I wholeheartedly agree with the reasoning in this Freshly Pressed post written by HigherEducationalist on a new blog entitled THOUGHTS ON HIGHER EDUCATION.
“On Trigger Warnings: Access, Engagement and Resilience” – even the title is brilliant. 🙂
The author’s argument in favor of replacing “trigger warnings” with “content notes” is excellent and well thought out. I particularly like this idea, as I know a woman who is triggered by “trigger warnings.” (Her trauma involved a gun and the trigger being pulled.)
My husband and I have both been diagnosed with severe PTSD – his due to combat in Vietnam, mine caused by extreme childhood and domestic traumas and abuse. Life for the two of us sometimes seems like a minefield full of triggers. We are in our sixties now and we both have been dealing with PTSD for most of our lives, since long before Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became an official psychiatric diagnosis in 1980.
Until my husband and I were properly diagnosed fairly late in life, we had no idea of what was “wrong” with us. We just thought we were too sensitive or maybe even crazy. It hasn’t been an easy life for either of us, although, all things considered, it has been a good life. The biggest thing in our favor has been our unwillingness to give up, even when the road ahead seems impassible. Today, with the challenges of our aging minds and bodies added to the mix, we continue to work very hard to build resilience and remain engaged in life to the best of our respective abilities.
As one or two comments on the original post have noted, it is impossible to label everything that may potentially “trigger” someone with a history of trauma. I can personally attest to the truth of this! No one could have possibly foreseen, many years ago when I was a student of higher education, that my college career would be derailed by an innocent off-hand “joke” made by my favorite professor. At the end of a humorous anecdote about her rebellious teenage daughter, when the professor said: “…and I told her, ‘Missy, I brought you into the world and I can take you out of it!’” – I burst into tears, blubbered something about how no parent has the right to kill her child simply because she gave birth to her, and then – mortified by the shocked looks on the faces of my professor and fellow students, I gathered up my things and fled the college, never to return.
What the professor said is a common enough “joke” that parents in our culture sometimes make. And I absolutely knew at the time that she was only kidding. However, when I heard those words coming from an authority figure, an older woman whom I looked up to and admired – hearing her say the very same words that my own mother had used after her failed attempt to gas me and my four younger siblings to death…. and in my mother’s case, she wasn’t joking at all, she was deadly serious when she told me she had the right to kill us…. when I heard my esteemed college professor say those same words as a joke – in that moment, with my PTSD not yet diagnosed and without any knowledge at that time about the psychological phenomena of being “triggered,” I simply could not handle the situation any other way than to run to my apartment, crawl into bed, and hide.
Life is challenging enough for “normal” people – all the more so for those of us who are disabled in some way. The compassionate thing, as the following post so intelligently explains, is to try to make life accessible for everyone, as much as it is reasonably possible to do.
Whether that access is gained through wheelchair ramps or “content notes,” for people like my husband and me, it is very much appreciated.
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So-called “trigger warnings” in higher education – in this context referring to the inclusion of information in a syllabus warning about potentially offensive content – have been the subject of increasingly heated debate. There isn’t space in this post to outline the entire debate and its various highways and byways, but there are basically two sides: pro- and anti- trigger warnings.
The anti-trigger warning debate is probably best exemplified by this article in The Atlantic. Warning that ‘trigger warnings are hurting mental health on campus’, the authors link the recent trend for warning about offensive content with what they see as the rise of ’emotional reasoning’. The latter is a term used in cognitive behavioural therapy to describe the way in which emotionally-charged beliefs can dominate and distort a person’s world view: ‘if I feel it, it must be true’. The article links this to objections against offensive speech and potentially offensive content, arguing…
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