Empathy on Steroids (not the drug)

I’ve been thinking for a long time about how to put this into words, and it hasn’t been easy. Heck, I’m not even sure the following words will be the best way to explain it. Even so, they’re the only words I have right now, and I hope you’ll be able to understand all the same.

Maybe you remember that time in your childhood when you knew for certain that something you’d done or said was wrong. I’m talking about the immediate feeling afterwards that comes from observing the effect, such as seeing the other kid look sad or start crying. It’s the feeling that tells you that you messed up, and that it wasn’t right that something you did hurt the other person. For me, it’s always felt like a pit that opens in my chest, somewhere above my stomach. It appears instantly, and depending on the situation, the hole may or may not close. It’s the feeling that compels you to apologize, to try making up for what you did. It’s a learning moment, one in which we begin to understand what empathy is.

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What it REALLY Means to be “Triggered”

If you’ve been on the Internet for any amount of time, chances are you have encountered the word “triggered,” or have seen a “trigger warning.” It became a meme, but as many things often unfortunately do, it was then turned into a disqualifying phrase. To say someone has been “triggered” has been synonymous with calling someone overemotional, their responses overdone, and designating what they have to say as less-than because they responded in a certain way. It has also been used to mean someone strongly disagrees with a stance. I have seen this most often used against the discussion of social issues, namely feminism. Because of course, “overemotional” responses can be disqualified as valid right out of the gate, right?

As someone who has struggled with mental illness–as well as someone who has known sufferers of mental illnesses–I started using this word about six or seven years ago, and it wasn’t meant to disqualify a position or a person. Me and other sufferers I’ve known have used it to alert someone to our mental state, which could mean the difference between a good mental day and a bad mental day. It could even go unsaid verbally, but there would often be clear nonverbal signals that let other people know, “I’m not okay.” Likewise, “trigger warnings” have been used to alert people with certain stressors to avoid content in order to not experience undesired symptoms.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s take a look around, shall we?

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