On the Subject of Trigger Warnings

A trigger warning is a disclaimer that something unsettling, disturbing, or that has the possibility of upsetting the reader will be found within a piece of writing. I will not post trigger warnings because life doesn’t come with them and I don’t believe in babying my readers just to make them feel happy or safe. Growing up means facing upsetting things and learning not only how to deal with them but how to accept the terrible in the world and either do something about it or move on. (Here comes my unpopular opinion)

I refuse to take responsibility for the emotional well-being of my readers if they become upset due to a subject I write about when that is not my intent. However, there may be times where I want to upset you. Maybe the entire point of choosing to write about something like depression, self harm, or suicide is to strike a nerve and bring those feelings to the surface so they can be understood and worked through.

It is only through talking about our problems and fears that we overcome them and find ways of coping in this life that can be so overwhelming at times, and I think that to warn people that something disturbing is about to happen is not only coddling, but the inverse of reality as we perceive it.

I believe people need to be challenged, especially through art. There are times where it is okay to cry, it is okay to feel small at the terrifying scope of life and all the horrible things that happen in it because if we don’t, the good things will pale in comparison.

Life has no meaning without death, happiness holds no joy if there is no sorrow. These dichotomies are necessary and as such should be embraced. The scope of human emotion is so vast that often there aren’t enough words, at least in the English language, to describe many of those feelings.

It is my understanding that art is made in order to make you feel something and if it doesn’t, I wonder what the point of it is. There are movies that make me cry because I identify on a personal level with some of the bad things that happen in them, and that is okay. There are books that send shivers down my spine due to the depravity described in them and that is okay too.

Don’t hide yourself from the pain that is possible in life. Don’t seek shelter in a comforting womb of your own making. Live your life in such a way that you don’t search for filters to ensure you never feel sad again. Embrace your emotions; those tears mean you are alive, those painful memories show your value as a human being that can feel so deeply.

I will not post trigger warnings because I think you, my reader, deserve better.

I realize that this post seems a bit condescending and callous at times, and I don’t mean for it to. There are certain things that upset me and I have to deal with that, but believe me this all comes from a place of love and respect for you as a person. I want to be clear that I don’t look down on those who use trigger warnings, I am simply trying to explain my decision not to.

I want to end this on a positive note, so I will finish by saying:

You are important.

You are reading this.

You are alive and you are not alone.

I don’t think we tell each other this enough, partly because it can be awkward and uncomfortable to tell someone they are important seemingly out of the blue, so I’ll type it here on your computer screen.

If you or someone you know are in a dark place and need help, please reach out to those around you or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) to speak with someone who is impartial and will not only hear you, but listen. I realize that I have readers from other parts of the globe and if that is the case and you feel this way, I urge you to find a support hotline in your community or country. If you have trouble and speak English (Sorry, I’m a lazy American and only know one language) feel free to email me through here.

Thank you for reading.


The featured image can be found through the hyperlink below.
Kill Bill Quote

2 thoughts on “On the Subject of Trigger Warnings

  1. I can see the value in what you’re saying, and I agree that blatantly telling an audience what they’re in for robs them of the experience of discovery, but I do think there’s a certain fidelity that’s necessary in any story.

    For example, the mini-story at the beginning, a scene that offers a hint of how dark the story will be. Often it’s the last piece of a conflict between nameless characters, who will later be revealed as antagonists, or the random factor that ensnares the protagonist into the main narrative.

    There was one story I read (can’t remember the title), where the entire first half was a kind of sharp comical commentary on common aspects of everyday life, the conventions we all agree to, which might appear strange to an outsider. But at the halfway mark, for the first time in the narrative, one of the main characters died, when no hint of life or death danger had been present up to that point. The shift in tone was blindsiding, and while it was still a strong story, it was jarring. Of course that might have been the author’s intent, but I think there’s a very real risk of alienating audiences when that type of technique is used.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to go back and reread what I had written on this post because it has been a while haha. I think this was my reaction to seeing a lot of trigger warnings for the first time after beginning a book review blog, so I wanted to post my feelings on the subject.

      I can see where you’re coming from, and from the example you give at the end of your comment, that sounds more like a tonal issue in the writing, as you said, than anything else. I agree that there is a responsibility for an author to remain faithful to the promise of their book’s premise and tone. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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