In its simplest definition, a “trigger” is a stimulus — a smell, sound, or sight — that initiates feelings of trauma. The stimulus could be anything from a color to a song. It is not clear how the brain forms these connections, however, it appears to be linked with sensory experiences. The trigger works in various ways, sometimes needing only something similar to the sensory experience or something similar to situation in which the experience occurred.
For example, a person who was in a car accident may experience a triggering response to the song that was playing on the radio when the accident happened. It may even extend to the musician or similar sounding music. However, a person may experience a trigger response due to a situation. For example, getting into a car or simply seeing one might cause the person anxiety.
The reason the above explanation was necessary is because there has been an abuse of the word “trigger”. Far too many people use it to mean that something made them uncomfortable or reminded them of a negative experience. That is not a trigger.
Why bring this up? I do so because a feminist teacher claimed she was “triggered” by a male student’s paper criticizing “rape culture”. According to the anonymous blog post, the teacher decided to educate her male students on the theory of “rape culture”. Many of the male students rejected the theory, yet one student’s rejection stood out: Continue reading