Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trigger Me This

Roy Rogers & Trigger

When you hear the word "trigger," do you think of this beautiful palomino who was originally named Golden Cloud?  I do - much of the time.

Trigger the horse, star of movies and TV, was probably before your time (and mine), but had a brilliant career.  He even had his own comic book, and was  said to have 150 trick cues.

Then there's this kind of trigger:
a small projecting tongue in a firearm that, when pressed by the finger, actuates the mechanism that discharges the weapon.

But it's the other kind of trigger I'm lately seeing all over the place: 
anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.

I know that ragweed or pollen can trigger an asthma attack.  That a cellphone can be used to trigger a bomb.  Odors, for me, can trigger childhood memories (musty raincoat or Lemon Pledge), help me feel happy and relaxed (vanilla or lavender,) even turn me on (sexy man-scent).

Right now, I see more than ever that words, or certain subject material can trigger an emotional reaction.

This is nothing new.  The "n" word, "bastard," the "c" word, "Your Mama!" and other terms have long been used as "fightin' words," precisely because they trigger an emotional response.

What's new is some of the subject matter that is considered triggering.  Discussions of food, diet, and  photographs of too-thin women can be triggering for those with eating disorders.  Talk of funerals or illness may be triggering to someone who's just lost a loved one - or someone who's lost a loved one, ever.  A trailer for a romantic comedy may trigger tears in somebody who just split with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

In a way, I find this all very irritating, and in another way, very healthy.  Rather than either ignoring triggering events (while seething or hurting inside), or challenging someone to a fight, we are admitting we are hurt.  Perhaps we're speaking up politely but firmly, "Could we not talk about diets, please?"  Or, "I don't like it when you use that word, I find it offensive."

On the other hand, I feel like if I'm an "evolved person," there is some kind of expectation to speak in political and emotional correctese.  To not say anything, ever, that might possibly offend anybody.

Not gonna happen - at least from me.  I expect to keep pissing people off - not deliberately or maliciously, but either by accident or in some cases, because I believe an idea is worth discussing, even fighting for.  Even if the discussion may make some a little uncomfortable.

On another site, I used the "n" word, once, in a discussion of whether or not words like slut or (that word) can be reclaimed.  Most readers found it to be a good, thought-provoking discussion, and my own conclusion was that the word should not be used by anybody.  One person was triggered, although she herself also said the discussion was reflective and thoughtful.  On another site, there was discussion about the word "manipulation," which is under consideration by the DSM-5 committee as part of the diagnostic criterion for OCPD.

You might have thought the word was pederasty, instead, and a vigorous debate ensued.

Even though it's uncomfortable, I think we all have to try walking that fine line.  Not deliberately seeking to trigger people at their weakest points, but at the same time, continue to be willing to think about and talk about subjects and words that might not feel 100% comfortable, because otherwise we'll never be able to heal those places.

And on that note... have a wonderful weekend.  Hope all your triggers are happy ones.

What are your trigger words or situations (if you feel safe enough to share)?
What triggers have you noticed in others?