I saw a link to an article on The Atlantic today, about why trigger warnings are ruining America. And I read it, because I was annoyed enough that it existed that I wanted to know exactly how wrong they were. I wrote a pretty long response, linked here, which I'm reposting:
This article is awful and disgusting and the authors have no idea what they’re talking about.
The long, obnoxious setup is mainly about attempting to legitimize a ‘respectable’ idea of triggering – as in, people who have PTSD following time in the military – which they then contrast with, basically, every other group of people with PTSD, phobias, etc as being unreasonable in expecting their triggers to be respected, too.
It also dismisses microaggressions outright, by arguing that a microagression is when somebody makes an innocent statement that makes another person feel bad for no good reason.
Then, they blatantly misuse their wikipedia-level understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy to argue that microaggressions are examples of cognitive distortion, not an accurate understanding of the unspoken prejudices of the speaker, and that not offering trigger warnings is like putting someone through exposure therapy – which is, like, the opposite of true. Exposure therapy is about deliberate, managed exposure to the triggering stimulus in settings that are explicitly safe and supportive over time. That’s something a person with a phobia or PTSD could do with a course that they knew was going to cover triggering content. They could make sure to prepare themselves before going in, make sure they don’t schedule anything stressful immediately after. Give themselves time to recover.
On the other hand, refusing to give trigger warnings means that people go into those classes, experience an unexpected panic response in an environment where they don’t know that their instructor or classmates will be respectful, and then have to go through the rest of their day with their anxiety cranked up. It’s well established that this is what makes panic responses worse – unexpected or overwhelming exposures to a trigger reliably teach a person’s unconscious mind that the appropriate physiological response to the trigger is panic.
The current trend on campuses is building towards an environment that produces exactly the effects that this article attempts to propose by undermining those efforts. But articles like this aren’t about the wellbeing of the next generation of students. They’re about making the previous generation feel like they haven’t been hurting people as much as they have their whole lives. They’re about not changing anything because changing something now means they were wrong before.