We’re probably all guilty of using passive aggressive memes and gifs to avoid engaging in the sometimes hard (or pointless) work of meaningful dialogue, right? Someone makes an absurd comment and you realize the discussion is going nowhere, so all you can muster is an eye roll gif. I do it, too, but I reserve that for folks unabashedly trumpeting their privilege, not for injured or marginalized people discussing their pain.
Triggered wasn’t invented by whoever made the meme. It’s actually a legitimate psychological term that refers to emotions that surface in response to some stimulation that brings up a past traumatic experience.
We’re probably most familiar with triggers that result from things we read or see on a screen. Trigger warnings (or content warnings) are routinely placed on the internet before content that might be explicit or contain things that hold common triggers for people with past trauma.
Most often triggers happen to people who have PTSD, though not always. Sometimes people are able to identify their past traumatic experiences and pinpoint why they are triggered; other times, it’s a mystery. Regardless of why triggers happen, people who experience them are often able to notice patterns in the kinds of things that trigger them over time.
I, personally, experience emotional triggers that sometimes result in panic attacks. I was in my early twenties when I began having panic attacks, and because they occurred during sleep, it was quite confusing and took some time to learn what was happening.
When people think about panic attacks, they often assume something emotionally upsetting happens and then a panic attack immediately ensues. But it doesn’t always work like that. For me, an anxiety response tends to happen randomly after a buildup of triggering events over a period of time.
Learning about my triggers meant paying attention to my body and its physical responses, noting patterns, and establishing coping techniques. It’s been useful for me to learn about the things that trigger me because it allows me to control the input, or at least mitigate damage, from things I’m exposed to. [….]
Using the term “triggered” in jest is an ableist micro-aggression because it minimizes a person’s trauma, tone polices their reaction to that trauma, and thereby makes people question whether they’re overreacting. In other words, it’s gaslighting behavior.