This is a sensitive topic but I felt that it was something that I wanted to put on my blog. I grew up in a time when Trigger Warnings were never a thing, you’d be lucky that you’d get that viewer advisory before a show or something gross on TV. It was just a different time, so the idea of Triggers and Trigger Warnings never really made much sense to me as I got older and heard more and more about them. I can honestly say that for a long time I just thought that they were unnecessary. For me they really aren’t, but I’m not so self-absorbed to think that someone else couldn’t benefit from them either. I like to think that we could live in a world that they weren’t needed but that isn’t realistic is it?
Everyone has experienced different things, no one’s life is exactly the same as someone else’s. The choices that we make, the events that happen to us, they shape us. For better or worse. And no one’s experiences should be discounted. I don’t think it’s ever fair to make someone feel bad for something that happened to them, especially when it was out of their control. Having an open mind and being able to see something from all sides is so important even with this topic.
So what are they exactly and what is their true purpose? I thought, like I think most people do, that they were like viewer advisories in the sense that if something you are about to read makes you uncomfortable than you shouldn’t read it or it’s giving you fair warning so you can’t complain about it. This topic came up all over twitter after an author stated that her books wouldn’t have them and I read a lot of the responses that people had to that. It made me realize that they really aren’t meant for that. That, in fact, they have a very significant purpose that people have abused and used poorly to give a lot of people like me this huge misconception of what they really are.
They are, from what I read, more for people who’ve experienced something traumatic and that reading something that involves that same type of trauma can trigger panic attacks and severe emotional distress. They are for people with PTSD more than they are for someone that gets the heebie jeebies over reading a rape scene. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful to everyone though, to get an idea of what you are getting yourself into but they aren’t this terrible thing.
I’m not one to shy away from the traumatic things that you can read in books, in fact I think that it’s healthy to read that and then have an emotional reaction to it. I have never experienced a trauma myself. I don’t know what being raped is like, or having to be in the middle of a war, or to be abused. I don’t have anxiety at a level that requires meds, I’m not depressed and I’ve never been suicidal. It’s awful that people have experiences those traumas, that to read about those things again can affect them in a terrible unhealthy way, so the idea that Trigger Warnings aren’t needed is naïve.
I do think that people tend to talk about being ‘triggered’ over the littlest thing these days. I’ve read that people have been up in arms over shirts or posters. There will always be a part of me that feels like instead of putting something on blast through the internet, instead of essentially shaming those that enjoy the thing that you are offended by, you could just not buy it or go someone else. I don’t get that at all, but I think that we make the mistake of calling that being ‘triggered’ because that makes the people who really needs these kinds of warnings to be lumped in with those kinds of people. It’s an unfair assessment. The use of trigger warnings may seem silly or unnecessary to you but there is someone that needs to know if something is going to be in the book they are about to read that could cause them to have a panic attack.
Of all the things that I’ve written I’ve never considered Trigger Warnings before. I probably will, but also I don’t think that should be up to the author of any book. That should be up to the publisher who’s distributing that book as to whether there are warnings of any kind and what they would say. I know that some people thought that it would spoil the book, and I would say does seeing the content warning before a show or movie ruin or spoil anything? It’s general, I feel that if you put it before the chapter it happened that may spoil a plot because then you know but honestly I would just ignore it. I don’t look for or think about Trigger Warnings.
Bottom line, if they help people then there is no harm in them. If you don’t need them, you won’t even think to look for them so they can’t ruin anything for you. Don’t shame someone because you don’t like something that helps someone else or is liked by someone else. It’s not about you, ya know?
Let me know how you feel about TW and if you think they are needed in books or not.