In the motte and bailey of triggering, the motte is people with actual post-traumatic stress disorder, the symptoms of which are triggered by some event. These people hate their disease, and seek help.The bailey is people who think having a psychological disorder is cool and dramatic, and demand that the rest of the world moderate their speech and conduct to avoid “triggering” some bad feeling:
Triggering occurs when any certain something (a “trigger”) causes a negative emotional response.
The emotional response can be fear, sadness, panic, flashbacks, and pain, as well as any physical symptoms associated with these emotions (shaking, loss of appetite, fainting, fatigue, and so on).
In the bailey of triggering, anything that causes a negative emotional response is a trigger. Words make you sad? Trigger! Something frightens you? Trigger! Someone makes you angry? Trigger!1
“Triggering” is a concept ripped from post-traumatic stress disorder. But as it is used by Gillian Brown, it has nothing to do with trauma:
Sometimes, it happens through fears and phobias unrelated to trauma.
And sometimes, it happens for no reason at all.
Regardless of how somebody has become susceptible, being triggered can be just as severe and horrible for anyone.
No it can’t, you utterly horrid person. Having “negative emotions” “for no reason at all” is nothing like reexperiencing trauma in a crippling way. Using the same word to describe triggering of post-traumatic stress disorder and triggering “for no reason at all” trivializes the former. I won’t do it. I’ll describe Gillian Brown’s notion of triggering as “friggering.”
It’s not that I’ve chosen to attack the social importance of friggering by giving as an example the most laughable example I could think of; rather, everydayfeminism.com has chosen to defend the social importance of friggering by giving a more laughable example than even I could think of.
I developed health anxiety, and whenever I’m exposed to things relating to death and certain illnesses, I suddenly and quite dramatically feel all-encompassing panic spread through my entire body.
Sometimes, it goes away in seconds; at other times, it lingers for weeks, making it difficult to function normally until my mind reaches equilibrium again.
“Health anxiety.” Imagine that. I find that my health anxiety goes away when I’m eating better and exercising. That wouldn’t fit “fat activist” Gillian Brown’s politics, I realize; better to be politically correct and “dramatic” than to make incremental changes to improve her health.
Emotionally healthy people know that negative emotions are part of life. Growth comes from experiencing negative emotions. Avoiding negative emotions (as, for example, by avoiding friggers or by smoking lots of weed) keeps people from growing up.
To give a personal example, I am often triggered when I see books by Terry Pratchett. I have been told that his books are fantastic, but I cannot bring myself to read any of them because Pratchett now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
I have mentioned this particular trigger to friends and family before and have been met with surprise, disbelief, and remarks on how silly I’m being.
As you might imagine, such remarks are not helpful.
No, of course not, because Gillian Brown isn’t interested in real help, which would require admitting that she has a problem. Mental illness should not be stigmatized, but nor should it be normalized as Gillian Brown seeks to normalize it. I doubt that she is actually friggered by Terry Pratchett books, but if she is, she ought to be seeking mental-health care.
I get phone calls occasionally from people suffering from psychosis: the government has implanted radio transmitters in their teeth, and is posting their innermost thoughts on the sides of trucks. I advise them to get psychological help; I suspect that they would say, “as you might imagine, such remarks are not helpful.” Their loved ones didn’t get them the help they needed when they might have been receptive to it, and now their disease has taken over, and will not allow them to seek treatment.
Gillian Brown will not take responsibility for her own mental health; instead she has suggestions to “reduce the risk of” friggering:
1. Learn What the Person’s Triggers Are
2. Be a ‘Tester’
3. Look Things Up in Advance
In other words, enable.
If Gillian Brown really feels anxiety that makes it difficult to function at “things related to death and certain illnesses,” help is available. She feels such anxiety and is not in treatment, or she doesn’t feel such anxiety but pretends to. Either way, she loves the idea of being friggered more than being living a healthy life.
Gillian Brown also has suggestions if somebody has been friggered:
1. Let Them Know That They Can Contact You
2. Be Physically Close to Them
3. Distract and/or Comfort Them
4. Don’t Be Judgmental
5. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Make a Mistake
In other words, play along and reward their bad behavior by giving them the normal attention and affection they crave. This bit makes me suspect Gillian Brown’s family life: she’s describing how people treat people they care about. Is it that she has to act friggered to get this kind of attention?
Gillian Brown gives us a peek at her family life:
I remember that once, my dad bought me a beautiful framed painting from a shop in France, inspired by my having previously seen similar paintings and saying I liked them.
Unfortunately, this particular painting had gravestones on it, which triggered me.
I told Dad this, and he said something along the lines of “I’m so, so sorry.”
I felt like the worst daughter ever for making my father feel bad when he had done something so nice for me.
If you ever find that you have caused triggering-related grief, please don’t beat yourself up over it. These incidents happen sometimes, and they cannot always be avoided.
I would instead suggest finding out whether there is anything you can do to help the person feel better, as that would be a far more productive use of both your time and theirs.
So daughter tells dad (truthfully or not) that he has inadvertently hurt her feelings, and he says, “I’m so, so sorry,” and this is… the wrong thing to do because it makes her feel bad about making him feel bad about making her feel bad.
It is generally recognized by people who aren’t batshit drama queens that “I’m so, so sorry” is intended to make its recipient feel better emotionally. It is a social shortcut, designed to cut out all of the drama between “You screwed up” and “I forgive you.” But Gillian Brown doesn’t want to cut out all of the drama. She lives for the drama. So when her dad apologizes for accidentally hurting her, she wants more; she blames him for making her feel bad about making him feel bad about making her feel bad.
No, Gillian. You definitely aren’t the worst daughter ever, but you’ve been a pretty shitty daughter.
And yes, Gillian, you should feel “guilty and pathetic” about ripping off an actual therapeutic concept from people who need it and adopting it for your own narcissistic purposes.
Gillian, I have compassion for you on a level beyond your manipulative claims of friggering; you may not know it yet, and you obviously aren’t listening to those who love you, so you won’t listen to me either, but your article is a cry for help. You are suffering not from friggering, but rather from your choice to be (or more likely to pretend to be) friggered.
Some day, Gillian, you will die. Until then, it’s a BBW—a big beautiful world—full of magic and joy, and you are choosing to spend it in a bubble of your own creation, avoiding streetwise wizards and oil paintings of tombstones.
Grinder and Bandler would call the language “semantically ill-formed” in that the speaker acts as if she has no choice in her emotional response to the trigger. They discuss the topic in Part III of The Structure of Magic II, which won’t do you much good until you’ve read The Structure of Magic, Vol. I. Fortunately, Christmas break is coming, so you’ll have time to read both. ↩