Tag Archives: Trigger

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.

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Measures vs. Capability and, Individual Action

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Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces are perceived solutions to the problem of mental health issues in higher education facilities. Trigger warnings are to prepare students for possibly “triggering” information ahead and Safe Spaces are a place where anyone (‘anyone’ changes to marginalized depending where you get the information from) on campus can go to in which they escape away from fear – fear of personal identity being challenged. While it is simple to understand the basics there are a number of factors that I find makes these solutions unnecessary. To engage with a solution of mental health on campus is to find a solution that is not just a preventative solution (like trigger warnings) but to find an individual, case by case solution for which the triggers for mental health are stable and under control. Safe Spaces are problematic as they do not address the issues of mental health or ‘fear’ at hand. They just provide an escape for which people will go out of their way to avoid potential harm and difficulties so they can collect themselves. This is not a long term solution.

Trigger warnings are used to warn people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that the information they are continuing to be exposed to may trigger their PTSD. To create these warnings is to say they are needed in higher education. Looking at the facts and figures there has been an increase in which University students are developing mental health issues (PTSD being one of those issues) over the years. Though the rate in which cases of PTSD have been triggered on University campuses specifically by information being taught is yet to be known, as there are ethical and personal issues incorporated into University policies that prevent this information from being released. This is not to justify that students need to have a mental breakdown in public in order for solutions to be solved. But shows the significance of what University represents and that higher education facilities have an understanding about the solutions that are provided and those solutions are adequate in capability – of stabilizing and of aiding help to people who suffer from mental health issues like PTSD.

The idea of trigger warnings is to give people a heads-up about the potential harmfulness of information being spread. Though there is an understanding that the students who suffer from mental illness (like any students who do not) like PTSD have a responsibility to the university also. When going to University the responsibility of the engagement is on the student. Students choose the subjects that want to learn, students choose the field that they want to go into and students choose the degree for which they are exposed to the content being presented. Knowing you are going into a field where topics are uncomfortable like wanting to be lawyer and having to learn the law around rape cases. It is a responsibility of the student wanting to be a lawyer to engage with the full scope of the law. If the mental health of a student is not capable of understanding that there are topics in which have to be learned in order to get a specific degree, then the fault of harm rests with the student and not the University. The preventative case of creating trigger warnings only keeps them ‘safe’ on university campuses and not anywhere else. The engagement of trigger warnings only prevents PTSD sufferers from getting triggered by content but not by engaging with the student populace. When people see trigger warnings and have an episode is to say the treatment and methods in which that person is taking care of themselves and treating their PTSD is sub-par or not happening. While this may sound harsh there are treatments in which PTSD sufferers are able to engage with their triggers with which they once had. Mental Health America mentions that PTSD can be treated with success. Psychotherapy, with the help of a trained mental health professional can ease the pain of PTSD and create a successful exposure to once triggering symptoms. It is the individual obligation to seek treatment as that is the first step to recovery. The constant in the individual’s life is the individual.

Safe Spaces are seen as a restorative measure as a way for people who have felt offended or in fear for their well-being are able to escape to a space on campus and relax – free from opposition of any kind. But that opposition is seen to be the problem and this measure of creating a safe space in order for the perceived ‘victims’ to escape to does not prevent people from further imposing on people’s identity. When we look at cases for which Safe Spaces have been created much like in America with academic Cristina Hoff Sommers and her talk at Georgetown University. It was the opposing view that Sommers was presenting that caused for the creation of a safe space. Sommers as a well-known academic in her field talked about her opposition of intersectional feminism ideals that are present in today’s Universities. While there were protests of Sommers to appear on campus the extent for which one opinion can upset an entire university into creating safe spaces is a reflection of the importance on intellectual diversity on university students. While the students creating the safe spaces and protesting Sommers are not a representation of the entire university. The scope at which is has become prevalent on American University campuses begs the question to what extent can today’s university students be logical, reasonable and educated in their discourse of intellectual material without the need for emotional uproar. When someone’s well-being has been compromised by another and they have gone to a safe space to collect themselves, there is no one-time solution to what caused that problem to the begin with. That person in the safe space is going to most likely hear the same opposing views again and again. Again their well-being will be compromised. How is the creation of safe spaces an appropriate solution to intellectual diversity which is expected on every higher education institute? Once someone has left their safe space on campus they are opened to the same material that put them in there in the first place – whether it be an individual concern or a group one. Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces are not a long term solution to this [perceived] problem.

[There are a number of incidences around American University (like one in video below) campuses that hijack the original representation of Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces from what they were in the past – this has added to the challenge for the discussion. Though at least there is a discussion of some sort]

 

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.

Equality for the individual?

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For or against trigger warnings and safe spaces there is a constant trend in fighting for the rights of individuals that are marginalized or seen as different in today’s society and those that do not have the voice or capability to fight for themselves. This behaviour of fighting for those that can not fight for themselves – like children or animals. Presents an interesting discourse on what it means to be in a marginalized or group minority and how the law and society are needed to change this. In accordance to trigger warnings and safe spaces the debate has stemmed from the ideology and agenda of intersectional feminism and the continuing fight for the LGBT community. Though I ask how small do groups have to be in order to justify an appropriate reaction and measure for equality?

The social movement from the LGBT community started in the 1940s. This was a charge for equality and acceptance that is still being fought for today. One measure for this equality is based on the amount of people that are, identify, or know of someone that is a part of the LGBT community. In 2011 it is estimated that 8 million Americans which is 3.5% of the entire adult population identify in the LGBT community. In 2013 Australia reported that 11% of the population have a diverse sexual orientation, gender or identity. Within this fight for LGBT rights there has been individual fights for equality and justice around social issues. Australia has had the fight for transgender specific toilets (much like America and the United Kingdom). Brought on by the innocence of a child at primary school winning the legal battle to be recognized as a girl (being born a boy) though having to use the disabled toilet.

Activists have argued that even as an adult there is a transphobic atmosphere still around that needs to be addressed and this is the next phase in equality for LGBT. To deal with this issue it was put forward that to start making transgender and transsexual people feel welcome in society. There is a need to create transgender bathrooms or modify current bathrooms to be unisex or gender neutral. That are as accessible as regular male and female bathrooms currently are – such as in clubs, malls, theatres and parks. The feasibility and economical use of these toilets is seen to be unreasonable as the population of transgender people in the Australian adult community is estimated to be about 0.3%. 0.3% of Australia’s adult population is estimated around 54,000 people. The amount of toilets that activists are fighting to be created in order to justify an acceptance of transgenderism is seen to be over reaching as the geographical spread for trans is in main LGBT friendly areas that promote greater influence, activism, and a higher engagement of LGBT community members. The amount of traffic that is intended for a public toilet does not correlate to the small group of society that identify as trans. While the creation of neutral gender toilets is perceived to cater to the needs of everyone. The majority are reluctant to cater to this minority as they do not want to share bathrooms with the opposing gender, do not like change or see it as a waste of taxpayers’ money (or a waste for whomever is going to pay for it).

While the battle for equality is fought there are instances where the combination of a marginalized individual and the legality of the law are not clear and the change for the law to be accepting for equality is put at a greater challenge. Example of this is the case of perceived mental health and the function of standard societal morality in regards to Stefonknee Wolscht. A 52-year-old man who now lives his life as a 6-year-old girl in Toronto.


Stefonknee who was once called Paul, married to a wife and has seven children but now has moved away from that life and lives with adoptive parents in Toronto, Canada. Has come under the limelight of the public. While the issue of being a trans person is acknowledged there are aspects of Stefonknee’s identity that would challenge current laws and peoples personal understandings. The freedom to live how ever one wants, is up to the individual, how they identify, what they do and how they do it. It is all on them. But when what that individual chooses to be challenges the perception of what is normal to the majority then issues arise. Stefonknee as someone who is trans gender and trans age presents an interesting understanding for what social justice and acceptance offers larger society. Gender dysphoria is accepted as a medical issue that has been researched and understood (as best as it can currently). There is a known difference between a male and female brain. Though for someone to be trans-age; the science behind a medical justification is still to be discovered.  (Even the internet has no leads for me and my Universities database of academic sources comes up with nothing that can justify this trans-age identity.)

With such a rare public case such as Stefonknee’s our perception of what it means to be accepting of marginalized people becomes skewed. With identifying as a 6-year-old yet gleefully mentioning that she makes out with bikers and has a full time job ploughing snow. Where does the law fit into this identity? On one side for a 6-year-old to have a full time job is against Child Labor Laws and for a 6-year-old to make out with bikers is Child Abuse. If we correlate the understanding that the difference of the brain makes people either a man and a women and Stefonknee further identifies as a 6-year-old girl where can people stand to make Stefonknee feel that she is not marginalized for the way she lives her life. When even science has no medical understanding for this identity. Science does claim that in order to develop your public-self you must become social about your private self. As self-representation is a reflection and also an aide with mental health. Which provides the understanding of why people would come out as “different” from the majority.

It’s a Threat – Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces

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There is a threat currently in American higher education facilities that is spreading to other countries. This threat is the introduction of ‘Trigger Warnings’ and ‘Safe Spaces’ in our educational facilities and this agenda is being pushed by current day intersectional feminists and others alike.

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TRIGGLYPUFF the F**k outta here. Source

Safe space is a social space safe for [marginalized] groups to freely communicate and express ideas. While that is a simple idea the function and reality of these safe spaces has changed to an area where individuals may go who feel their opinions, ideas or feelings have been affected in a negative way and so they are not able to freely express themselves – so they would make their way to a ‘safe space’. Such topics that have appeared online in some way where people have felt the need for a safe space have been English self-proclaimed provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos with his “The Dangerous Faggot tour” around American universities. Milo has given us an insight into the behaviour of American university students and the unruly disdain that students have when allowing someone who has an opposing view as they do talks on a campus. Milo’s talk at the University of Massachusetts, accompanied by academic scholar and feminist Christina Hoff Sommers  and French Canadian comedian Steven Crowder. Brought the discussion of the effects third wave/intersectional/millennial feminism has done to the people on today’s universities. Unruly students caused a disturbance in the talk and showed people who are outside of America that this was happening and just how intersectional feminists and those with similar ideals were behaving with the lack of maturity that would not be expected of university students. Here is the video in full:


Trigger warnings are an alert before a piece of work informing that it may contain distressing material leaving the person distressed or in discomfort. While it can be simply equated to the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) tags seen on popular sites like Reddit and Imgur, where the guidelines for an NSFW post reads “Content that contains nudity, pornography, or profanity, which a reasonable viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as in a workplace should be tagged as NSFW. This tag can be applied to individual pieces of content or to entire communities.” While there are specific instances for when a warning needs to be placed such as nudity that was mentioned above there are no guidelines or parameters for the implication of trigger warnings in universities other higher education facilities. Who is to say what can and can not be talked about or learnt in a university? Students, academics, administration or people who have everyday triggers. How would we go about understand all of the triggers in universities and who can impose that the standard of warnings will be met? Must an incident happen before a warning is introduced or do we save students and introduce warnings for the sake of babying students to prevent something that could or could not happen.

Melbourne’s Monash University will be the first Australian university to introduce trigger warnings throughout its subject core guides. I have been unable to find the guidelines and parameters for which trigger warnings will be introduced to get a clear understanding about the aspects of university teaching that triggers emotional discomfort with the student body. This information is vital in understanding the concerns and experiences of university students – I hope to find out soon.

I call Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces threats as they censor information and make higher education redundant. The purpose of higher education is to bring to attention different viewpoints and outlooks of different topics. The classroom brings people of all different backgrounds together to talk about a topic from different angles each individual has not experienced or thought about before – to broaden the mind and knowledge of each student. The discussions are a representation of what a university represents – challenging, logical and rational decisions in a respectable safe environment that is free from repression, job loss or imprisonment. While trigger warnings are for the students they censor the ability and create a barrier for the academics that choose those students.

When a trigger warning is present, there is no understanding to what degree the content or a student may be offended or be triggered by. If in cases where a student was not expecting a lot of offensive material in a class, there is no stopping that student for interrupting and calling out the lecturer for not being specific in the details of the warning or their material. If this incident is constant then lecturers would cut out the entire offensive material and throw-in something that could not be seen as offensive. This changing of material to something more friendly, who is too say that it will not be offensive of triggering? When there are aspects of a degree that has been left out for the purpose of preventing a supposed triggering of a student who which it may or may not happen there is something wrong.

Camille Paglia who is an academic and social critic once said “When you are not exposed to complex works of art you end up with a simplistic view of human life…” to mean there is bad stuff in the world and it happens regardless, so when you are exposed to it you understand it and grow from it. There is a full interview between Camille and Christina which discusses the impact of feminism today where the quote comes from, video below (57 mins long):


I am a student at the University of Wollongong and with my next few blog posts I will be going into more detail about Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces and other areas that relate to the discussion.