Understanding and using trigger warnings

I have been hard at work on my dreams of late. I had the opportunity to apply for an award related to those dreams, but in order to do so, I had to state concisely what I do and what I’m working toward. Hmm.

I tend to be long-winded, so I sat with a few individuals who know my work well and asked them what they thought about what I am doing. I told them what I thought about what I am doing. What I came away with was a much greater sense of both my goals and my achievements.

I want to share that with you, but I want to share it in the context of trigger warnings. Why? Because what I have been actively working toward since December 2013 is the creation of safe spaces for artists to engage difficult topics. Safe, non-competitive spaces where we can come together and deepen the conversation around important life issues such as social justice and survivorship.

The field I am working in is Compassion. I want to spread love through empathy through understanding on a global scale. Trigger warnings are a tool that helps reach that goal. How?

A trigger warning alerts consumers to the content of what they are consuming. For many, they are unnecessary, but for those of us who are surviving our stories, coming up against triggers in work we are engaging is like playing with lightning–it’s dangerous and can knock us out for the count.

I’ve talked about how to use trigger warnings and why they are useful. Right now, I’d like to give you a list of useful warnings and point you to more resources on this topic.

Disordered eating (such as anorexia or bulimia)
Domestic violence
Racial Violence
Violence against children
Alcohol or drug use
Explicit sex
Pornographic content
Sexual abuse
Sexual assault
Suicide/Suicidal Ideation

Trigger Warning (definition)
Common Trigger Warnings
Here are 6 reasons trigger warnings aren’t bullshit
Content Warning (writing on warnings)
10 Ways to Keep Each Other Safe
Reading Triggers, Mental Illness and (ugh) Amanda Lauren

Remember: Marking work with a trigger or content warning is a protection for others who need to take a breath prior to engaging. You might choose to put the warning at the beginning or your piece, in its description, in an announcement or make it present in specific groups where you know survivors gather. I tend to use trigger warnings at the beginning of my posts online because I know I am read by many who, like me, need them. Doing so is an act of compassion in a difficult world.

Please feel free to add to this list in comments. What triggers you?

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

3 Discussion to this post

  1. I really appreciate that you added abortion to this list. I don’t know how many times I have had to look away from the page because my tears swelled.

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  2. all the time i used to read smaller articles that as well clear
    their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of writing which I am
    reading at this time.

    View Comment

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