A Shot In The Dark: Trigger Warnings Are Necessary
Written by: Aniqah Be
“Get over it”, is usually the response to anything short of “I’m fine.” I saw a tweet the other day saying that the world doesn’t have to cater to your triggers. It’s true, but in the same breath you don’t have to be a menace.
In the Caribbean, the same sentiment is expressed with “walk it off” or “it’s just laziness” whether you’re bleeding or cursed to your bed by depression. The best reply I’ve heard by far has to be “is because you don’t pray.” A good rub down or jharey or even some bush tea would be more promising responses. A lot of elders hear when we speak up or out—either from us or the verandah—but they hardly ever listen.
In the event that they do, like a child hustling to clean before his mother gets home, it’s swept under the rug. Later on, it’ll be beaten out with a broomstick to be carried out with the wind. The mat will be left to air out for the sun to burn the sins away and then brought back inside, a little more presentable than before.
God forbid someone’s mother’s cousin’s aunt's corbeaux’s neighbour’s parrot were to hear that something was wrong.
For kids—especially brown girls, it’s all about perfection.
You must be able to compartmentalize; it’s the only way to live independently and as a good wife. Fall apart in the bathroom on your own, but never in front of others. “They don’t need to know'' is usually code for “Don’t tell them because they’ll gossip about you.”
Unfortunately, we live in a very individualistic world, where people don’t always think about others. Unless someone is able to relate or empathize, they’ll never understand the gravity of triggers and their effect on the body and state of mind. Someone who cannot understand that, won’t make space for you. It is important to recognize those blind spots in the people you surround yourself with and make accommodations for yourself with that in mind. It’s important to know yourself, to put in the work in introspection and therapy, to discern your triggers. Understand the impact they have on you and how best to deal with them.
Culture and context are key factors that play a part here. In terms of language, there are words that I find offensive so I don’t use them, but they’re normalized in Trinidad. A huge facet of my book But Are You Really Sorry is about encouraging people to open their minds to accountability and the tenets of an apology. I learnt all too well that people won’t listen or change unless they actively want to. There are people who can and may change, but there are people who will not consider what hurts you or may even pull out the dull knives when all hell breaks loose.
“OMG I’m so triggered” has become a meme.
Even the related words to “triggered” on Dictionary.com are “snowflake” or “soyboy.” Let me say that again: it is now considered funny to joke about the life-shattering paralysis of triggers. Triggers—not the social media trend—is a serious reaction of a person who has been through trauma to something (the trigger) that reminds them of the traumatic incident, even elucidating panic attacks. Have you considered the cost of someone’s wellbeing if you don’t warn them before you pull the trigger? While trigger warnings may seem infantilizing to you, they allow hurt people to avoid situations where they would be reminded of the trauma they have experienced.
Hard to believe sometimes, but it’s not so audacious to have empathy for people who are working through trauma. Yes, the person who has experienced trauma should seek out professional help. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve empathy and kindness. Imagine going through something horrible and then someone saying something along the lines of “just tough it out.” Victims and survivors require time to process what they’ve been through, not to be forced through it before they’re ready.
I challenge you to imagine a world without glasses. Not everyone would view the world the same way. Some would see blurry shapes or words as scribbles. You might want to argue that they need glasses so they should figure it out! What if, stay with me here because this might be profound, what if they weren’t the ones who needed glasses? Perhaps the blurry star-like swatches all around are actually what they should be seeing. All you see is what your eyes show you. But what others see is what theirs show them. There are so many different ways of seeing and processing the world—like The Dress in 2015! According to Hemingway’s Iceberg, there’s always more to what meets the eye.
What truths perhaps lurk below if you were to open your eyes and mind, to listening and understanding?
At the end of the day, the matter rests in your hands to determine what you think is right and what you should do. All I ask is that before you do something, you think about your actions, their effects on people who have already been wounded, and consider what you can live with. Who will actually be biting the bullet?
Aniqah Beharry is the author of poetry journal But Are You Really Sorry, and a digital artist. At the University of Waterloo, she was awarded a Bachelors of Mathematics in 2020, after winning a National Open Mathematics Scholarship and placing on the Regional Merit List for CAPE Literatures in English Unit I. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Business Administration through the Heriot-Watt programme. Expressing her creativity through art and literature, she is an advocate for mental health, volunteering as a peer helper and creating affirmation art. She believes the most important qualities are compassion, empathy, mercy, patience, and justice