As a mental health professional, I find the storms raging at Georgetown and Oberlin University regarding Christina Hoff Sommers’ visit and speech as “triggering” and traumatizing to be beyond bizarre. My objective as a mental health professional is to empower people, to enable them to overcome trauma in order to live as fully as possible, to not be burdened by symptoms of depression or anxiety and to not let the entirety of their lives be dictated by a single trauma or even multiple traumas.
Do trigger-warning, safe-room advocates at colleges not believe that it betters people to overcome pain and move on, or is it truly their belief that no one, at any time, must ever expose a traumatized person to an opinion that differs from theirs on “triggering” topics in case they may become upset? It is impossible to control the world in such a way.
Perhaps the attempt to protect one set of victims by silencing or cancelling speakers may actually be “triggering” to another group of people, such as those individuals who have personally been victims of totalitarianism, kangaroo courts or punitive re-education, who are reminded of the fear brought about by not being allowed to voice their opinions and hear diverse viewpoints or face political prison. Is there a safe place on campus for those students who are re-traumatized by the attempt to shut down speakers or demand only “correct” speech?
People who have been in car accidents may be “triggered” by traffic or certain types of cars. People who have been mugged may be “triggered” by people resembling the attacker or by certain streets. People who have been at war may be “triggered” by the news or certain sounds. People can be reminded of loss by a song, a phone call, a book—in fact, by anything. Everyone who lives has faced loss and trauma of some sort. The longer we live the more loss or trauma we experience due to deaths of loved ones or other challenges. Some people have had substantially more than their fair share of trauma.