires a trigger warning. To be honest, a “No diving/ Shallow water” warning might be more appropriate.