Intergenerational Confab

A couple of days ago, I found myself trying to explain trigger warnings to a slightly older person–straight, white, male, 60s, non-academic. You may not be surprised that he was skeptical of the need for them. “Sticks and stones,” he laughed. “The only reason people get upset at reading something in a class is that they let themselves get upset. They should stop being so emotional.”

Naturally, I quickly constructed a list of things I could say to provoke an emotional response in the fellow, and I didn’t utter a single one of them. Instead, I thought I’d turn to bloggers to learn how they explain trigger warnings to their older acquaintances and relatives. Do you bother defining the term? Jump straight to analogies? Or, like the older man, do you believe the need for trigger warnings is overstated? How would you justify that approach to peers who think they’re useful if not necessary?

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15 Responses to Intergenerational Confab

  1. Bill Arnoldus says:

    If I had to explain trigger warnings to someone older than me, this is how I would do it. “Trigger warnings are things you shouldn’t say because it may make someone uncomfortable or trigger PTSD.” Then I would give some examples of some traumatic things to generally avoid talking about.

  2. In general, I’m not going to try and convince a man in his 60s that he should care about trigger warnings period; at least not in the sit-down kind of way that you depicted in the first paragraph. If he were to say anything that was completely out of line that makes others feel uncomfortable, then maybe I would pull him to the side afterward and explain that what he said was out of line and made others uncomfortable. Still, at the end of the day, he’s pretty set in his beliefs and I don’t believe I’m in any position to tell him how he should go about his day-to-day.

  3. Georgia Gibson says:

    As a child, I was constantly told “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, but I do not think that is true. For explaining the idea that this is not always right, and words do trigger unwanted thoughts, I would first start by saying that many words could cause an increase in anxiety and may even cause panic attacks. Then, if they still do not understand what I mean I would provide an example and try to help them understand that many people feel many different ways and no matter what the trigger is their emotions are still valid.

  4. Arika Gardner says:

    Trigger warnings are more than about upsetting a person. Trigger warnings are mainly used for images or words that relate to the traumatic experiences of the viewer. These triggering images or words could cause PTSD in an individual which can lead to a panic attack or mental breakdown. These trigger warnings are not meant for insensitive words but graphic images and/ or words that could hurt the viewer mentally. I would explain to this older man that trigger warnings are not to protect a person from being emotionally upset. If that was the case then news broadcasting stations should begin with a trigger warning before they tell us the daily news. These warnings are to protect the mental stability of the viewer. Trigger warnings are also used for epilepsy, which can cause seizures and strokes. These are definitely needed since lawsuits can be issued if a show does not warn the viewer of potentially triggering a seizure.

  5. Lexi Holdiness says:

    To explain a trigger warning, I would start with an example of something that would profit a trigger warning. Start with something tragic like the death of a child and contribute a specific piece of that tragic scenario: death of child so let’s choose a child’s casket. Let’s view a mother who has recently underwent this tragic, painstaking event and have compassion for her. A trigger warning would warrant something to let this poor mother know that whatever it is she was about to view might be “triggering” to her past trauma. Trigger warnings are put into place to prevent people from viewing or hearing something that could throw them into a state of panic or depression, literally to stop them from being triggered.

  6. Jon Kiesel says:

    I think that after I briefly describe what trigger warnings are, I’d just talk more about the implications of them. More specifically, I’d just define a trigger as something that would cause immense distress in someone, and then they’ll piece together the rest.

    While there might be a good use for them, they might actually be impossible to implement. The person with a trigger is likely not going to want to show their vulnerability to those they don’t trust, and anyone else is not going to be able to consistently and completely avoid triggering someone without knowing the trigger. If there was a solution to this dilemma, it would require some active use of Zero-knowledge proofs, which demands that the person with the trigger figure out a way to communicate in a specific way.

  7. Jeremiah McClain says:

    I’ve dealt with a lot of people like him and simply speaking, there is not anything to do. People such as him are far gone and I’ve learned to just mind my business. Sometimes if I feel like the person can understand if I explain how this is hurting said person, and they say something along the lines of “I get that but…” or ” I don’t understand why that is” then that constitutes a discussion. But if it’s something like “that’s stupid” or “why would anybody need that” then it’s a conversation with a brick wall. I try to live by “you can’t explain rational thought to an irrational person”.

  8. Hong Zheng says:

    While I do not support his thoughts on the topic, I would respect his opinion and promptly leave. He sounds like a man unwilling to be corrected. As you said before, if the person you are arguing with is blocking his freedom of thoughts and rejects every idea without listening, then you are basically talking to a brick wall. When on the topic of trigger warnings, I personally have never had any issues with them but nor have I ever thought that they were of any benefit. Looking at them more closely, trigger warnings helped me prepare for certain things that can be unsettling. In addition, it can help those who suffer from PTSD and other mental conditions. Because of this, trigger warnings are definitely a necessity.

  9. Rice Guigley says:

    Well, technically speaking, Trigger warnings aren’t anything new. The term is the only new part about it. It is a phrase people use to describe a warning for graphic content because it can be disturbing to some viewers. For me, it really depends on how the person is reacting to this idea. It is nice to talk to people and discuss it in a civil manner; however, that can’t always be the case. I do not always call them “trigger warnings” because sometimes the phrase itself can have sigma. I can call it a content warning or sometimes, I just say it as a heads-ups that the material might include this. Trigger warnings are required by movies and games. We are all familiar with the 18+ M rating on video games or the R rating for movies. Those are there for a reason because they contain things that can be disturbing. Somethings even start off with “This content includes… [insert topic here]. Viewer discretion is advised.”. It is not that people are avoiding graphic content because they want to believe it doesn’t happen in the real world. It is more like they have dealt with it in their lives and don’t wish to see it on screen if they can help. If talking to an older audience, we could talk about war veterans and how everyone understood that you don’t bring up the war because it can disturb the veteran and bring back unwanted memories. You don’t go up to someone in public and start reminding them of something awful in their life, so don’t make them sit through it in media. A lot of older generations were told to shut up about their emotions or that they are being too dramatic instead of getting the care they needed. They were told to toughen up and get used to it. You don’t tell a veteran to get used to it and just shut up about war because the position they were put in is unnatural, and the human mind isn’t built to cope with that. As person progresses more and more in therapy, they won’t have to avoid trigger warnings as much as they did. It is like a healing process where you don’t want to poke at wound that is still bleeding.

  10. Cali Orman says:

    In this particular instant I would need to take a step back and analyze the situation. Is it worth trying to explain or is this a time to smile and move on, and would we be able to have a mutually respectful discussion on the topic. Sometimes you have to pick your battles.
    If I did try to explain what a trigger warning was to him I would try and give an example that he would understand. I would try to give a working definition in digestible terms. As an older man he would probably understand if you used PTSD as an example because of the generation that he grew up in. I would try to explain the benefits of them and how it may not be useful to him but is very useful to others. Personally, I don’t like the saying “too set in their ways” because you can have a change of heart or opinion at any age. But, arguing your point would probably not get you very far in this situation.

  11. First, I would define the term. A trigger warning is a quick informative preview of what could be a sensitive topic to some. I believe they are necessary because I am familiar with anxiety that can be uncontrollable at times. It is sometimes best to avoid certain traumatic topics before thoughts and emotions can get out of hand.
    If you believe they are not useful, (trigger warning) I am sure you might also subconsciously believe in invalidating people’s feelings. I think in any argument this could trigger the right target audience, proving the importance of trigger warnings!
    I actually think they should make horror movies for people like me who hate horror movies and have trigger warnings whenever the gory scenes are about to happen. I realize this ruins the suspense of horror movies.
    I also think there should be trigger warnings before someone tells you I love you for the first time. Something like “trigger warning. I love you,” or “trigger warning. I want to meet your parents.” It gives me more time to run.

  12. Laya says:

    Although I don’t necessarily agree with the man, I wouldn’t struggle to try to figure out how to educate him. He doesn’t seem like the person who would want to listen in the first place. I think it is better to start teaching younger because they are opened-minded people. I would teach them that some things that they say could potentially hurt someone else because it brings back a memory of their past that hurt them very badly. Educating people on “Trigger Warnings” is obviously important so that no one is potentially brought back to a traumatic moment of their life, but arguing with someone who is not willing to open their mind, is completely useless.

  13. Dyllon Martin says:

    Trigger warnings are put in place as a consensual warning for those who may be offended to take offense to the proceeding film, video, text, or picture. Trigger warnings can be described as trailers. In movies, a trailer video is provided so that the viewer can analyze the movie they will proceed to watch. If they don’t accept the terms of the film, they have the right to not watch. In the world the way it is right now, trigger warnings play a massive role in reassuring the viewer. In many ways, trigger warnings aren’t just can be viewed in face-to-face conversations. In the case of controversial or political topics, setting a disclaimer will give the listener a chance to accept or decline. The warning, “Sticks and Stones can break your bone” is used as a way to ensure first step prevention to what can become a painful result.
    For older people, these warnings are new. In the mid-1900s, things like these were not often used. In the case of explaining trigger warnings can be difficult, but doable, only in the case that the elder person is willing to accept the reality of the world at this point!

  14. Christina Zhang says:

    Although the concept of trigger warnings are sometimes tricky, they are nonetheless necessary in many circumstances. When explaining trigger warnings, I feel like analogies are very reductive. Reactions to different “triggers” are different; what may be triggering for one person may not be at all for the next. So, when explaining trigger warnings I would reinforce that exact idea, and explain how using trigger warnings is a sign of compassion and consideration.

  15. Hangila Ceesay says:

    When explaining trigger warnings, I would emphasize the fact that there is trauma involved that could cause an unpleasant reaction in a person who has been directly affected by a traumatic event similar to what is being discussed. In my opinion, issues like trigger warnings all primarily address the level of empathy in others. As times change, it is vital that people express what negatively impacts their mental health out of protection for themselves. While it is true that it is positive for people to face their fears and be uncomfortable, one must learn how to draw a line between simply addressing another person’s fears and forcing unwanted thoughts of their trauma to be evoked. Though it is a more difficult concept to explain to those who grew up without such concepts, it is important that we take on the responsibility of conveying the importance of this. It is a way to express compassion, empathy, and sensitivity for other people’s situations and for people to protect their own mental health after experiencing trauma.

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