Tag Archives: provoke

Evoked Triggers are not Provoked Emotional Responses

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Engaging with the discussion of Trigger Warnings in 2016 we are talking about a mesh of old and new understandings. The old understanding is from the area of mental health with specific relation to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Trigger Warnings are used to make someone suffering from PTSD that the material or event that they are going to be exposed to will potentially onset a traumatic episode. The new understanding presented by Intersectional Feminists and Liberals alike is that trigger warnings are needed to bring warning to potential provoked emotional responses of disdain or discomfort. This new understanding has taken over the old understanding by using it as a hostage for politics within higher education and the narrative that higher education needed a change to be more inclusive and a safe space.

When we talk about provoked emotion we talk about emotion that is transferred with intention from one person to another through a medium. Take for instance the medium of film – horror films (e.g. Wolf Creek) provoke the feeling of fear through scare tactics. Comedy (e.g. The Rat Race) films provoke the feeling of happiness through comedic behaviour and timing, and drama films (e.g. Bridget Jones’s Diary) provokes the feeling of sadness. These emotions felt are understandable through the context for which they are transferred. Which in this case is the genre of film and the engagement of the person watching. This engagement is individual choice. We have the choice for how we engage with film and to what extent. We have the choice to make how much the movie affects us and in what way. This choice is not presented what it comes to evoked emotion. Evoked emotions are brought on through subconscious mind from external influences. For example different smells can influence the emotions by evoking emotions of past experiences. Like the smell of baked goods and reliving the emotion of going to grandmas and enjoying her baking. Music also is a powerful tool to evoke emotion. Songs can take people back to when they went to their first live concert and experience the emotions felt. Songs can take people back to their wedding day to experience the emotions of getting married or the song they had their first dance to as husband and wife. Evoked emotions are not controllable, they are in the subconscious and react to things that we can not control – they can happen wherever and whenever. What can cause evoked emotions is anything and it is unpredictable. A provoked trigger warning is to control a sense of what to experience, an evoked trigger warning is a preventative measure to not have someone with PTSD experience an episode. These warnings and these emotions are exclusive but they are being meshed together to fight for change in higher education.

I have mentioned in past blogs about academic and proud feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has provoked the Third Wave Feminists and Liberals alike into imposing trigger warnings and safe spaces with her speeches and presentations around American Universities. Many other presenters suffer from the same opposing force when talking on American campuses – Milo Yiannopoulos, Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder are further examples. As there is a belief that Sommers is a threat to the mental health, well-being and safety of the students – so measures were needed to have taken place. Take into consideration the old understanding of trigger warnings around PTSD and analyse the behaviour which is presented publicly in many online videos (this is just one of many – Georgetown) where Sommers has talked. And the behaviour at which people who oppose her want the new understanding of trigger warning introduced. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious issue for which people suffer – there is no control over what can trigger a PTSD episode as it is an evoked subconscious reaction. To push for the new trigger warnings on people who are presenting opposing information to the ideology of only a section of the student populace questions the importance of this specific agenda.

The individual well-being is questionable when you know you are going to a speech by someone who has a different viewpoint to your own. How are you going to engage with the fight for the new trigger warning understanding when you silence those that wish to engage different points of views – views that you present to be ‘triggering’. Psychotherapy is a solution to PTSD which has been found to be a success in treating and getting rid of PTSD. One therapy within psychotherapy is exposure therapy where the patient who has PTSD –  under the guidance of a trained professional exposes themselves to their trigger in which they can engage and understand the difficulties around that trigger and then to further be cured of that trigger. The introduction of the bastardized version of trigger warning is meant to be seen as a preventative measure to the old meaning of trigger. To have a trigger warning on content that is a trigger of an evoked emotional response does not get rid of the trigger. It presents the person with PTSD a chance to decide on the engagement with the trigger, but if they so choose to engage there is no certainty that an evoked emotional reaction will not happen. This ‘preventative measure’ is not a solution to curing a patient of PTSD but an attachment to the new understanding of trigger warnings. There are disciplines on university subjects where people will have to engage with material that is seen to be a trigger (both old understanding and new). Law students have to engage with criminal law and the cases that involved rape. This can be a trigger for evoked emotions but it is a necessary engagement in the field of law. There is no way around the degree where someone can not learn about rape with regards to the law. To understand this, to engage with the material, yet require a trigger warning is not understandable as there is a difference between professors using intense examples to explain a point compared to a requirement in the field of study that has to be learned.

The change of “Trigger”? Bastardized.

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University is already a tough time on the mental health of students. It is believed around 1 in 5 university students have some kind of mental illness. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) being one of the illnesses and a key factor in today’s social political agenda on campuses. PTSD was synonymous with the word ‘trigger’. ‘Trigger’ being anything that may bring back memories and cause intense emotional and physical reactions. Mental illness is still a serious issue within humanity but aspects of mental illness have become a set agenda for today’s social issues. In particular today’s Intersectional Feminists and Social Justice Warriors (SJW) are pushing forward the right to have safe spaces and trigger warnings on university campuses.

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Melody Hensley becoming immortalized in a meme also comes in a gif version

The word ‘trigger’ has been bastardized by current day university students to reflect the feeling of anything that opposes one’s viewpoint, values, ideals or sense of morality. On one side of the debate the word ‘triggering’ is seen as a joke or current day meme to suggest anyone that gets offended by something subjective is representing a ‘triggered’ childish tendency (this point came in retaliation). While on the intersectional feminist side, to be ‘triggered’ is kept in the serious understanding of mental illness but what this side presents are perceived to be too broad, deals with hypersensitivity or a case of over-the-top political correctness. Such as the instance on Twitter with Melody Hensley where she claims cyber bullying in the form of harassment, stalking and trolling caused her to develop PTSD. This onslaught arising from being outspoken on feminist and atheist issues.

Social media is a necessity in today’s world. Social media impacts our public and private relations with friends, family and work. The openness of social media allows anyone, anywhere the freedom to look at what we post and critique that in any manner that is available to them. Social media does not provide a mandatory rule in which people need to provide details about them in any public manner. Anyone can create a fake profile with a fake email and still use social media. Reddit only needs a username and password. Facebook and Twitter need an existing email, a birthday, name and gender. These details can easily be faked. There is an ease of anonymity that is present on the internet in general that provides a gateway to be outspoken, this includes responding to people who are opinionated. While the appropriateness of this is for a different discussion. The significance of knowing that this happens should be obvious to the majority of users online – the ease for which you can say something is reflected in the ease in which you can be responded to. In particular to social media users whose job relies on social media. In any medium in which an opinion is said; regardless of an educated opinion or not, is open for discussion and criticism. A sole impact of social media is to break down the boundaries in which people can talk and present a conversation wherever they are and whenever they would like to. To put any opinion on Twitter like what Melody Hensley did is free to be responded to. This discourse of information further creates a topic regarding freedom of speech.

In universities this idea of being unsettled with someone who has an opposing view, or just a different view is the real world scenario of what happened on Twitter but face-to-face. The significance that it is happening in Universities is an important aspect as the fundamental point of universities and higher education is to bring rational, logical and educated discussions to the front and find solutions.Universities are built upon the freedom of intellectual expression, developing students from childhood to adulthood (Chiang & Hawley 2013) and as a source to expose students (and staff) to different worldly views. Higher education facilities are a haven for intellectual diversity and intellectual inclusivity. To be inclusive of all opinions is to allow all voices to be heard and treated the same way, regardless of the impact in which something was said or the way it was said. Trigger warnings get rid of this inclusivity and intellectual diversity by limiting the scope for which a topic can be discussed. Trigger warnings have been around in small areas around higher education by faculty members and organized clubs presenting the warnings themselves, with no outside or systematic obligation – a form or self-regulation. However, to put this topic to the entirety of a university begs to question to what extent would trigger warnings be created for and who gets to decide what ‘triggers’ people. Is any class that can be determined to have any historical or current lessons on any marginalized group, on any group that does not belong to the majority, on any individual who feels excluded or on any feeling that gets hurt. The accessibility to have the power to determine what people should and should not learn is quite the privilege.

Emotions are not something higher education can deal with as emotions come in all shapes, sizes and variations. The psychology of trigger warnings has a negative impact in which it can create a seeded disturbance in students who were once fine. To see the words ‘trigger warnings’ creates the perception something in the class can be deemed inappropriate, offensive or scary. This perception attaches itself to this emotion and the constant engagement on the material being shown creates a constant need to look at what part of the material is offensive and why is it offensive. This creates a perception that what you are seeing whether or not it is the “trigger warning” intended material, how is it provocative in a negative way as it was related to a trigger warning. To be at university is to be there by choice, the engagement for which a student has with the university is up to them. Knowing the impact and what it takes to go to university a person who has a diagnosis of PTSD would be taking the necessary precautions in which the PTSD will not come up. For the individuals who do not have the diagnosis or are not taking the precautions the university should have no obligation to cater to those who do not take care of themselves. Universities provide adequate engagement to the well being of the students. With psychologists, psychiatrists and general practitioners there are professionals ready to engage with students and understand their needs. Psychology and science provides research that shows the engagement in which people with mental illness are open about their circumstance provides the first step in which a containable or permanent solution can be reached in which people would not be triggered by something that would trigger them before. This is also publicly seen with the R U OK day and many other mental awareness campaigns that are supported and promoted each year.

Reference:

Chiang, S, & Hawley, J 2013, ‘The role of higher education in their life: Emerging adults on the crossroad’, New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 3-13.