The first time I watched Firefly’s “Objects in Space” I had a serious EEEEEEEEEEK moment. Nothing much happens (salient bit starts at 18:30). However, I have a pretty damn good idea of how it feel to be in that position, or at least to be facing that kind of opponent. To have him verbalise the way some people think was intensely creepifying. I was just on my way to help at a workshop for survivors of domestic abuse, as it happens, so I was already pretty keyed up to start with (I’m not cool with abuse). That scene came at me out of nowhere and kinda blindsided me, so I got a little adrenaline spike on top of an existing one. It made me pretty jumpy for a wee while. But I wasn’t triggered.

I did not have a flashback of a traumatic event reoccuring. I did not have uncontrollable distressing recollection of a traumatic event. I did not suffer an exaggerated physical or emotional reaction. I was merely made temporarily uncomfortable by it. After shaking it off, I was good as new. And that, to me, is not “being triggered”.

I seriously, seriously hate the modern dilution of the word “trigger” to include “anything that even mildly upsets or offends someone.” It angers me more than I can express that people are willing to equate the problems of a PTSD sufferer with the reaction of someone who, frankly, just got their panties in a bunch. Yes, getting upset or offended is unpleasant, but it’s not the damn same as suffering PTSD, which is a real disease that can wreck lives.

People seem to believe that it’s all the same, though. All human suffering is worth of consideration, after all, and your limits may not be my limits. Who’s to say that something that would only mildly bother you may not shock me? So we’ve pulled and pushed and stretched concepts, we’ve stolen terminology to suit our agendas, and what have we achieved? We’ve collectively allowed “triggers” and “trigger warnings” and “trigger whingeing” to be so ubiquitous and increasingly ludicrous that people are starting to tune out.

I saw a meme a couple of weeks ago getting a lot of support: “Being triggered is a choice. Only I can trigger myself.” Ain’t that just peachy. PTSD, originally called “shell shock”, was first recognised in print by Dr Charles Myers of the British Psychological Society in 1915. It took longer for it to get widely recognised and respected as an illness, so that those affected by it would be offered care instead of scorn (or a bullet). Later still we expanded the concept to encompass any extremely traumatic event, which made sense. And then we took the entire thing and we pissed on it from a great height in order to give ourselves carte blanche to demand not to be exposed to anything we don’t like.

Within the space of 100 years we’ve gone from managing to get our society to accept that PTSD is a real disease, to turning the entire issue into something so farcical, manipulative, and hypocritical that we’re heading back to square one. Bravo.


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