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This place matters

Thursday, May 7, 2015

And the geek shall inherit the earth

Neil Gaiman is sort of like a literary rock star these days, with bestselling books on the shelves, successful films based on his work, and a fancy pants HBO series based on his book American Gods coming not-soon-enough to a TV near you. 
Most recently, he's published a book of short stories that I've just started reading titled Trigger Warning. The title, and his reasons for choosing it, are pretty fascinating.
In the book's introduction Gaiman says he first encountered the term trigger warning online, where it is often used on message boards, in blog posts, etc., when the subject under discussion might trigger flashbacks or panic attacks in people suffering from, say, PTSD. Of late, Gaiman says, he's heard arguments that literature, or even college classes, should come with trigger warnings. He says he's kind of drawn to the idea. "Of course," he says, "you want to let people who might be distressed know that this might distress them." However, he concludes that while the idea's tempting, books for adults should be read with no warning other than "enter at your own risk."
I like that Gaiman has made his argument without sneering or trivializing. Some argue that the whole concept of trigger warnings is, as the most popular definition on UrbanDictionary.com puts it,  "to warn weak minded people who are easily offended that they might find what is being posted offensive... causing them to overreact or otherwise start acting like a dipshit." 
I have mixed feelings on the idea of the trigger warning. To me, trying to avoid every thing that could possibly set you off is a bit like painting a target on your own back; as Richard McNally, psych professor writing for the Pacific Standard puts it, "avoidance reinforces PTSD." 
I think that in the end, my opinion on trigger warnings is that the burden should be on the person trying to avoid the triggers, rather than the person providing the content that might be triggering. There's a whole Internet full of trigger warnings if you want them - there's even a website called Does the Dog Die? for people who can't deal with dead puppies, even if they're only pretend-dead (I find this particular aversion sort of absurd, but considering I generally run out of the room in tears upon encountering someone in a mascot suit, I really don't have the right to judge). 
My experience is that the only person you can or should trust with your mental and emotional well-being is you. No matter how carefully you craft your environment, there's always the risk of mascots lurking around the corner.
The Cleveland Zoo

1 comment:

Bob Walters said...

I agree, We know what our triggers are. Once we learn what they are, it is up to us to avoid or deal with them.

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