Here’s the prob­lem with trig­ger warn­ings: they as­sume a lot. They lack fore­sight, be­cause not ev­ery­one is trig­gered by the same thing. So ap­ply­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing them isn’t as seam­less as you might think.

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - THE QUICKIE - Lerato Kga­manyane Dig­i­tal en­tre­pre­neur and blog­ger In­sta­gram: @ler­a­to_ kga­manyane

Trig­gers are wide­spread and spe­cific to each in­di­vid­ual. It may not be a dis­turb­ing ar­ti­cle re­port­ing rape statis­tics that trig­gers some­one – it could be the scent of a dis­tinct cologne, white tiles, the name of a street. So where do you even be­gin with trig­ger warn­ings? To as­sume that you un­der­stand some­one’s trauma enough to know what could trig­ger them is dan­ger­ous. In fact, any as­sump­tion about some­one else’s trauma is dan­ger­ous. Ed­u­ca­tors, writ­ers and broad­cast­ers can’t pos­si­bly pro­vide a heads-up for ev­ery­thing that could po­ten­tially be a trig­ger. And should they even be try­ing to?

Many of us will ex­pe­ri­ence trauma or psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­rup­tion in our life­time. About 10% of those who do will also ex­pe­ri­ence post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. Man­ag­ing this isn’t about pro­vid­ing trig­ger warn­ings – it re­quires con­stant work with med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to move to­wards heal­ing.

It’s some­times ar­gued that trig­ger warn­ings en­cour­age us to avoid trauma rather than con­front it. Many psy­chol­o­gists en­cour­age vic­tims of trauma to con­front trig­gers – via Cog­ni­tive Be­havioural Ther­apy, for ex­am­ple.

Us­ing trig­ger warn­ings can also risk dis­en­gag­ing peo­ple from chal­leng­ing, un­set­tling or un­com­fort­able con­tent. Just be­cause some­thing is up­set­ting doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be con­fronted with it.

I re­ally love this quote: ‘Don’t teach stu­dents what to think; teach them how to think.’ In­stead of trig­ger warn­ings pre­sum­ing to tell you what to think, per­haps the fo­cus should be more on the how: how you in­ter­pret the con­tent, and how

you re­spond to it (with­out any­one pre­sum­ing to tell you how it should make you feel be­fore­hand).

Be­ing over­pro­tec­tive – which trig­ger warn­ings of­ten are – doesn’t pre­pare you for re­al­ity. En­gag­ing with tough con­tent is key for growth, ed­u­ca­tion and progress. While we pre­sume trig­ger warn­ings to be em­pa­thetic, this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that they’re help­ful.

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