- Mindfulness can help diffuse triggers
- A trigger is a topic that floods a patient with anxiety
- Sometimes trigger warnings are helpful and other times they are not
- Mindfulness, Journaling, Taking notes on habits, & Tracking mood can help you figure out what your triggers are
Trigger Warnings: a contemplation
By Rose Moore, 4/21/2021
Yesterday I made a mindful observation about my unconscious habits.
I noticed I’d weighed myself 3 days in a row. You may think this is a normal practice since it is important to be mindful of your body in a multitude of ways, but to me it is a red flag. One of the outcomes you may face with mindfulness practice is that you see patterns in your life. In yoga these patterns are called samskara which means the wheel of life. You can see this wheel across cultures and eras. When we have habits, they are hard to change and likely to come back up in your life at a time when this pattern is triggered.
Can we talk about the word trigger for a second? My goodness what a loaded term.1 A trigger is an incident that creates causation. It is the instigation to your result. It is the catalyst to an event. In the pop psychology sphere trigger is a term used by people with anxiety, PTSD & phobias to describe what causes their anxiety to flare up. Many psychologists have adopted the word and are used to describe the things which can happen in life to flood a person with emotion.
It isn’t a joke, and it isn’t something to berate. If someone gives you a ‘trigger warning,’ basically a forewarning of sensitive topics ahead. It is a helpful message to prepare yourself emotionally or to leave the conversation. In academia, group therapy settings, or within even a small social book club a trigger warning can help someone with PTSD decide if they want to take the class or read the book.
One of my triggers in medical horror. As a person with diagnosed PTSD, I have learned that this trigger is my responsibility and mine alone. No one is forced to give me fair warning of medical horror, and why would they? How would anyone know that this popular horror trope, would put me into a panic attack? There is no way since I don’t talk about it normally and it isn’t on the top ten trigger list of tumblr.
So, you know what I do? If I am going to watch a movie that isn’t a romance or comedy, I google the movie first to see if there will be anything of this nature in the film. This gives me back my power, helps me filter out media, and demands nothing from anyone besides myself. It has taken a long time to get here.
I am also triggered by a pungent fabric softener scent. Now how the heck is anyone going to give me a warning for that? It is a common household item, and I would be out of line to request all my friends, family, store clerks etcetera stop using fabric softener because I don’t like it.
I think the word I’m trying to find here is entitlement. If you feel entitled to a trigger warning before all events, you will find yourself suffering often and out of control in your life. It simply isn’t going to be something you can count on, and the media you consume is not at fault.
However, I do see where the mockery can come in from normies who are not invested in self-help. Partly they may do so because of pushback to language policing, or the performative nature of a trigger warning. Whatever their reason happens to be, it is (in my humble opinion) the rude attitude which ends up dividing us, not their complaints.
For instance, one thing I see a lot on Facebook is the use of user trigger warnings followed by a picture of the triggering subject completely unmasked. There is no way to hide an image or video on your feed, all your friends will see it. Putting a trigger warning above an image of someone in a choke hold will not warn anyone since we can see the traumatic image either way.
These are a performance, and often where the mockery stems from. In some circles, trigger warnings are made for food, regular food, because food can trigger people with eating disorders. In an ED support group this would be effective, but in a group about your favorite internet podcaster, or a forum about nature, probably not useful in any way as everyone eats food and it is a common conversation that even toddlers engage in. These trigger warnings in places outside of the context add to this mockery despite how well intentioned they appear.
I feel deeply for people with eating disorders. I had one in my twenties. Managing to overcome bulimia meant taking control. Ironic since bulimia stems from a desire for control. This is where we circle back to the mindfulness at the beginning of this essay.
I can catch myself now, before I start into my bad eating habits. This is where you can take control of your triggers too. Find out the step that comes just before the melt down. Then think of what step comes before that. Then what comes before that?
In the line of habits that form my bulimic tendencies, there is weighing myself every day, looking at body influencers on the internet, limiting my food pantry drastically, and forgetting to eat meals for more than a day. I didn’t know all of this until I started journaling, taking notes, and tracking my mood
Take notes on habits
If you are suffering from your triggers, from an eating disorder, or any other kind of mental health crisis here are some organizations where you can find help near you
Eating Disorders: https://anad.org/get-help/about-our-support-groups/
Mental Health crisis Line: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
All kinds of mental health resources: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml
find help: https://www.nami.org/Home
1 pun intended. Puns are always intended.