With the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., #LinkYourLife was quieter this week. Despite it being a slow day, there were an enormous number of excellent links shared. Shareen, my #LinkYourLife partner in crime, spent the day shopping and otherwise in a wardrobe I hope transported her to Narnia because, wow, that mama needs a break. I held down our three forts as best I could, but it really wasn’t too hard because this community really is turning into a family that shows up and pitches in. It’s weird. I love it.
Because I’m sick and in full mom mode, I can’t link all you pieces. I’d love to do that because they were all amazing. Seriously. You all know how to write the heck out of yourselves. What I am going to do is revisit a pretty fabulous problem-solving conversation we had in our Facebook comments.
The topic was trigger warnings. Think trigger warnings are unnecessary bs that allows survivors to perpetuate their status as victims and avoid being uncomfortable? Keep reading. This will interest you.
As a survivor, I am easily triggered by written images of abuse. I handle these images with little problem when I’m prepared for them. It’s when triggers take me by surprise that I struggle. While reading this beautiful piece by Jackie Cioffa, I stumbled on some of my personal triggers. Kimmie Edwards (aka @stuckinscared) had shared the piece and quickly added a trigger warning when I requested it. That’s when the conversation started.
Kimmie took note that triggers are personal and different for every person. We can’t predict what will bother whom. But, as many of us are survivors of violence or trauma, we need a way to remain compassionate when introducing writing. The goal is never to harm, always to help, as Jackie said.
Kimmie shared that trigger warnings can keep individuals from clicking in the first place. She provides a content warning at the beginning of some of her posts instead of a TW when she shares in order to get readers there. They can read the warning and choose to go further or not, but a connection was made and that’s often the best first step.
I have seen this done, but I hadn’t thought very far into Kimmie’s suggestion. We continued talking about the problem of introducing a post with a warning to stay away. What if we added a link to another post readers could click if they weren’t emotionally prepared for engaging a trigger?
You may think trigger warnings are for avoidance. They can be. Certainly. We should all have agency over what we are exposed to. We don’t show children snuff films because it can harm their development. We don’t show survivors violence without warning for the same reason. The process of healing is long. Lifelong. Some days we aren’t in an emotionally safe place to read about abuse. Some days we are. We need to be able to recognize readiness in ourselves in order to self-regulate and not regress.
Being triggered puts individuals in a non-receptive state in which blood flow to the brain can change, making it impossible to retain new information. In short, reading imagery or action you aren’t ready for can make it impossible for you to learn.
I teach writing through trauma to survivors of addiction, sexual assault, abuse, war and more. Part of learning to write is reading. I offer a content warning for every piece I select for classes. Every piece can trigger. That’s why it was chosen. Reading our triggers can help us heal when we are ready to engage them.
My students sometimes don’t read past a trigger warning, but most of the time they do. They do because the reason they are in my class is because they are working to overcome what has harmed them.
Think about that. People sign up for and attend a class in which they know they will be triggered in order to help themselves heal.
I have seen amazing transformation in a six-week session. I have felt incredible growth in myself. This is not an argument for survivors to go out and read their triggers. It is a request for the rest of the world to reconsider why trigger or content warnings are useful. And for bloggers to consider offering a link to a safe piece when your reader might not be ready for what you are sharing. Kimmie is right. If I see a TW I might not click at all, and then I might miss out on getting to know people like Kimmie or Jackie. The point of #LinkYourLife is to connect, and I think our comment conversation may have found a way to protect that possibility.
Here is the piece that started the conversation. It is sensitively written, beautiful and necessary.
This post on talking to your children about the people who hurt you came from Rebecca Lemke.
Thomas Ives from Bestowing Fire wrote about choosing what we put into the world.
Kimmie Edwards gave us a great laugh by sharing her adventures with Hetty Hoover.
Elaine Mansfield recorded how she received a message of love from the other side.
Laura McGowan terrified parents around the globe with this suggestion for children’s origins.
These are just a few posts from the #LinkYourLife Facebook group. Check it out for more links and conversations. Posts pop up there every day, and new people are joining all the time.
In addition to our weekly Twitter exchange, we also have a #LinkYourLife Pinterest page (which I am still learning to manage so forgive the slow adds). It’s a group page which means you can join it, pin to it and also add your friends so they can link up with us.